Sunday, February 22, 2015

Russ Walsh: Checking the PARCC and SBA

Russ Walsh is a reading specialist who also maintains a mighty fine blog. While Russ is always worth reading, over the last two weeks he has produced a series of posts that you need to bookmark, store, steal, link--whatever it is you do with posts that you want to be able to use a reference works in the future.

Walsh ventured where surprisingly few have dared to tread. He looked at the readability levels of the Two Not-As-Big-As-They-Used-To-Be tests-- the PARCC and the SBA.

The PARCC came first, and he took three pieces to do it justice.

In Part I, Walsh looks at readability levels of the PARCC reading selections, using several of the standard readability measures. That's no small chunk of extra homework to self-assign, but the results are revealing. Walsh finds that most of the selections are significantly above the stated grade level, the very definition of frustration level. Not a good way to scare up useful or legitimate data.

In Part 2, Walsh looks at readability levels of PARCC questions, looking at the types of tasks they involve and what extra challenges they may contain. Again, some serious homework and analysis here. Walsh finds the PARCC questions wanting in this area as well.

In Part 3, Walsh goes looking into PARCC from the standpoint of the reader. Does the test show a cultural bias, or favor students with a particular body of prior knowledge? That would be a big fat yes on both. Plus, the test involves some odd choices that add extra roadblocks for readers.

Walsh followed this series up with a post looking at the SBA. In some ways this was the most surprising post, because Walsh finds the SBA test.... not so bad. While we may think of PARCC (by Pearson) and SBA (by AIR) as Tweedledee and Tweedledum, it appears that what we actually have is Tweedledee and Bob.

These posts are literate, rational, and professional (everything that my feisty but personal reading of PARCC was not) and consequently hugely useful. This is hard, solid analysis presented clearly and objectively, which makes these posts perfect for answering the questions of civilians and administrators alike. I have been reading Russ Walsh for a while, and he never disappoints, but these four posts belong in some sort of edublogger hall of fame. Read them!


  1. Thank you, Peter. Very generous of you. I liked your personal reading more. Such good fun. Keep up the phenomenal work.

  2. Interesting. Thanks as always, Peter, and kudos to Russ. I would be interested in knowing what a math expert thought of a comparison of that part of the two tests.