CEPR Faculty Director Thomas Kane discusses the discrepancy between NAEP test scores in states that participate in Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) against those with similar prior achievement in the following Brookings Institution paper.
When the NAEP scores were released last week, math achievement had fallen by 1.3 points in fourth grade and 2.4 points in eighth grade. It was the first time that math achievement had fallen in either fourth grade or eighth grade scores since 1990. Given the controversy surrounding the Common Core State Standards, and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) exams aligned to them, many commentators have been asking two questions:
- Did the states taking the PARCC or SBAC assessments underperform other states with similar prior achievement?
- Could PARCC/SBAC participation explain the decline?
The answer to the first question, regarding whether the PARCC/SBAC participants had a larger decline than expected, is a tentative “yes.” The states which administered the PARCC or SBAC tests scored lower in 2015 relative to states with similar 2013 scores. However, the difference was small, less than one scale score point. As a result, the answer to the second question is “no." Even taking the estimated underperformance as a causal effect, the difference between PARCC/SBAC participants and other states accounted for less than one-third of the absolute decline in math achievement between 2013 and 2015. Many states—not just the PARCC and SBAC participants-- saw a decline in math achievement between 2013 and 2015.