Updated: Which Commissioners have responded to our questions on machine scoring of PARCC and SBAC exams?

Below is the letter from Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Parents Across America, Network for Public Education, FairTest and many state and local parent groups  to the Education Commissioners in the PARCC and SBAC states, asking if they use machine scoring of their Common Core exams.  Please send your own letter to your State Education Chief if you are in one of these states.  More information about the lack of evidence for machine scoring is in this issue brief here and the Washington Post Answer Sheet here.

UPDATE: In response to our (or reporter) queries, PARCC finally posted their study from March 2014 on automated scoring  here.  The SBAC automated scoring study is here.  Both are problematic in different ways.  Our analysis featuring Les Perelman’s comments was published in the WaPost AnswerSheet (see above). 

Dr. Salam Noor, the Deputy Superintendent of Oregon, and Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson of Massachusetts,  Henry King of the Nevada Department of Education , and Dr, Vaughn Rhudy from the Office of Assessment in West Virginia were the only officials to reply to our letter within a month  — though we sent  it to all the Education Commissioners in the PARCC and SBAC states.  All three informed us that their states are not participating in automated scoring at this time.  They are all from SBAC states except for MA, which is using PARCC in some districts. (The Wyoming Commissioner Jillian Balow also responded, saying that she shared our concerns about computer scoring, and the state has decided not to use the SBAC exam as we had mistakenly believed.) 

Subsequently the CO Commissioner Rich Crandall responded to  a parent activist, Cheri Kiesecker, that the state would be using  computer scoring on 2/3 of the PARCC writing samples this year — as the standard PARCC/Pearson contract prescribes.  On May 19, the Jack Smith, interim Commissioner of the Maryland Dept of Education responded that they too would be using machine scoring for 2/3 on PARCC written responses.  Check out Les Perelman’s response to his claims here.

Rhode Island Commissioner Ken Wagner mentioned this issue at a board meeting, and confirmed they would be using  machine scoring for most of the state’s PARCC written responses, while falsely saying  that this was standard practice for SAT and GRE exams as well — although each of these exams is scored at least once and sometimes twice by human beings.  (see video here).

Angela Chamness, Illinois Director of Assessments, ambiguously responded to a parent’s specific queries about what percent of the writing samples were scored by machine  this way:  “Like the majority of PARCC states, Illinois PARCC writing assessments are evaluated using automated and non-automated scoring approaches.”  We can only surmise that Illinois is using the standard PARCC method of scoring 2/3 of the exams by machine, as in Rhode Island and Colorado, though she refused to make that clear.

After six weeks, none of these states have responded to our letter or other parent queries as far as I know:  CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, ID, LA, MI, MT, NH, NJ, NM, ND, SD, VT, WA, WV.

If you are a parent from one of these states: please continue to send in your questions, especially #1-#3 below.  The email addresses of your State Commissioners are posted here.  And please let us know if you get a response by emailing us at [email protected]

thanks Leonie

April 5, 2016

To the Education Commissioners in the PARCC and SBAC states:

As parents and advocates, we have many outstanding concerns about the administration and scoring of the PARCC and SBAC Common Core exams this spring. There are several unresolved questions the answers to which have not been publicly revealed.  The original PARCC contract called for two thirds of the students to have their ELA exams, including written responses, entirely scored by computers this spring, with only 10 percent of them re-checked by humans.

Similarly, according to the SBAC contract, 100 percent of students’ written responses would be scored by computers, with only half re-checked by a human being.

This is despite the fact that many experts have cited the inability of computers to assess the creativity and critical thought that the Common Core standards were supposed to demand and these exams to assess, no less distinguish nonsense from coherent narrative and reasoning.  In each case, however, states had the option of having the exams entirely hand-scored for an additional charge.

So we demand that you answer the following questions:

  • What percentage of the ELA exams in our state are being scored by machines this year, and how many of these exams will then be re-scored by a human being?
  • What happens if the machine score varies significantly from the score given by the human being?
  • Will parents have the opportunity to learn whether their children’s ELA exam was scored by a human being or a machine?
  • Will you provide the “proof of concept” or efficacy studies promised months ago by Pearson in the case of PARCC, and AIR in the case of SBAC, and cited in the contracts as attesting to the validity and reliability of the machine-scoring method being used?
  • Will you provide any independent research that provides evidence of the reliability of this method, and preferably studies published in peer-reviewed journals?

We look forward to your prompt reply,


Leonie Haimson  and Rachael Stickland, Co-Chairs, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

Julie Woestehoff, Executive Director, Parents Across America  and Wyoming  parent advocate

Carol Burris, Executive Director, Network for Public Education

Monty Neill, Executive Director, FairTest

Save Our Schools New Jersey

Parents Across Rhode Island

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT, Louisiana Friends of Public Education

Cheri Kiesecker, CO parent, privacy advocate and blogger, Missouri Education Watchdog

Cassie Creswell, More Than A Score, Chicago IL

Dawn Collins, board member, East Baton Rouge (LA) school board

Stephanie Zimmerman, Idahoans For Local Education

Wendy Katten, Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education

Michelle Fine, Lynn Fedele, C. McGoey , R. Tuma & E.Halberstadt , Montclair Cares About Schools [NJ]

Arthur Freitas and Kayla Kirkpatrick, M.Ed., Colorado parents

Sheila Resseger, retired teacher from the RI School for the Deaf