WaPo: Common Core’s Test Scorers Are ‘Nation’s Largest Human Scoring Experiment Ever’

AP/Coeur d'Alene Press, Shawn Gust
AP/Coeur d'Alene Press, Shawn Gust

Education columnist Jay Mathews at the Washington Post observes that the “flood” of new scorers needed by testing companies that have been administering the Common Core-aligned tests could add further problems to the federally funded education boondoggle.

Mathews notes that the at least 42,000 scorers who are grading 109 million free-response answers from students in states that are part of the two federally funded Common Core consortia – PARCC and Smarter Balanced – have “just embarked on the nation’s largest human scoring experiment ever.”

“The companies handling free-response questions for the Common Core-based tests – the education reform of the decade – are hiring and training far more people than have ever done such work, and many of them have little relevant experience,” he writes.

As Catherine Gerwitz observed in May at Education Week, “While Pearson requires PARCC scorers to hold bachelor’s degrees, for instance, Smarter Balanced lets each state set its own minimum requirements, said Shelbi K. Cole, the deputy director of content for Smarter Balanced.”

Through Education Testing Service (ETS), for example, California hires only test scorers who have bachelor’s degrees, though those degrees can be “in any field,” and while teaching experience is “strongly preferred,” it is not required.

“As of late April, only 10 percent of the scorers hired in California were teachers,” notes Gerwitz, adding that non-teachers earn $13 per hour while certified teachers must be paid a $20 hourly fee.

She continues regarding the ads for Common Core test scorers:

Recruited through postings on sites such as CraigsList, Monster.com and Facebook, Pearson raters are paid $12 per hour initially. Logging more hours can bump their pay up to $14 per hour. There’s performance pay, too: a track record of quality scoring can earn bonuses of $15 to $30 per day. Raters on the day shift stay for eight hours; those who work at night typically work four to six hours. Scorers who train and work from home—three-quarters of those scoring the PARCC tests for Pearson—commit to score 20 hours per week.

The sheer numbers of human scorers of the Common Core tests are causing Mathews to sound the alarm:

One of the advantages of having computers grade exams — they will still score the multiple choice questions on these tests — is that the machines don’t call up reporters or post angry exposes on the Internet. Human beings do that. Invite 42,000 of them inside the process, and when unsettling things happen — as they do in any large enterprise — some of those scorers are going to go public with what they know.

Mathews himself appears to think grassroots parents’ groups who have complained about the federal intrusion into local education policy with Common Core have “had little impact with their marginal arguments about federalism.”

He does see a problem with the thousands of new test-scorers, however.

“[I]f graders around the country complain publicly that the new tests are not being handled fairly or competently,” he warns, “the debate will become more serious, and one of America’s most ambitious school reforms will be in jeopardy.”