PARCC Releases Final Grade- and Subject-Specific PLDs

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - July 17, 2013  - The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) today released the final grade- and subject-specific performance level descriptors (PLDs) in English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics. Performance levels, sometimes referred to as "achievement levels," are the broad categories used to report student performance on an assessment, and the PLDs further describe what that performance means.

At the June 26, 2013 joint meeting, the PARCC Governing Board and their higher education counterparts on the Advisory Committee on College Readiness (ACCR) unanimously adopted and approved the final PLDs for release. The vote followed an extensive public review and feedback period that spanned the months of April and May and garnered hundreds of individual and group responses from across PARCC states.

Many people, including state K-12 and higher education representatives, content experts and classroom educators, used the feedback to revise and clarify the PLDs to make them more accessible for educators as well as provide linkages to the PARCC assessment blueprints released at the end of April.

"The initial phase of writing the PLDs involved a lot of professional conversation in our diverse group of educators as we unpacked the standards and the evidence statements, and organized them by big mathematical ideas," Joanie Funderburk, Secondary Math Coordinator for Cherry Creek Schools in Colorado, commented. "Our collective classroom experiences were the key to describing, in the PLDs, how students progress in their learning of these math ideas. The PLDs became better with each group that looked at them, and by the time we made the final edits based on public feedback, we had documents that will help teachers in planning, in formatively assessing student learning, and in moving students forward on their mathematical learning continuum."

The grade- and subject-specific PLDs build upon policy-level PLDs adopted in October 2012 and together describe the educational implications for students who attain a particular performance level on the PARCC assessments. While the policy-level PLDs provide high-level information about student performance, the newly adopted grade- and subject-specific PLDs give more information to educators about expectations at each level on the assessment with the goal of helping all students achieve high levels of performance.

PARCC's Educator Leader Cadre (ELC) members, spanning K-12 through higher education, will engage in virtual professional development throughout the summer around how to use the PLDs to prepare for the assessments in 2014-15 and ongoing Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation. All materials used in these educator-created professional development videos and resources will be released to the field via the PARCC ELC Portal at the end of September.

Judy Jenkins, Director of Curriculum at the Maryland State Department of Education and the state's ELC Lead, reflected on the utility of the PLDs. "The PLDs for each grade and course explain what is measured in the PARCC assessments, and how student performance will be categorized. Along with the accompanying materials and resources, they provide a means for educators to better understand the standards themselves."

The PLDs lay the foundation for continued opportunity for both K-12 and higher education to come together to create an assessment that will serve the needs of educators in both sectors and show whether or not students are on track to be college and career ready. They will be used as a baseline for longer term policy decisions, such as establishing common performance levels across the PARCC states.

For more information, FAQs or to view the PLDs, visit

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