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A research study published in 2008 indicates the possibility that repeated and targeted brain activity to specific parts of the human brain may weaken, or eliminate the use of, other areas of the brain. Based on these findings, my recommendation is to file legislation calling for a moratorium on the use of standardized assessment until this possibility is further researched.

A 2008 research study indicates the possibility that repeated and targeted brain activity to specific parts of the human brain may weaken, or eliminate the use of, other areas of the brain.



A Lexile analyzer is available at www.lexile.com to confirm the findings below. I am using the Lexile score needed for students to read independently since Lexile scores reflect only 75% comprehension.  Students should ideally independently comprehend 100% of text in order to accurately respond to assessment questions.


According to GAINS Education Group, the average Lexile score, a measure used to evaluate text complexity, of text used in the ACT assessment is 1140L, which means students must read at an independent reading level of 1240L in order to comprehend the majority of text utilized in the assessment. This information is based on ACT assessment prior to the 2014-15 school year. Last year, ACT more closely resembled PARCC on two of its subtests.

ACT Practice Test 59F
(Administration Time:  Reading – 35 Minutes)

After analyzing a retired ACT Practice test, I found the reading passages were written at the following levels of complexity:

Passage I:  Prose Fiction – 940L (Independent Reading Level1040L)

Passage II:  Social Science – 1420L  (Independent Reading Level –

Passage III:  Humanities – 770L (Independent Reading Level –

Passage IV:  Natural Science – 1370L (Independent Reading Level –

Test questions pertained to one reading passage at a time, and they addressed the college readiness skills of:  main idea; supporting details; sequential, comparative, and cause-effect relationshipsmeaning of words; and generalizations and conclusions.

ACT Aspire

The following is a Lexile analysis of the ACT Aspire Exemplar Test Items for Reading:

Early High School

Social Science-Biscotti di Prato 1150L (Independent Reading Level –. 1250L) – Grade 12+ Text Complexity

Social Science-Biscotti di Prato (#8) 1070L (Independent Reading Level1170L) – Grade 10 Text Complexity

Grade-8-Social Science-A Capital Capitol 1060L (Independent Reading Level –. 1160L) – Grade 9 Text Complexity

Social Science-A Capital Capitol (#7) 1040L (Independent Reading Level1140L) – Grade 9 Text Complexity

Grade-6-Literary Narrative-White Fang 1000L (Independent Reading Level1100L) – Grade 8 Text Complexity

Literary Narative-White Fang (#8) 1120L (Independent Reading Level1220L) – Grade 12+ Text Complexity

 Grade-4-Reading-Citizen Scientists 1130L (Independent Reading Level1230L) – Grade 12+ Text Complexity

As you can see, based on the highest Lexile listed in each range of the Lexile-to-Grade Correspondence chart, the complexity of passages is grossly inappropriate for students of all grade levels represented in the Exemplars.

The Early High School (Grade 9) reading passage requires an independent reading level of 1250L. This text would be appropriate for the score band of students above Grade 12, post-secondary education (Grades 11 and 12 – 940-1210L). The text in this passage should be in the range of 855-1165L.

The Grade 8 reading passage requires an independent reading level of 1160L. This text would be appropriate for the score band of students in Grade 9 (Grade 9 – 855-1165L). The text in this passage should be in the range of 805-1100L.

The Grade 6 reading passage requires an independent reading level of 1100L. This text would be appropriate for the score band of students in Grade 8 (Grade 8 – 805-1100L). The text in this passage should be in the range of 665-1000L.

My personal favorite:

The Grade 4 reading passage requires an independent reading level of 1230L. This text would be appropriate for the score band of students in Grade 12+ (Grades 11 and 12 – 940-1210L). The text in this passage should be in the range of 445-810L.

I argue that students, in actuality, probably perform closer to the lower end of the score band than at the higher.


 I analyzed the text of the ELA/Literacy sample items available on the PARCC website.

What I found was that these samples ranged in Lexile from 730-2140L. The sample passages were written at the following Lexiles: 11130L, 1220L, 1370L. To independently read the most complex of these passages, students will need to read at 1470L by April (or March) of their junior year.

The following is a list of some of the sample items analyzed:

PARCC Sample Passages
(Total Administration Time:  120 Minutes – 3x per School Year)

Sample Passage #1:  Abigail Smith Adams (1744-1818) – 1220L (Independent Reading Level1320L)

Sample Passage #2:  Abigail Adams Braintree, March 31, 1776 –1130L  (Independent Reading Level1230L)

Sample Passage #3:  To Abigail Adams John Adams, July 03, 1776 – 1370L  (Independent Reading Level1470L)

Sample Item #1—Part A 1020L (Independent Reading Level1120L)

Sample Item #1—Part B 1540L (Independent Reading Level1640L)

Sample Item #2—Part A 730L (Independent Reading Level830L)

Sample Item #2—Part B 1920L (Independent Reading Level2020L)

Sample Item #3—Part A 2140L (Independent Reading Level2240L)

Sample Item #3—Part B 1070L (Independent Reading Level1170L)

The text utilized by PARCC employs archaic vocabulary, language with which most students are unfamiliar. The complexity of text students must read independently is equivalent to that used in the Declaration of Independence (1450L), the first sentence of which is diagrammed below:

Declaration of Independence

High school students are at varying stages of their cognitive development, and the average student should not be expected to complete the multi-step, finitely detailed, mental manipulation of text needed to process information at the level of sophistication used by PARCC.

The frontal lobe of the human brain is not fully developed until after age 20.  The frontal lobe is concerned with reasoning, planning, problem-solving, parts of speech, executive functions (organization), judgment, emotions, and behavioral control.  It allows for abstract thinking, an understanding of humor (subtle witticisms and word plays), sarcasm, irony, deception, and the mental processes of others.  Other functions include: memory, sequencing of events, flexibility in thinking processes, attentiveness of focus.


 I analyzed the text of SAT Practice Tests (Administration Time:  Reading – 65 Minutes)

1 Test 4 Passage 1 (9-12) – 1050L (Independent Reading Level1150L)

1 Test 4 Passage 2 (9-12) – 950L (Independent Reading Level1050L)

2 Test 4 Passage 1 (13-24) – 1310L (Independent Reading Level1410L)

2 Test 4 Passage 2 (13-24) – 1170L (Independent Reading Level1270L)

3 Test 7 Questions 6-7 – 1130L Independent Reading Level – 1230L)

 3 Test 7 Questions 8-9 – 1120L (Independent Reading Level1220L)

3 Test 7 Questions 10-15 – 1410L (Independent Reading Level1510L)

3 Test 7 Questions 16-24 – 1140L (Independent Reading Level1240L)

Practice Test 2 QUEST 1-10 Reading 1290L (Independent Reading Level1390L)

Practice Test 2 QUEST 22-32 Reading 1240L (Independent Reading Level1340L)

QUEST 1-5 Reading 1170L (Independent Reading Level1270L)

QUEST 6-8 Reading 1170L Independent Reading Level1250L)

QUEST 9-14 Reading 1120L Independent Reading Level1320L)

QUEST 15-19 Reading 1040L (Independent Reading Level1140L)

QUEST 20-24 Reading 1080L Independent Reading Level1180L)

FINDINGS See attached explanations and examples):

1.   Use of excessively high text complexity with no research identifying average reading Lexile of junior level high school student.

2.   No research supporting SAT adequately addresses cognitive development and individual abilities of adolescents.

3.   Analysis of subtle shifts in focus throughout course of entire passage, use of unfamiliar or multi-definition vocabulary (i.e. reservations)

4.   Use of figurative language is difficult for ELL students

5.   SAT claims use of context clues, but none actually provided in text.

6.   Dependence upon vocabulary and background knowledge rather than critical thinking skills in order to answer correctly.

7.   Lack of content appealing to visual and kinesthetic modalities. The examples attached contain visual details but no pictures are provided to help those students who process information better visually.

8.   Reliance on answer from previous question in order to answer another question (SAT representatives claimed they weren’t doing this.)

9.   Multi-text compare/contrast (SAT representatives claimed they weren’t doing this.)

10. Reliance on information processing rather than introspective, original, creative and conceptual thought processes, which are sensory rather than memory-based. Rewiring the neural-activity of student brain through repetition of processing activities in limited and specific parts of the brain.

11. Use of quantitative assessment to measure qualitative data.

Smarter Balanced

 I analyzed the text of G11 ELA HS Practice Test:
Smarter Balanced assessments are designed as untimed tests.
(Administration Time:  English Language Arts – 4:30)

QUEST 1-7 Sustainable Fashion 1220L Independent Reading Level1320L)

QUEST 8-15 Life of Pi 750L (Independent Reading Level850L)

QUEST 17 Informational Text 1150L (Independent Reading Level1259L)

QUEST 18 Informational Text 1230L (Independent Reading Level1330L)

QUEST 19 Informational Text 1010L Independent Reading Level1110L)

QUEST 28 Informational Text 950L (Independent Reading Level1050L)

QUEST 29 Informational Text 1280L (Independent Reading Level1380L)

QUEST 30 Informational Text 960L (Independent Reading Level1060L)

FINDINGS (See attached explanations and examples):

1.   Significantly long portions of text in item questions requiring well-developed short-term memory in order to effectively weed through

2.   No context provided for vocabulary

3.   Confusing – no reference point

4.   Two-part questions in which successfully answering Part B requires having correctly answered Part A. If Part A is wrong, so is Part B.   In second example, this is combined with lengthy portions text required to support Part A

5.   Excessive number of choices, finitely detailed in differentiation

6.   Use of unfamiliar vocabulary (particularly for ELL and Sp Ed students).

7.   Listening portion requires well-developed short-term memory, otherwise valuable time is lost going back to sift through sound bytes.

8.   Multi-text comparisons (well-developed short-term needed, background knowledge needed)

Career readiness information from MetaMetrix shows the following:


Federal Tax Form – 1260L

Aetna Health Care Discount Form – 1360L

GM Protection Plan – 1150L

Medical Insurance Benefit Package – 1280L

Application for Student Loan – 1270L

CD-DVD Player Instructions – 1080L

Installing Child Safety Seat – 1170L

Microsoft Windows User Manual – 1150L

Drivers’ Manual – 1220L


 Labor – 1000L

Service – 1050L

Construction – 1080L

Craftsman – 1100L

Clerk – 1110L

Foreman – 1200L

Secretary – 1250L

Sales – 1270L

Supervisor – 1270L

Nurse – 1310L

Executive – 1320L

Teacher – 1340L

Accountant – 1400L

Scientist – 1450L


 Education (11–12) 1130L

Work – 1260L

Community College – 1295L

University – 1395L


Bill of Rights – 1540L

Declaration of Independence – 1450L

Gettysburg Address – 1490L

Preamble to the Constitution – 1930L

Emancipation Proclamation – 2040L

Magna Carta – 1740L

Information still needed from SAT reps:

  1.  Representatives said there was a validity study – I’d like to see the study.
  1.  Research supporting how assessment meets changing cognitive development of high school students.

There is no research stating, “fewer instances of finitely detailed, multi-process, evaluative questions will support changing and not yet fully developed cognitive abilities of high school students” as stated by representatives.  Scaffolding begins at simplistic level then increases in complexity.  This is very different than “fewer complicated questions” versus “increased number of complicated questions” as a means to compensate for adolescent brains that are not yet fully developed.

  1.  I would like to see research supporting representatives’ claim that removing a student’s point of view on written expression portion of assessment promotes increased skill in critical thinking – this is simply nonsense. Critical thinking lies in the synthesis and application of knowledge, NOT in the identification and comparison of knowledge.
  1.  I’d like to see a copy of the contract, and I’d like to do a cost analysis between SAT and ACT.  I am not in favor of implementing SmarterBalanced or PARCC.
  1. I would like to see research supporting receptive processing outweighs expressive processing when determining college/career success. What portion of SAT and ACT assessments are receptive vs. expressive?
  1. SAT needs to develop score ranges and to scaffold in complexity each skill measured similar to ACT.
  1. A study needs to be performed identifying the average Lexile ranges of students enrolled in advanced, average, and preparatory level English courses.

A research study published in 2008 indicates the possibility that repeated and targeted brain activity to specific parts of the human brain may weaken, or eliminate the use of, other areas of the brain. The brain only has so much neural support. If the brain is trained through repetition to narrow this neural support to a specific region of the brain, then neural activity will supply less support, or perhaps no longer support, other very important areas of the brain, specifically those areas enabling students to think conceptually and creatively.

Based on these findings, my first recommendation would be to file legislation calling for a moratorium on the use of standardized assessment until this possibility is further researched.

My second recommendation, if implementation cannot be avoided, is the implementation of ACT over SAT for the following reasons.

  1. I do not recommend amplifying the amount of time students are exposed to repetitious and narrow utilization of the brain’s neuroactivity. Time spent practicing skills that rely heavily on memory, organization, and planning MUST be balanced with time spent utilizing parts of the brain that foster creative and problem-solving processes, which are sensory in nature. I do not recommend students use the Home-Based package offered by SAT. Teachers should offer support in the classroom balanced with opportunities for students to employ creativity and problem-solving skills, which educators have always identified as best practice.
  1. I do not recommend excluding a student’s point of view from written expression assessments. Teachers will teach to the test because it makes no sense not to do so. Again, it is not the regurgitation of information that produces original and inspirational thought. It is the synthesis and application of a student’s unique point of view that should always be a priority in education.
  1. ACT offers scaffolding and score ranges and SAT does not at this point in time. Teachers do not have to reinvent the wheel if they are allowed to continue using ACT. Master teachers become master teachers because they have opportunity to perfect their work. This can never take place if they continue to start from scratch each year. Teachers were told PARCC would not cause them to reinvent what they were already doing; but in practice, this really was not the case.

My experience has been that students at the preparatory level in reading comprehension can score anywhere in the range of beginning reader (decoding) – 800L. Students enrolled in average level courses score between 800-1000L. Students in advanced courses have not been assessed, but they should be in order to determine the accessibility of standardized assessment for a wide range of student ability levels.

Consideration should be given to the intended purpose of standardized assessment in contrast to what its implementation actually achieves in practice.