Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Before Today's Governing Board Meeting: Five Things To Know About PARCC

Kindergarten and first grade students are already being taught using the Common Core, but rollout of the standards in other grades has been halted until Indiana makes a decision on assessments.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Kindergarten and first grade students are already being taught using the Common Core, but rollout of the standards in other grades has been halted until Indiana makes a decision on assessments.

A complex Common Core ‘pause’ proposal that passed the General Assembly in April will keep state academic standards in Indiana classrooms for at least another year.

Schools have been ramping up for the new, nationally-crafted academic standards since Indiana adopted them in 2010. After rolling out the Common Core in kindergarten and first grade, second grade teachers were to make the switch this year. Now second grade implementation has been put on hold until it’s clear what tests Indiana students will take in 2015-16.

Indiana and 20 other states currently participate in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two consortia developing Common-Core aligned tests. (The other consortium is Smarter Balanced.) Those tests are due out in 2014-15.

But even if those tests are ready on time, Indiana students won’t take them. That’s because the same legislation that paused Common Core rollout also leaves Indiana’s current assessment, the ISTEP, in place through the 2015 biennium. The law also changes the rules for Indiana’s PARCC participation.

That’s what I’ll be watching in D.C. today during the quarterly meeting of the PARCC governing board, on which Superintendent Glenda Ritz currently sits. This is the first time the board has met since state lawmakers paused Common Core implementation in Indiana.

Here are five things to know about PARCC.

  1. PARCC and Smarter Balanced are developing two different types of tests. PARCC plans to test students at least twice a year, then average the scores. The idea is that testing twice will reduce the stakes of one exam as well as provide feedback to teachers and students throughout the year. The other consortium, Smarter Balanced, only plans to test students once a year for accountability purposes. That exam will be computer adaptive, so questions will be tailored based on students’ previous answers.
  2. Superintendent Ritz favors joining both consortia. Indiana is only participating in PARCC right now, but Ritz has said she’d also like to see Indiana join Smarter Balanced. That way the state could go with whichever consortium designs the better test. Ritz’s focus is on assessments that measure student growth, not necessarily an accountability system for schools or teachers. “I want to stay in tune with what’s happening nationally, what’s happening with assessments, especially growth assessments,” she told StateImpact last week.
  3. The State Board can’t mandate the use of either PARCC or Smarter Balanced until after the legislative review. Board members have until July 1, 2014, to reaffirm their support for the Common Core or adopt other college- and career-ready standards. HB 1427 mandates an evaluation of the costs to the state and school corporations of adopting either test. But the real challenge might come from a provision that bars the State Board from entering into or renewing “an agreement with any organization, entity, group or consortium that requires the state to cede any measure of autonomy or control of education standards and assessments, including cut scores.” So there’s been speculation that Indiana may drop out of PARCC as a governing state and give up its vote on the board. Ritz says she’s mindful of the guidelines spelled out in HB 1427. “We will not be participating in consortiums that decide for us the cost of the test, the questions on the test, the cutoffs,” she says. “Indiana will be doing that on its own.”
  4. The new tests are expected to be much harder than most states’ current assessments. Kentucky was the first state to start aligning its tests to Common Core, and reading scores dipped during the first year of assessments in 2011-12. Minnesota, which aligned its tests to new English language arts standards this past year, sent a letter home to parents explaining that scores would likely go down because the state had changed what it was assessing. By sticking with the ISTEP for an extra year, Indiana may be able to learn some lessons from the first year of PARCC and Smarter Balanced testing. If you’re curious about what the new exams will look like, our colleagues at StateImpact Florida have the details.
  5. It’s as yet unclear who will administer ISTEP testing in 2014-15. The state signed a two-year extension to its contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill last summer. When that contract was written, state officials assumed Indiana would switch to PARCC in 2014-15 and no longer administer the ISTEP. Not so now. But if there’s any Indiana education issue talked about more right now than Common Core, it’s the CTB/McGraw-Hill server glitches that ground ISTEP testing to a halt on two different days this spring, making it unclear whether state officials would award another extension to the company.

Follow @ellemoxley on Twitter for updates from the PARCC governing board meeting on Wednesday.


  • Joshua A.

    I thought this all started with TIMMS and comparing how we are doing with
    Finland, Singapore, or Germany? Do any of you know how many tests are given to students in countries like Finland or Germany? I talked with some students and teachers from those countries and found out. Finish students do not take a single standardized test until 6th grade! I wonder how they evaluate their teachers? Germany limits the number of tests each semester to three for high school students. These tests include classroom tests and any type of “standardized” test, so if a teacher gives three unit tests a semester, the maximum has been reached and no “standardized” test could be given. The students and teachers said most of their work is judged by their class participation, both oral and written. They also indicated they get graphing calculators issued with their math textbooks and are expected to use them when needed including during a Test. When are we going to start to do what these successful countries do for our students?
    Do you honestly think our educational problem is the curriculum and standards are not rigorous enough for our current students?Please go to your local school and talk with the teachers or read some of the students comments on facebook. If you live in an area of higher socioeconomic means, then your school is performing above average due to many factors such as parent support for learning and checking to see that their children are completing their homework or immediatley getting the help they need. Parents of students who attend “good” schools do not want endless tests that are meaningless to their childrens future and a huge waist of resources that should be used to improve the school learning environment by purchasing needed technology and up to date instructional materials. Maybe the new standards could be helpful, but teachers have a shorter, more limited amount of time to cover more curriculum than before due to earlier testing periods and more testing. Futhermore, how are students held accountable for doing their best on these tests? Is the test result used to help calculate the students grade or do they need a proficient score to earn a diploma or get accepted for college or … If the test has no student accountability component why would they even care about doing well. I would focus on preparing for my immediate class grade to improve my GPA and SAT exams or preparing for a big game or musical performance. I could use this test as a way of getting back at a teacher who is asking me to do more than I want to do because I have other interests. Are only math, science, and English teachers being judged by these tests or is there a test to judge a PE teacher or Art/Music teacher or Elective teachers? I wonder how long it will be before we find no one willing to interview for a math teaching position at a low performing school. I do not see how spending ALL this money on testing is changing anything except creating a National Curriculum and telling low performing schools that they continue to be low performing schools and they need to replace their teachers with better ones. It seems like I have been hearing this same argument for the past 50 years. Yes, I am a senior citizen who cares about real changes that will improve educational opportunities for the students who need an environment that is conducive to learning. Why are we spending money we do not have on schools that are already achieving and trying to have a one size fits all system because this is not why Americans create so many new things and come up with so many new ideas. If we are trying compete with Finland and Singapore, then we need to make serious structural systemic changes to our schools and do what they do or do not do in their schools. NO more football programs or other sports in our high schools and most electives would also have to be eliminated. I am a Finlander, but we live in a much different country in America and we have very different values. When the well-educated parents of public school children start to understand that a large part of schooling has changed from learning and developing critical thinking to preparing students to do well on a test that most people never have time to analyze and use as a resource to improve the educational experience for children, then they will either place their children in a school where real learning is the priority or they will get involved in changing our new system of schooling. I cannot call this system a system for learning because time and testing are not and should never be factors in a learning environment that promotes creativity and critical thinking (testing without student accountability). These two goals are what made America great and create jobs and they do not happen in a specific amount of time because each of us is unique and we do things at different rates. And futhermore, testing has never been shown to improve either of these factors. Critical thinking and creativity are factors that need to be encouraged and nurtured from Pre-K on. To flourish, they need a stress free environment so students can open up their thoughts and dream up new ideas. It seems ironic that many of the people who were allowed to be raised in this type of environment, open, creative, and stress free, are the same people who are now paying for and pushing for a more controlled and structured environment, but not for their own children? What about Bill Gates and Mark Zutterburg?
    Thank you for reading and pray for your grandchildren’s future.

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