Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why Indiana Is Scaling Back Participation In Common Core Testing Consortia PARCC

Superintendent Glenda Ritz addresses the Indiana Youth Institute’s Postsecondary Counseling Institute.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Superintendent Glenda Ritz says Indiana will scale back its participation in the PARCC assessment consortium after state lawmakers voted to pause implementation of the Common Core.

We dropped by the PARCC governing board meeting in Washington, D.C. — you know, just happened to be in the neighborhood — and noticed an absence: Indiana.

State education officials didn’t participate in talks Wednesday to set performance expectations on new standardized tests aligned to a set of nationally-crafted academic standards known as the Common Core.

As a governing state in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, Indiana gets a seat at the table. But no one from the Department of Education has attended a PARCC governing board meeting since Superintendent Glenda Ritz took office in January.

That tracks with what Ritz told StateImpact last week about participation in PARCC and Smarter Balanced, the other consortium writing tests for the Common Core.

“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.”

Ritz says her office scaled back involvement in the PARCC consortium after state lawmakers voted to pause rollout of the Common Core pending a legislative review. HB 1427 also bars the State Board of Education from ceding control of standards or assessments to outside entities.

This spring Ritz expressed an interest in also joining Smarter Balanced so Indiana could go with whichever consortia designed a better assessment. That’s what North Dakota is doing.

Another option would be for Indiana to give up its vote as a PARCC governing state but continue to participate in the consortium. Two states — Kentucky and North Dakota — don’t vote but can attend the quarterly meetings and ask questions. Pennsylvania was participating in both consortia but withdrew from both last week.

Indiana education officials could also attend governing board meetings but abstain from voting, says Chad Colby, a spokesman for Achieve, the education non-profit that helped develop the Common Core.

The PARCC governing board voted Wednesday to set grade-level performance expectations. They’ll be released to the public July 17.


  • Joshua A.

    Apprenticeships could help U.S. workers gain a competitive edge
    By Stuart E. Eizenstat and Robert I. Lerman, Published: MAY 03, 7:58 PM ET
    Stuart E. Eizenstat was chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter and undersecretary of commerce for international trade in the Clinton administration. Robert I. Lerman is an economics professor at American University and a fellow at the Urban Institute.

    The United States is on the verge of a manufacturing comeback. The domestic energy boom and low natural gas prices, together with competitive wage rates, can lead to a resurgence and the potential revival of goods-producing industries that could provide a great opportunity to increase middle-class wages, reduce income inequality and expand social mobility. But we also risk squandering this historic opportunity — mainly because firms interested in investing in the United States are finding too few workers with the skills needed to achieve the productivity and quality required in today’s globally competitive industries.

    The skills gap is real. U.S. unemployment remains at 7.5 percent, and only one out of two African American men in their early 20s has a job. A survey of employers published last year revealed that about 600,000 jobs go unfilled because of a lack of skilled labor. Meanwhile, German companies’ top complaint about expanding operations in the United States is an inadequate number of skilled workers for intermediate-level technical occupations. Swiss companies have the same complaint. The problems lie not with college-educated engineers or graduates with general bachelor’s degrees but in the dearth of skilled machinists, welders, robotics programmers and those who maintain equipment.

    The central answer to the mismatch between jobs and employment is a 21st-century apprenticeship program. In Austria, Germany and Switzerland — countries with long histories of guilds and craftwork — 55 to 70 percent of all young people enter apprenticeships. Apprenticeships have grown rapidly in other countries, tripling in Australia since 1996 and jumping tenfold — to more than 500,000 entrants last year — in England since 1990. The Group of 20 ministers of labor, the International Labor Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development strongly recommend expanding oapprenticeship programs.

    Apprenticeships could help reduce youth unemployment, widen opportunities for young people who do not want to sit in class all day and help ensure that the potential resurgence in manufacturing is not thwarted by a mismatch of skills. With effective apprenticeship systems, highly developed economies sustain jobs in manufacturing. Employment in manufacturing accounts for 20 percent of jobs in Germany and 16 percent in Switzerland but only 10 percent in the United States.

    Although apprenticeships yield significant earnings gains for workers, this country has too few programs, partly because of the massive bias in public spending toward a college-only approach. Government spending on colleges and universities tops $300 billion per year; outlays to apprenticeship programs total less than $40 million annually. A public-private initiative could increase competitiveness and youth employment, upgrade skills and wages, achieve positive returns for employers and workers, and reduce government spending if companies played a larger role in skills development. A well-tested method in other countries involves building apprenticeship training so that it becomes a rewarding alternative for young people who are not bound for a traditional four-year university degree and a recruitment and training method for employers.
    Apprenticeships train youths and adults by combining work-based learning with classroom instruction in a unified program that leads to a recognized and valued occupational credential. Trainees earn money and contribute to production while they learn, often in a plant where they can be employed full time. They graduate with a sense of pride and identity as a member of an occupational group. Employers bear most of the training costs, but the value added by apprentices often exceeds their wages; employers also save recruitment and training costs and can be confident that apprentices who complete their programs have job-relevant skills. U.S. apprenticeships are concentrated in construction and manufacturing, but in many countries include such jobs as chefs and bakers, computer network administrators, commercial sales representatives and health technicians. Levels in other countries suggest the United States could increase its number of civilian workers entering apprenticeships each year from 100,000 to more than 400,000.

    Think of the approach as “college-plus.” The classroom courses that apprentices take are at least equal to community college offerings in their occupational tracks. But apprentices can immediately apply what they learn, benefit from employment-based advising and mentoring, and have a chance to gain and demonstrate skills such as reliability, teamwork and problem-solving — all while earning money instead of borrowing it.

    Expanded apprenticeship programs could meet the needs of a competitive global economy at a time of budget austerity. South Carolina’s Republican legislature provides modest funding for an initiative that has increased apprenticeships in the state six-fold since 2009. Government costs for apprenticeships are low, with only modest sums needed to jump-start the system; most of the investment comes from the company offering the apprenticeship.

    The United States’ academic-only strategy is ill-suited for a diverse population and for the multiple needs of the 21st-century labor market. A robust apprenticeship system would ensure that the impending manufacturing expansion succeeds in macroeconomic terms and widen the routes to rewarding careers for millions of workers.

    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 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.

    • Bruce_William_Smith

      Although very long, this comment is accurate and helpful in identifying some of the most obvious flaws in our current approach to educational reform. The dual system found in the education system of Switzerland and other central European countries could, more than any single reform under consideration, benefit the United States.

  • Jo Blacketor
  • Mouse Rat

    Still think this is about testing money going to McGraw-Hill/CTB rather than Pearson… Follow the money.

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