It was business as usual last month at the PARCC governing board meeting, even without Indiana at the table.
State education officials aren’t actively participating in a national effort to design Common Core-aligned standardized tests, as the fate of the new academic standards is as-yet unclear here. Their absence hasn’t had much of an impact on the other member states in the consortium, though it does beg the question: What happens if more states opt out?
We’ve written that federal funding flowing to the two consortia designing new tests is contingent upon a minimum of 15 state participating. Because both PARCC and Smarter Balanced started with more than 20 members, falling below that threshold seemed unlikely.
But a swell of anti-Common Core sentiment in state legislatures has resulted in significant movement within the consortia in recent weeks. Alabama left PARCC some time ago, followed by Pennsylvania last month. Citing cost concerns, state education officials in Oklahoma recently announced they’d design their own test — a lead Georgia might follow. And don’t forget Kentucky already has a Common Core-aligned test that it’s been using for the past two years.
The biggest consortia-related news may be coming out of Florida, though. The Tampa Bay Times reports that Senate President Don Gaetz and Speaker of the House Will Weatherford want out of PARCC. We’ll let our Florida-based StateImpact colleagues take it from here.
Could Florida Really Leave PARCC?
Former Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett — now Florida Commissioner of Education — needs to decide what test students in the Sunshine State will take next, report John O’Connor and Sammy Mack:
“We have to get the assessment right,” Bennett recently said. “Whether that’s PARCC, or whether that is a different assessment system that other states are, frankly, looking at as well. If you were to ask me item number one next 30 to 60 days? That’s item number one; we have to make that decision.”
Bennett has many things to consider before deciding, such as whether the new exams are any good, or what they cost. Florida could stick with PARCC, decide to develop its own test or go with a test designed by a testing company, such as ACT.
The decision is important because one goal of adopting common education standards was that states would adopt common tests as well. That way students in Apalachicola could compare their scores with those in Atlanta or Albuquerque.
States across the country will be watching. Florida is an education trendsetter and a leader among the states developing PARCC. If Florida stays with PARCC, it may persuade other states to stay the course. If Florida goes a different way, other states might also drop the PARCC test.
Not only is Florida an education trendsetter, but it’s also the fiscal agent in charge of PARCC. That means opting out could cause a ripple effect among states on the fence about the test.
Pressure from two of the state’s top elected officials — remember, schools chief is an appointed position in Florida — could help Bennett make a decision.
Why Designing A New Test May Cost More In The Long Run
But Terry Spradlin, the education policy director at Indiana University’s Center for Education and Evaluation Policy, says movement within the testing consortia is to be expected at this juncture.
“Some states, rightfully, just want to see the finished product, to see how much time the test will take for students to complete, the cost associated with it, the delivery system for the online testing, the capacity of the system, the quality of the questions,” he says.
Spradlin says a handful of states may leave. But he predicts other states will come back once the consortia finalize their plans — including Indiana:
Ultimately they have to decide, are they in or are they out, and if they’re out, how are they going to deliver an assessment system at an efficient cost, or would it be more efficient to participate? … Doing it alone and having our own assessment revamped to align with the Common Core standards I think would be a costly proposition. That also must be considered, the cost factors of doing that and going it alone with our assessment and whether testing companies still want to be in the game to provide a standardized assessment to just a state or two. Major testing companies generally have contracts with multiple states. If they only have a state or two as a client moving forward, would the cost remain the same or would there be higher cost associated with our own assessment system?