Calling PARCC “a primary entry point for federal involvement in many of these state and local decisions,” Florida Governor Rick Scott signaled his intent Monday to withdraw from one of two national consortia designing Common Core-aligned tests.
Florida’s exit is the latest in a string of departures from the consortia and may signal that efforts to develop common assessments are falling apart as states pledge to create their own tests. Instead of having two or three tests for students in 45 states, there now could be a dozen different assessments by next year.
The news marks a dramatic turnaround for the state’s involvement in PARCC—the state has been in charge of the consortium’s financial matters, and has been called one of the leading states in the consortium, in part just because of Florida’s size. But common core has caught more and more political flak as the year has gone on. Florida Senate President Don Gaetz and Speaker of the House Will Weatherford told Scott in July that because of cost concerns and the timeliness of test results, the state should leave PARCC. (All three are Republicans.) PARCC’s governing board chairman, Massachusetts K-12 boss Mitchell Chester, has called these concerns misplaced, but that hasn’t stopped the political momentum against the PARCC assessments.
I wrote about the mechanics of Florida’s possible withdrawal from PARCC last week. It’s not immediately clear if Scott is following the consortium’s requirements for a state to depart. But, legally, those requirements appear not to matter in the end. PARCC, as well as the other multistate testing consortium, Smarter Balanced, are funded entirely by the federal government, with each receiving about $180 million.
PARCC lost a defender (of a sort) in Florida in August, when then-Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett resigned amid political controversy centered on his actions unrelated to common core while serving as Indiana’s superintendent last year. Bennett said in July that Florida was weighing its options and would make a decision on PARCC by the end of August, but his resignation scrambled that timetable. During a discussion earlier this month at the state school board, newly appointed commissioner Pam Stewart said the state was weighing its testing options and would instead make a decision by March. That timetable, in turn, seems to have been overtaken by Scott’s action.
Florida isn’t the only state to reverse course on the Common Core testing consortia in recent months. Back in July, we wrote that PARCC would only really be in trouble if it lost its fiscal agent, Florida. Sunshine State officials oversaw a pot of roughly $180 million PARCC members were using to write the exams.
Of course, that was before ex-Indiana schools chief Tony Bennett stepped down as Florida Education Commissioner after the Associated Press released emails showing his staff had tinkered with the metrics used to calculate school letter grades here in Indiana.Indiana, too, is a former member of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Governor Mike Pence and State Superintendent Glenda Ritz exited the consortia in late July after state lawmakers called for a thorough review of the Common Core academic standards. Pence has said he’s uncomfortable with Indiana students taking a test designed with federal dollars.
In the wake of Indiana’s departure, representatives from PARCC said the consortium would still field-test its exams in 13 states and the District of Columbia next spring. At the time, Florida was not among the states to commit to the exam. A spokesman for PARCC told StateImpact Monday that a non-profit organization or another state would likely take over as the consortium’s fiscal agent.
We’ve written before that even if Indiana education officials decide to reverse course on the Common Core, the state is likely to end up with similar expectations. That means the state’s current assessment, the ISTEP+, will have to be replaced or retooled to test Indiana’s new college- and career-ready standards. We outline those choices here.
Indiana isn’t the only state to consider designing its own assessment. Kentucky, New York and Minnesota are already using Common Core-aligned assessments, and state education officials in Georgia and Oklahoma also say they’ll build new tests. Alabama became the first state to commit to using ACT-aligned assessments when it left the consortia.
But there’s still a possibility Indiana could go back to PARCC, despite Hoosier concerns about federal intrusion into state education policy.
“Forget the federal government,” Michael Cohen told Indiana lawmakers earlier this month. Cohen is the president of Achieve, the education nonprofit that helped develop Common Core. “You could stay out of PARCC and Smarter Balanced for the grant period. That’s separate from what test you chose to give Indiana students in ’14-15 and ’15-16. The federal government is out of the picture at that point in terms of funding the assessment consortia.”