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.


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