Common Core tests are becoming a hot potato

June 30, 2014

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CHICAGO – Tennessee is the latest state to drop the federally funded national Common Core tests.

scantronEducation Week reported Tennessee’s move, but the map accompanying its story relies on old numbers from the two national Common Core testing groups, known as PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium).

PARCC is currently the weakest testing conglomeration. EdWeek says PARCC’s membership is 15 states plus DC. The accurate number, however, is 13 plus DC, according to public, written statements from state leaders. Pennsylvania has been out of both PARCC and SBAC for a full year, but the map still shows it a member of both. Indiana also dropped PARCC approximately a year ago.

Another six states, possibly seven or eight, are considering dropping PARCC. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and state Superintendent John White are currently in a spat over whether the governor has the authority to drop the tests himself. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he expects the legislature to consider dropping the tests this coming spring. New Mexico, the third state to lead PARCC after the other two leaders dropped it, is embroiled in a lawsuit over whether PARCC rigged a contract with a vendor. Questions have surfaced over whether Mitchell Chester is in a conflict of interest as a PARCC leader and Massachusetts state superintendent who must review whether the state will remain with that testing group. Very strong anti-PARCC coalitions are at work in Colorado and New York and making strides with legislators. And even New Jersey’s legislature is considering a measure to pause and review Common Core and its tests, while the issue is a live wire in Maryland’s race for governor.

And while the Obama administration is known for ignoring the law and its own previous commandments, at least on paper the federal grant funding PARCC requires the consortium to maintain at least 15 member states as a condition of the grant.

When the two consortia first received federal funds in 2010, PARCC was considered the stronger one. In just the past year, however, SBAC has appeared to remain relatively stable, while states have fled PARCC like rats from a sinking ship. Even SBAC, however, has lost members. Michigan’s membership is on the line after the governor signed a budget this week retaining state tests for another year, instead of putting SBAC into place on schedule for spring 2015.

While PARCC’s leaders are no doubt scrambling to keep their ship from dissolving on the rocks, the ACT has been scooping up states into its Common Core test alternative. Currently, nine states will administer ACT-branded Common Core tests to grades 3–8 and once in high school.

The chaos undoubtedly has been a win for ACT. But is its quiet triumph a win for students? Unfortunately, this grand Common Core experiment must yet play out for us all to learn the answer. History and experience suggest we’re in for yet another decade of failed education central planning.

Authored by Joy Pullmann

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