Common Core Tests Become a Hot Potato
School Choice Weekly #42
Tennessee is the latest state to drop the federally funded national Common Core tests. Education 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.
IN THIS ISSUE:
- FLORIDA: The state has become second in the nation to offer families an education savings account, which lets parents control their child’s education funds and spend on various things, not just tuition like a voucher. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill Friday. The new Florida program is open only to special-needs students.
- NEW YORK: Legislators ended this year’s session without passing a school choice bill, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s promises to Catholic leaders. h/t Jason Bedrick.
- POLICY: So far, school choice laws are great at filling open seats in private schools, but not at spurring innovation and new schools. Michael McShane explains why, and what lawmakers should do about it.
- WYOMING: Because the Obama administration refused to grant the state a No Child Left Behind waiver that would free it from the federal law’s provisions, state education officials are supposed to follow all the NCLB rules – including giving public school choice to students assigned to the state’s worst schools. But state school officials don’t want to do that.
- LOUISIANA: Gov. Bobby Jindal and state Superintendent John White, whom Jindal hired, are fighting over whether the governor has the power to pull the state from Common Core and its tests. Jindal said the state’s out, while White says he’ll ignore that order.
- NEVADA: The world’s biggest education company, Pearson, is tied up in court over its plans to administer Common Core tests. A rival testing company charges the federally funded Common Core testing organization rigged the bid so Pearson won.
- POLLS: Still just half of the country has heard of Common Core, says a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. According to the poll, of the people who have heard of the initiative, most disapprove.
- NEW YORK: The feds have threatened to pull $300 million from the state if it decides to decouple Common Core tests and teacher evaluations for two years.
- MISSISSIPPI: Gov. Phil Bryant says Common Core has “failed” and indicated the state legislature will consider measures to drop it, or at least its tests, next spring.
- MICHIGAN: The newly approved state budget cancels funding for Common Core tests.
- CALIFORNIA: The newly approved state budget includes another half-billion dollars for school districts to phase in Common Core. Last year, lawmakers approved $1.25 billion for the same purpose.
- OHIO: Twelve percent of third graders will be held back a grade this fall if they again fail the state’s reading exam. Retention for failing scores is part of the state’s new “third-grade reading guarantee.”
- PENNSYLVANIA: State lawmakers struggle with how to change pensions so school districts aren’t paying more for retirees than for the teachers currently in front of kids.
- COLLEGE ENTRANCE: Maybe it’s time to ditch the confessional college admissions essay in favor of serious, graded academic work.
- UTAH: A man has sued the governor so he can run for state school board. Currently, Utah law allows the governor to choose which people can run. Brett England says that violates his free speech rights.
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