Arkansas’s board of education voted Thursday to dump a national standardized test aligned with Common Core math and science standards, while New York elected not to adopt the test at all.
Back in 2011, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) had 24 member states (plus D.C.) containing over half the country’s schoolchildren. The group, a consortium of state school leaders, was crafted to create shared state tests closely aligned to Common Core standards in math and English. Its scope reflected the ambition of Common Core backers to have every state using similar standardized tests for the sake of easier comparison. Now, only seven states plus D.C. are scheduled to administer the test next year, making the idea of truly “national” comparison seem hollow.
In Arkansas, the state board of education voted to drop PARCC and instead adopt the ACT’s Aspire tests for next year. The change was requested by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who like many other Republican leaders has shown skepticism about Common Core recently. Earlier this year he appointed a committee to review Common Core, which recommended switching the state’s test provider (it has yet to make a recommendation on Common Core itself). An attempt in June to make the switch was rejected by the school board, but in the past months three board members have left and been replaced by Huchinson appointees, radically altering the board’s make-up. Hutchinson tried again and this time was successful.
Meanwhile, New York state decided to reject standardized tests produced by the education company and PARCC testmaker Pearson, and instead awarded a testing contract to Questar to make New York-specific tests. The decision was unusual, as New York still remains a member of PARCC, but is deliberately choosing to use non-PARCC tests.
The decisions come just one week after Ohio decided to ditch PARCC, and it may not be the last syaye to leave. Louisiana has temporarily suspended its PARCC participation while it reviews its standards, which may lead to a full departure. Massachusetts is currently a member, but its state board of education is scheduled to vote on whether to permanently adopt the test, and the move is arousing fierce opposition. New Jersey has launched a general Common Core review of its own that could doom PARCC. PARCC is still alive for now, but it seems on the verge of disintegrating.
While most of the states dumping PARCC have kept Common Core, their rejection of shared interstate tests is still a blow to the ideas underlying it. Backers argued that shared standardized tests would make it easier to tell which states were actually succeeding in education, while preventing low performers from using unique tests to conceal low performance.
The reasons for the mass exodus from PARCC are many. The consortium received funding from the Obama administration in its early days, which caused many to fear it amounted to a “federal standardized test.” Others have worried about student data being compiled by an out-of-state entity. In some states, PARCC’s content has been attacked as far too difficult, and its computerized tests have grappled with glitches, server overloads, and teachers who feel unprepared.
Faring slightly better is a rival test consortium, the Smarter Balanced test. That consortium still has about 20 members, thought it’s also been hit with defections and has struggled with severe test glitches.
PARCC has not responded to a request for comment.
This report, by Blake Neff, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.