Assessment | News

Remaining PARCC States Affirm Commitment, Get on Track for Field Testing

The PARCC consortium is shoring up support for its online assessment program in the face of state desertions, including, most recently, Georgia and Indiana. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia confirmed this week that they are "committed" to field testing the PARCC assessments. This is a major step on the way to deploying the English language arts (ELA)/literacy and math tests to all of PARCC's member state schools in time for the 2014-2015 deadline.

However, that count is a dramatic drop from the coalition of 24 states and administrative divisions that originally made up the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Florida may be the next to go as Florida Department of Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is facing increasing pressure from state legislators to relinquish participation in PARCC.

The new tests, based on the Common Core State Standards, are expected to measure critical thinking, writing, and problem-solving skills. The field testing, which is scheduled to take place in spring 2014, is intended to examine the quality of test items, do a check of the test procedures, and give districts, teachers, and students a chance to try out the new assessments.

States opting out of PARCC have two obvious directions they can pursue. So far, they're recommitting to continue developing their own assessments. However, they may also decide to start working with the alternative consortium, Smarter Balanced, which has faced similar desertion challenges. In April Michigan lawmakers began taking steps to opt out of Smarter Balanced; however, as of today, Michigan is still listed as a "governing" state for Smarter Balanced.

Along with the District of Columbia, those states that have pledged to participate in the PARCC field tests are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. The expectation is that about 10 percent of students in tested grades across those states will try out the field tests, although participants won't receive scores.

In a prepared statement Deborah Gist, Rhode Island commissioner of elementary and secondary education, affirmed the value her state is putting on the PARCC assessments. "Quality has been the key issue for us from the very beginning," she said. "We weren't interested in moving to another assessment unless there was going to be a tremendous focus on quality."

Added Hanna Skandera, secretary of education for New Mexico, "We believe in having the best of the best for our kids. We are stronger together than we are as individuals."

PARCC also announced progress in other areas. The organization said that its vendors were on track to complete the first phase of item development — construction and review of test items prior to field testing — by the end of August 2013. And PARCC has released the first edition of its accessibility and accommodations manual, to address online assessment for students with disabilities, English learners, and English learners with disabilities.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.