PARCC Willing To Unbundle Assessments

The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will be customizing its online testing offerings to expand its reach into states outside of the consortium. While the current PARCC tests and assessment resources will continue to be available to states, in time for the next school year the new bundling of its Common Core-oriented assessments will also include these options:

  • The current PARCC exams delivered on a Pearson assessment platform that allows states to customize the test and add their own items;
  • The PARCC test blueprint and content but in a form that enables a state or group of states to select their own vendor for administering the testing;
  • Test items available in blocks to let states design their own assessments using PARCC test questions but in a way that also allows them to make state comparisons across those item blocks, assuming the states adhere to agreed-upon rules for test administration; and
  • A freestanding item bank that allows states or vendors bidding for state contracts to purchase individual or sets of test items.

"The consortium of states who worked to develop the PARCC test have always had three simple goals: to develop a 21st century, high quality test focused on the skills that matter for success in life, the ability to compare student outcomes across states and to provide honest accurate information to parents and educators that can be used to improve classroom instruction," said Hanna Skandera, New Mexico Secretary of Education, speaking on behalf of PARCC's Governing Board in a prepared statement. "Together we have developed a world-class product that has been administered to five million students... Moving forward the flexibility provided by these new options will allow us to respond to our state colleagues and build on a solid foundation and successful track record."

Terry Holliday, former Kentucky Education Commissioner and former President of the Council of Chief State School Officers, added that the announcement was "an important step forward" in ensuring continued comparability across states. "Over the course of the last year it has become clear that the states have complex and dynamic needs. They need high quality tests and test items like those found in PARCC. They need flexibility in creating testing products that meet all states' unique circumstances."

Additional options may be in development. PARCC's governing board also announced it would be considering creation of a new entity that would allow for all states to continue developing assessment content together while also giving them more flexibility in how that content is accessed for their testing.

The new options may help reverse the fortunes of PARCC, which has fewer than half the members it had when it was originally formed. When the consortium first received funding from the United States Department of Education under the Race to the Top Assessment Program, it had a coalition of 26 states and administrative divisions. The current participants encompass 11 states as well as the District of Columbia.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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