PARCC Agent Rolling Out Pool of Items for Custom State Assessments

A Texas-based nonprofit is on the cusp of rolling out its new service to make a pool or catalog of test items available to states for their high-stakes assessment efforts. Last year, New Meridian was chosen by PARCC to manage its testing business.

The company was formed by a small team of people with experience in education and state and national assessments, including several who have worked for testing divisions of Pearson and the College Board. President and CEO Arthur VanderVeen, for example, worked for the College Board as well as the New York Department of Education, where he headed up the city's $60 million assessment program.

The idea is that states will be able to develop custom tests "without the cost and time required for custom content development," wrote VanderVeen in a newsletter article on his organization's website. As he described, state education leaders would be able to license the entire PARCC test set (as New Mexico still does, for example). Or they could choose to "white-label" their own version of PARCC questions in custom variations. In either case they retain control over their state testing programs, while avoiding the political anathema of participating in "consortia testing," but more cost effectively.

"This new flexible approach has been born out of years of refinement to the PARCC states; working together and reflects their emerging understanding of states' needs for both flexible custom design and efficient economies of scale," VanderVeen explained.

Illinois is one customer that's making the transition away from PARCC and to a new assessment that will use the existing "high-quality" test items as an "anchor."

New Jersey is another. The state elected a governor, Phil Murphy, at least partly based on his promise to end "high-stakes testing." Now the state is working with New Meridian to develop its next-generation assessments. But the messaging is quite different. In a presentation to state education leaders, the organization focused not on consortium testing and its "all-or-nothing rigidity" but on the benefits of gaining access to "high-quality, operationally-ready test content," without the long development times and high costs of "new custom development."

About the Author

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