States curb Common Core opposition by leaving testing consortia
Thirty-eight states have left either PARCC, Smarter Balanced, or both since 2010
July 6, 2016—Common standards call for common assessments, but six years after 45 states adopted the Common Core State Standards, only 20 states plan to administer tests from one of two aligned consortia. In a new article for Education Next, Ashley Jochim of the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Patrick McGuinn of Drew University discuss why 38 states have dropped out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing consortia since 2010.
Annual attrition from the assessment consortia has been steady (see figure below). Forty-five states signed on to PARCC, SBAC, or both in 2010, but as of early 2016, only 20 states remain in one of the two groups: 14 states plan to administer SBAC during the 2016-17 academic year, and just six states plan to administer PARCC. However, over this same time period, only three states (Indiana, South Carolina, and Oklahoma) have officially revoked the Common Core standards.
Jochim and McGuinn cite political pushback as a major factor driving consortia attrition. “Policymakers sometimes embrace high standards and quality assessments in principle, but when they experience intense pressure from interest groups and the public, their support is likely to falter,” the authors say. The implementation of the assessments became intertwined with the new, controversial teacher evaluations and school accountability systems as states introduced the reforms simultaneously. In an effort to diffuse opposition to the standards, many policymakers withdrew from the assessment consortia, the most visible and consequential aspect of new accountability systems.
PARCC and SBAC still face plenty of opposition, however, Jochim and McGuinn report. To address concerns, the consortia are working to reduce testing time, shorten the time periods over which tests are administered, limit the number of units covered, and reduce the number of required testing sessions. But the consortia are still viewed suspiciously on both extremes of the political spectrum: on the right as an extension of federal control due to the Obama administration’s role in funding the consortia, and on the left as evidence of corporate school reform efforts, given businesses’ vocal support for high standards.
Late last year, PARCC unveiled a new testing system that will allow states to customize their own assessments. Massachusetts and Louisiana have elected to use a “hybrid” test, creating an assessment that combines both consortia- and state-designed questions. This “hybrid” solution gives states flexibility to address local needs and priorities while still leaving the door open for realizing the benefits of cross-state comparison and collaboration, the authors say.
To receive an embargoed copy of “The Politics of the Common Core Assessments: Why states are quitting the PARCC and Smarter Balanced testing consortia” or to speak with the authors, please contact Jackie Kerstetter at firstname.lastname@example.org. The article will be available Tuesday, July 12 on www.educationnext.org and will appear in the Fall 2016 issue of Education Next, available in print on August 29, 2016.
About the Authors: Ashley Jochim is a research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell. Patrick McGuinn is professor of political science and education at Drew University and a senior research specialist at the Consortium for Policy Research in Education.
About Education Next: Education Next is a scholarly journal committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform, published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School. For more information, please visit www.educationnext.org.