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Experts Urge California to Join Both Assessment Groups

It sounds like a page out of a "Seinfeld" script, but it's not. At a time when states are choosing between the two assessment consortia, two California experts from the world of standards and testing are urging their state to do the opposite: belong to both.

A quick refresher before moving on: You recall that two big groups of states are designing tests for the new common standards. And you probably recall that about a dozen states joined both, biding time until they could see how each group's plans shaped up. The ranks of those "polygamous" states are starting to dwindle, though, as they decide which group to commit to.

California has been "monogamous" from the start, joining only the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. It hasn't become a "governing member" of that consortium, so it is free to take up with the other consortium as well, SMARTER Balanced group, or SBAC.

That brings us to the argument being advanced by Doug McRae, a retired assessment designer who helped craft California's testing system, and Ze'ev Wurman, a software engineer who helped shape the state's math standards and tests. In a recent piece on the Silicon Valley Education Foundation's blog, they argue that California should join the SBAC, and continue dating both consortia for a couple more years while asking tough questions about which group's approach best suits the state.

One of their arguments rests on California's size: It's so big that it wields influence on the groups' test design even without sitting in a "governing member" spot. Other states can't make that argument so easily. Most have made their choice, and it will be interesting to see what California chooses.

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