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Testing Consortia: South Carolina Makes Its Choice

As regular readers of Curriculum Matters know, membership in the two assessment consortia has been shifting. The latest update is that South Carolina has decided to throw its weight behind the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium's approach.

South Carolina had been one of the dwindling number of states still participating in both consortia. As you probably recall, the federal rules governing the two groups say that "participating" states can join in conversations about test design within the consortia, but have no voting or design power. They also can belong to both consortia, and they don't have to commit to using the tests once they're developed.

"Governing" states, however, have voting power, so they get to influence test design. They also pledge to use the tests once they're operational (projected to be 2014-15), and they must belong to one consortium or the other.

Now that South Carolina has made its choice, the only states still participating in both consortia are Alabama, Colorado, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. Five states don't belong to either group: Texas, Virginia, Nebraska, Minnesota and Alaska. A twist with Alaska, however, as we told you recently, is that it seems to be contemplating joining one of the groups, which could raise intriguing questions, since it didn't meet one of the key membership criteria: having adopted the common standards.

South Carolina is an interesting state to watch if you like common-standards controversy. It's experienced a bit of internal disagreement over its adoption of the standards. And recently the state legislature included in its budget bill language that forbids the adoption of common science standards, which are under development.

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