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PARCC Sees Dip in Confidence Poll of Washington 'Insiders'

It hasn't been an easy few weeks for PARCC, one of the two assessment consortia. Some of its members have gotten the jitters or dropped out altogether, including one that pulled out on the very day the group announced what its tests would cost.

That tumultuous series of events is showing up in a poll of a small group of Washington power brokers. The poll, by Whiteboard Advisors, shows confidence in PARCC at a low.

Bear in mind that this is a really little group of people—50 to 70—and they are folks who are not at all representative of the general population. They're current and former congressional staffers, White House and U.S. Department of Education officials, and the heads of major organizations. But with that in mind, the small sampling shows us one slice of how the consortia are being viewed.

The Whiteboard Advisors report regularly asks whether respondents think that PARCC and the other federally funded consortium, Smarter Balanced, are on the right or wrong track as they work to design tests for the common standards. PARCC has generally garnered a greater share of "right track" responses than SBAC, but this time those findings have flipped.

Here's how they stack up now:

PARCC:
On the wrong track: 73 percent
On the right track: 37 percent

Smarter Balanced:
On the wrong track: 38 percent
On the right track: 62 percent

And here's how they looked in January:

PARCC:
On the wrong track: 45 percent
On the right track: 55 percent

Smarter Balanced:
On the wrong track: 73 percent
On the right track: 27 percent

Respondents said that the cost of the tests and the time involved in taking them pose serious threats to the two consortia. Nearly three-quarters said so of PARCC, while only six in 10 said likewise about Smarter Balanced.

Take a look at the full Power Point for some samples of respondents' comments about why states were getting nervous about the tests or pulling out of the consortia. Some cite political expediency; that test cost as a reason for nonparticipation is nothing more than "a cover" for political considerations, for instance.

Another area queried concerns Florida. Speculation has been mounting that Florida would pull out of PARCC or decide against using its tests. Since it has been seen as a leader in PARCC, and has served as its fiscal agent (the key channel for procurement), such a move could exert a more potent influence on public perceptions of the group than losing another state.

Whiteboard's "insiders" backed up that interpretation; 92 percent said that if Florida quits PARCC, it would have some impact or a very significant impact on the common core. One respondent went so far as to say it would be "nail-in-coffin significant."

Florida has made no official decision yet what tests it will use, but that decision is anticipated in the coming weeks. Today's resignation of Florida schools chief Tony Bennett—one of common core's biggest proponents—puts an even bigger question mark over that state's role in the common-assessment work.

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