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Florida Skips Over PARCC, Selecting Common-Core Test From AIR

By guest blogger Andrew Ujifusa. Cross-posted from State EdWatch.

It's official. Florida is not going to use the common-core exam being developed by the PARCC testing consortium. Instead, Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart has selected an assessment developed by the American Institutes for Research as its new state test, Kathleen McGrory at the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The new assessment from the Silver Spring, Md.-based nonprofit research group will replace the state's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) that the state has used for accountability purposes for several years. Up until last September, Florida planned to use assessments from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two state consortia developing tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

But Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who had felt pressure from state lawmakers to back away from the PARCC exam, then announced that the state was drastically curtailing its role in the testing consortium and would widen its search for a new state exam for English/language arts and mathematics.

In a March 17 letter, Stewart said she was confident that the test from AIR was the right one for Florida's students.

"The new assessment will include more than just multiple-choice or simple fill-in-the-blank questions," she said. "Students will be asked to create graphs, interact with test content, and write and respond in different ways than on traditional tests." (Read the full letter from Stewart below.)

The Times reported that the bid to create Florida's new exam from the American Institutes for Research beat out an effort by CTB/McGraw-Hill and Pearson, which has held the FCAT contract. John O'Connor at StateImpact Florida also reported that another bid came in from McCann Associates. The test from AIR, Stewart said, is slated to be given during the 2014-15 academic year. 

McGrory at the Times highlights concerns, however, from a Florida district leader, Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning, that the AIR assessment may not be ready for prime time in Florida, and that a field-test in Utah may not provide Florida complete assurance because of the two states' very different enrollment demographics. And, Browning added, Florida lawmakers might not necessarily like the selection.

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