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Arizona Withdraws From PARCC to Avoid Bias in Procuring New Tests

Arizona announced today that it is withdrawing from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. This doesn't come as a huge surprise, since we have already reported that the state is undecided about its test plans for 2014-15, and is planning to issue a request for proposals for new tests.

The state issued a statement that wasn't as clear as one might like, noting in one place that it was stepping down from its "governing" status in the consortium, and in another, that it would "withdraw." That caused a bit of confusion; was Arizona downgrading its PARCC membership or dropping out altogether?

Stacey Morley, the state department of education's director of policy development and government affairs, cleared that up for me right away.

"We are withdrawing totally," she said when I called her.

The move is not a sign of lack of confidence in PARCC, she said. On the contrary, Morley said. Districts across the state have been field-testing the exam, and "it's a really great test."

But the state's procurement code expects a competitive process for assessments, and to comply with that, Arizona will issue a request for proposals within a week or so, Morley said. It hopes to evaluate the responses and make a choice in the fall.

To ensure that the process is fair, state department staffers who have worked on the PARCC test will not participate in evaluating proposals, she said. But state leaders also thought it prudent to withdraw from the consortium altogether to avoid any perception of bias in the selection process.

PARCC is free to submit a bid along with other vendors, and Morley said that she hopes it does so.

"If the state does end up choosing PARCC, we don't want there to be any basis for a possible challenge based on a perception of bias," she said.

With Arizona's withdrawal, the map below shows how assessment consortium membership stacks up. Keep in mind, however, that membership doesn't tell the whole story of states' assessment plans for 2014-15. EdWeek's interactive map tells you about which states are actually planning to use PARCC, which plan to use Smarter Balanced, which have chosen other tests, and which are still undecided.

AssessmentConsortiaMembership_May2014.jpg

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