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PARCC Facing Challenges as Ohio, Arkansas Back Away

Times are getting tough for PARCC. Ohio's proposed budget drops funding for the PARCC test for 2015-16, and things in Arkansas are a confusing mess that doesn't bode well for PARCC, either.

The state board in Arkansas is standing by the test, but the governor and state chief are on the attack. In an email sent around to PARCC's friends late last week, Laura Slover, the CEO of Parcc Inc.the nonprofit that manages the state consortium that designed the test, outlined these difficulties. She notes that without Gov. Asa Hutchinson's approval, the PARCC test is dead in Arkansas.

Slover tries hard to focus PARCC's supporters on the positive, but it's clear that the loss of Ohio and Arkansas loom large for the consortium. One insider told EdWeek that the loss of a big state like Ohio bodes particularly badly for PARCC states, since that would raise the cost of the test for the remaining states that use it. If both states drop out, only eight states and the District of Columbia would remain as users of PARCC.

When I asked Parcc Inc. whether that's case, Slover responded this way: "We are confident that current costs can be maintained, and that PARCC states will continue to get the best cost for the highest quality assessment." 

Here's Slover's letter.


Last night, the Ohio legislature passed an omnibus budget bill that prohibits the state from using its funds to give PARCC.  The bill will go to the floor in the next few days and then go to the Governor to be signed over the weekend. It is not likely he will veto, although we continue to try to find levers to pull.

In addition Arkansas Governor Hutchison is planning to withdraw Arkansas from the PARCC consortium in the coming days and weeks.  While the State Board is determined to keep PARCC, ultimately the Governor's office must approve all contracts, so the future for PARCC there is uncertain.

I know this is disappointing for all of us. Many policy makers, advocacy partners and educators in those states have joined us in putting considerable efforts into holding on to PARCC, but in the end politics seem to have prevailed.

While we feel the sting of these departures acutely within our consortium, we know that Smarter Balanced (and even some states that have developed their own assessments) are also seeing departures and controversy.

As we think about how to communicate this to the outside world, it will be important to take a step back, and to remember that Phase 1 of the PARCC assessment - development and implementation - has been a success. The states, working together, created the highest quality annual state assessments in the history of the United States. It was only possible because of the huge investment of time and energy by more than 2,000 educators from across the PARCC states. There was no tech platform downtime or widespread issues despite 5 million students in 12 states taking the test for the first time. For most schools, it was the first time they administered a statewide test on computer.

States are now preparing to set performance level standards and to communicate about the process with parents, teachers and the public. We will be rolling out the much-anticipated diagnostic and other instructional tools for teachers, and will soon be releasing scores, giving parents and teachers critical information they can use to chart their students' progress and help them stay on track in their academics. The PARCC states will continue to offer access to the highest quality annual state assessment content available in the country.

We have a smaller but committed set of states, and we are working to provide on-ramps for new states, districts and other entities, such as Catholic schools and charter school organizations, through licensing and tiered levels of participation and engagement. We are confident we will maintain current competitive pricing into the future. And we are revisiting the business plan to determine next steps. We believe that with high-quality assessments and state engagement as the foundation, we are primed for growth, although realistically we know this is now going to be more challenging, so we will have to be nimble and smart about our next steps.

As we move forward, we will continue to need your support and engagement.  We will keep you informed of the outcome in Ohio and Arkansas and our plans for the next phase of our work.  And again, thank you for your support and contributions to the development of this outstanding assessment. 


Laura Slover
parcc Inc. |

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