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The Common-Core Testing Environment Gets More Complicated

In my latest print story for Education Week, I take a look at how the fragmenting testing environment affects the Common Core State Standards. A couple of folks I talked to think that as the number of tests states collectively use to assess the common core grows, the true power of the common core declines, although the greater emphasis of the comments I collected was on the actual alignment of whatever tests are used in conjunction with the standards. 

One of the states I highlight in the story is Louisiana. There's an apparently stalemate between the state school board and Superintendent John White, who like the tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and Gov. Bobby Jindal, who doesn't. At least one anti-PARCC lawmaker in the Pelican State is apparently trying to break the logjam in a way that would please Jindal.

As Julia O'Donoghue reports for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the sponsor of a previously failed anti-common-core bill in Louisiana, Rep. Brett Geymann, a Republican, now wants to give the legislature oversight over whether the state will actually purchase the PARCC test. His proposed legislation, in fact, wouldn't allow the state to purchase PARCC "unless specifically authorized by law." 

If you're a supporter of the common core, however, these sorts of machinations against one of the two consortia developing tests aligned to the common core shouldn't be overhyped. That's the view of Scott Norton, the director of standards, assessments, and accountability at the Council of Chief State School Officers, one of two groups (along with the National Governors Association) that oversaw the development of the common core. CCSSO, in fact, has a cheat-sheet for states as they consider and then purchase assessments, and PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium each get only one mention. 

"What group a state belongs to is less important than the quality of the test they take," Norton told me in an interview. "That said, I know the consortia provide a real opportunity for states to come together and do collectively beyond what they could probably do individually."

Norton added that although he thinks there's likely some minimum number of states each consortium should retain in order to be viable, he's not sure what that number is. 

On a very related note, please read the national overview of PARCC and Smarter Balanced field-testing that my colleague Catherine Gewertz has written. You'll get great details about the tests, including students' reactions to them. 

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