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Common Core a Tainted Brand?

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Tennessee joins a phalanx of other states in ending its relationship with one of the two Common Core-aligned assessment groups.

The state’s top three education leaders sent a letter to Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) announcing that Tennessee will be seeking a new set of tests and leaving the consortium. Education Week has more.

Though Gov. Bill Haslam is viewed as a booster of the Common Core, the state Legislature has been pushing for some distance from the increasingly tainted standards. In a May speech before journalists at EWA’s National Seminar, Haslam explained how Tennessee lawmakers defeated efforts to ditch the standards but ultimately pushed through a measure to delay the state’s use of the PARCC assessments. The self-styled “education governor” commented on the struggles of implementing education policy borne from a previous administration, but said he’s “standing in the doorway making sure we don’t retreat.” Haslam’s predecessor, Gov. Phil Bredesen (a Democrat) led the state in accepting Race to the Top money and joining PARCC.

With Tennessee bowing out of the assessment consortium, 14 states plus D.C. remain in PARCC. There were 22 members in April 2013. Smarter Balanced, the other federally funded testing consortium, has 22 state members in its ranks.

Scholars who study state education testing say PARCC and Smarter Balanced have left many questions unanswered. At one of a series of panels on the Common Core during EWA’s National Seminar, Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute noted the following:

For one, he asked, how will scores be compared among students who are using different devices, from desktop computers to 10-inch iPads? And who will account for the large windows that states have to administer the tests, potentially allowing one state to administer their assessments 12 weeks before another?

“Somebody’s got to run 150 yards in the same time someone else has to run 100 yards. This is a problem,” Hess said.

Tommy Bice, Alabama’s state superintendent of education, hinted at the EWA event that state leaders may struggle with the perception the assessments were a federal Trojan Horse:

Bice explained that he knew anything connected with “anything out of Washington” would have been dead on arrival. (Alabama dropped out of both Smarter Balanced and PARCC.) So Alabama introduced a series of exams developed by ACT for the state that are meant to be used from kindergarten through age 20. The state legislature has also explicitly barred the use of those tests in teacher or school evaluations.

Another Common Core supporter from a Republican-leaning state argued the White House shoulders the blame for the popular pushback against the standards and assessments. From EWA’s National Seminar:

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday blamed federal involvement with stirring the opposition pot. His state was an early adopter of the standards.

“Everything was going smoothly until the president and the Secretary of Education took credit for Common Core,” Holliday said.

For all things Common Core, check out EWA’s clearinghouse of reports, analysis, top stories and history about the standards and assessments. 



With questions or comments about the Ed Beat, contact Mikhail Zinshteyn. You can also follow him on Twitter @mzinshteyn.

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