Ohio dumps the PARCC Common Core tests after woeful first year
Ohanian Comment: Muted applause. Ohio declares its determination to keep the Common Core firmly in place.
In 2011, PARCC states numbered 25. Now they're down to 11, with Arkansas still disputing it.
Interesting how a news article can discuss PARCC without mentioning Achieve, Inc. At the moment, Achieve, Inc. isn't saying anything about Ohio.
by Patrick O'Donnell
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio became the latest state to pull out of the PARCC Common Core testing consortium tonight after months of angry complaints about the new online tests having too many technology glitches and of eating up far too much learning time for students.
In signing the state's two-year budget bill tonight, Gov. John Kasich agreed with leaders of the Ohio House and Senate that PARCC's math and English exams cannot continue in Ohio.
The compromise bill the two houses agreed upon late last week specifically bans the state from spending any money on tests from the 12-state consortium - now down to 11 after tonight - and calls for the Ohio Department of Education to immediately find a new provider of tests.
UPDATE: ODE on Wednesday named AIR as the replacement.
Ohio spent $26 million for PARCC to provide math and English exams, both online and on paper, this past school year, according to ODE spokesman John Charlton.
Though federal grants paid most of the costs of developing PARCC's exams over the last few years, Charlton said, ODE staff and other educators spent hours of time working on them as well.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner, who created and ran a committee this spring to study testing issues, said she would have been willing to give PARCC a second year to improve on its first-year growing pains. But she said dissatisfaction was clear across the state.
Teachers, principals, superintendents and the general public all hammered PARCC in a survey she conducted this spring.
"The people of the state of Ohio seem to have spoken loudly that they don't want the PARCC," Lehner said.
Brittany Warner, spokesperson for House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, said the volume of complaints drove the change.
"The General Assembly felt it was necessary to intervene based off the many concerns expressed from administrators, teachers and parents," Warner said.
PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin said Ohio's decision is a "disappointment."But he said the Common Core standards and improved tests are "a huge advance and a big victory for students across the country."
Is this a good move? Tell us below.
"No one would have imagined just five or six years ago that the Governors of 45 states, Governors from both political parties, would come together to develop a new set of standards to better prepare students for success in college and careers and that nearly half of their states would share one of two tests developed by state educators," Connerty-Marin said.
The bill calls for new tests to be given in one round at the end of the school year, as Lehner's committee recommended. This year, PARCC gave tests in two separate rounds weeks and months before the end of the year.
And tests also have to be shorter than this year's, as Lehner's committee recommended. But the bill does not set a time limit on exams, as the House had proposed.
The bill, while banning one of the country's two main Common Core testing partnerships from the state, does not change Ohio's use of the multi-state standards in any way. Those remain in place across the state.
The bill also does not affect the new science and social studies exams that Ohio started this year through the American Institutes of Research (AIR). Those subjects are not part of the Common Core and were not served by PARCC.
Instead, AIR may have an inside track to landing Ohio's contract for providing new Common Core math and English exams for the spring of 2016.
Click here for a quick look at what other testing providers Ohio could choose.
Charlton declined to say how state Superintendent Richard Ross would find a new provider, but said the department will do whatever is required by the legislature.
Charlton also said it is too early to have any timeline for finding another provider.
But Lehner and State Rep. Andrew Brenner, who has sought to limit or push out PARCC the last two years, each said AIR has a few advantages.
Lehner said many members of her Senate Advisory Committee on Testing preferred having one "platform," or online system, for all subjects. Lehner, a Kettering Republican, said that since districts have already learned to use AIR this year, adjusting for additional subjects will be simpler.
Warner said House leaders also see that easy adjustment to a single testing system as a plus.
Brenner, a Powell Republican, said he would prefer ODE to do a quick request for bids from multiple vendors before picking one.
But AIR, he noted, is not a multi-state consortium that has to balance requests from multiple states into a single test for all. Brenner has called several times for Ohio's tests to be just for Ohio, so they can be adapted quickly.
Both PARCC and AIR drew loud complaints from parents, teachers and administrators when the first round of exams started in February after years of buildup. As the first state to try the PARCC tests, Ohio saw far more technical problems online than other states, PARCC officials told Lehner's committee this spring.
PARCC also agreed in May to shorten its tests by 60 minutes in math and 30 minutes in English.
But that change wasn't the dramatic reduction many sought. Students took about 10 to 11 hours of PARCC exams in just English and math this year, depending on their grade. With that much testing, the combined 90-minute drop amounts to a 15 percent cut at the most.
Brenner had sought a 50 percent reduction. And Lehner, while being cautious about setting a strict limit, wasn't happy with the cuts either.
"The test is still too long and I think PARCC made a major error in not making a major effort to shorten it," Lehner said.
PARCC, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, once had about half the country as members. But states have dropped off in the last few years as legislatures either dropped the standards or opted for other tests.
Here's how PARCC membership has changed:
PARCC states, as of 2011(25): Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, District of Columbia.
Note that some states, like New York and Massachusetts, use PARCC in a far more limited way than Ohio has.
PARCC states now (11): Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, District of Columbia.
Arkansas is in the middle of a battle between the governor, legislature and state school board over PARCC's future there.
Here's a summary of the testing changes in the budget bill, as prepared by the Legislative Service Commission, the non-partisan research arm of the state legislature:
* Prohibits GRF (General Revenue Fund) appropriations from being used to purchase an assessment developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) for use as the state elementary and secondary achievement assessments.
* Requires the Superintendent to verify, within 30 days after the bill's effective date, that (1) the state elementary and secondary achievement assessments that are administered in the 2015-2016 school year will be administered once each year, not over multiple testing windows, and in the second half of the school year, and (2) the length of those assessments will be reduced as compared to the assessments that were administered in the 2014-2015 school year, "in order to provide more time for classroom instruction and less disruption in student learning."
* Specifies that the restriction on state assessments being administered in the second half of a school year does not apply to a high school end-of-course exam for a course that was completed during the first semester of the school year
* Requires, if the 2015-2016 state achievement assessments do not meet the conditions described above, the Superintendent to take the steps necessary to find and contract with one or more entities to develop and provide assessments that meet the prescribed conditions.
* Requires, beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, ODE, or an entity with which it contracts for the scoring of state achievement assessments, to send to each school district and school a list of individual scores for all students who took a state achievement assessment by the following deadlines:
(1) For all elementary and secondary assessments (except for the third-grade ELA assessment), within 45 days (instead of 60 days as under current law) of the assessment's administration or by June 30 of each school year, whichever is earlier;
(2) For the third-grade ELA assessment, within 45 days of the assessment's administration or by June 15 of each school year, whichever is earlier.
* Permits the results from the writing component of any assessment in the area of ELA, except for the third-grade ELA assessment, to be sent after 45 days of the assessment's administration except that the results must be sent by June 30 of each school year.
Cleveland Plain Dealer