Alabama will withdraw from two national testing groups, but state and national officials are being tight-lipped about why and what’s next.
In 2010, 45 states agreed to use the same set of requirements for what K-12 students should know in math and English. It’s called the Common Core. Since then, states have joined one or both of two groups developing Common Core tests to replace state tests. Alabama has now withdrawn from its membership in both.
“We are still moving ahead” on using the Common Core standards, Gloria Turner, director of assessment for Alabama’s department of education, told School Reform News in an email. “We will be assessing those standards, but we will not be using the assessment consortia for this. Recommendations will be forthcoming soon for the [state board of education] to consider.”
Both testing consortia refused multiple requests for comment on this story.
Switch to ACT Tests
Alabama will probably switch to Aspire tests from ACT, said state board of education member Betty Peters. Aspire tests students from grades 3 through 10 on how well they have learned what the Core requires teachers to teach, plus science. The tests are new, created in partnership with education giant Pearson, and are currently being field tested with plans to release in 2014, according to ACT.
“All roads lead to Pearson, but [Microsoft founder Bill] Gates is behind them,” Peters said. “They’re just into everything.”
According to earlier reports, Alabama officials were uneasy about the Core, so the state board agreed to shift gears.
“States such as Alabama are starting to pull out of the Common Core process as a result of the awakening of the American people,” said Lance Izumi, director of educational studies at the Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento. “It will reduce or eliminate the ability of individual parents to impact what goes on in their children’s classrooms. The Obama administration and their special-interest allies have overplayed their hand and spawned a growing popular backlash that will ultimately cripple, if not sink, the whole Common Core agenda.”
Slowly Losing Members
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is now down to 24 members. Alabama is not the first to drop out: Utah and Colorado have done the same. Utah first downgraded its membership from “governing” to “advisory,” then withdrew from SBAC last August. That same month, Colorado ended its membership.
The Alabama decision responds to Senate Joint Resolution 49, which the legislature passed last May. It encourages the state board of education to “take all steps it deems appropriate … to retain complete control over Alabama’s academic standards, curriculum, instruction, and testing system.”
“We will focus on the needs of individual children,” said Thomas Rice, the Alabama board of education’s executive officer.
The board realized “we really were not there yet; we were graduating a fair number of students, but many of them were not prepared for the futures they wanted for themselves,” said Sherrill Parris, a deputy state superintendent.
Image by Night Owl City.