Common Core Testing Groups Won’t Let Some States Go

Published July 23, 2014

It’s been almost a year since Indiana and Pennsylvania officially withdrew from national Common Core tests, but testing organization still lists the two states as members on its Web site.

“They’ve been inactive for quite some time,” said David Connerty-Martin, spokesman for federally funded Common Core testing group Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), of Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Connerty-Martin didn’t explain why the two states are still listed, promising more information before hanging up the phone, then not returning repeated inquiries. The most recent departure from the consortium was Tennessee, which left last month and was subsequently taken off PARCC’s public list of member states. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has also issued letters withdrawing his state from PARCC, but the state superintendent and board of education are attempting to block his withdrawal.

PARCC and the other national Common Core testing group, known as Smarter Balanced, received a total of $330 million in federal funds to create national tests that measure Common Core’s K-12 curriculum requirements for English and math. In 2009, PARCC had 26 state members and Smarter Balanced had 31. Twelve states belonged to both. Now, PARCC has 11 state members plus DC, if one doesn’t count Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana. Smarter Balanced has 21 state members.

State Officials Give Conflicting Messages
Despite this, there is no doubt both Indiana and Pennsylvania have officially cut ties with PARCC. In July 2013, both Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz submitted letters to PARCC officials signifying their state’s withdrawal from PARCC.

“The state was required to withdraw from PARCC at the directive of the state legislature,” said Lou Ann Baker, a spokeswoman for Pence’s Center for Education and Career Innovation in Indianapolis. “Both the governor and the SPI forwarded the required letters for withdrawal and have considered Indiana removed at the issuance of both communications.”

But there is some question as to whether PARCC officials in the state got the message.

“The language is not specific regarding withdrawing completely, so I don’t think that PARCC had clear direction as to whether we wanted to remain in the consortium,” said Trish Wlodarczyk, an Indiana PARCC coordinator. “The same goes for the governor’s letter.”

Clear Public Letters
The letters themselves are pretty clear:

“This will serve as a formal notification that Indiana will not participate in the Spring 2014 PARCC Field Test,” wrote Superintendent Glenda Ritz in July. The PARCC website says Indiana did participate in that test.

And from Pence: “I am writing to notify you of my intent to withdraw Indiana as a member of PARCC’s Governing Board, effective August 12, 2013.”

Pennsylvania is also still listed as a participating state, even though it also withdrew in 2013 when the state’s board of education decided not to use PARCC-developed tests.

“Through the regulations adopted by the state board of education, Pennsylvania is not using national assessments as part of the state assessment system,” said Tim Eller, press secretary for Pennsylvania’s Department of Education. “Pennsylvania no longer attends PARCC events and meetings.”

PARCC’s bylaws say a state’s withdrawal occurs when officials holding the same positions in the state that signed the state into the consortium submit a written notice of withdrawal to the PARCC governing chair. Those officials are typically the governor and state superintendent.

Feds Apparently Unconcerned
PARCC’s four-year, $170 million federal grant ends in September 2014, and an U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) spokesman said PARCC has developed a plan to pay for its activities after the grant runs out.

To be eligible for the grant when they applied in 2009, USDOE required national testing consortiums to have at least 15 member states. But the spokesman said PARCC and Smarter Balanced don’t have to keep 15 members to keep their federal grants.

“Through the program review, the Department works with the consortium and reviews progress to support high quality implementation of the approved plan,” the USDOE spokesman said. “We continue to review to ensure the consortium can maintain the scope and objectives of its original commitment.”

Image by ToffeHoff