Policy Brief

Fla. Chief Weighs 'Plan B' on Tests

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Tony Bennett, Florida's new schools chief and one of the nation's most visible cheerleaders for the Common Core State Standards and related assessments, says his state needs a contingency plan in case the tests are not ready.

At his first meeting with the state board of education, Mr. Bennett said this month he will develop a "plan B" for statewide testing in 2014-15 in case the common assessments being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, aren't ready as promised.

The "complexities" that could delay the test, Mr. Bennett said, include its cost, agreeing on a common cutoff score, and determining if schools have sufficient technology to handle the computer-based tests. He has also been talking with Florida lawmakers about a possible four-month delay in implementation of the standards and tests.

In an interview, Mr. Bennett said his desire for a plan B is nothing new; he did the same thing as commissioner of education in Indiana. When 20-plus states are designing a test together, he said, it's a complex undertaking, and it's simply prudent management to have a backup plan in place.

"It's in no way an indication of any deep fear that PARCC is going to fail," Mr. Bennett said. "No one wants this to succeed more than I do, and no one believes it ultimately will succeed more than I do."

The idea of an implementation delay was raised by Florida lawmakers, who offered Mr. Bennett flexibility in the implementation timeline. He hasn't decided yet whether to do that, he said. First, he wants to survey districts to see how far they are from being technologically capable of implementing the tests, and to better gauge how prepared teachers are to teach the new standards, he said.

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"There is a great deal of evidence that we have done a lot to roll out an implementation plan for the standards," Mr. Bennett said. "It's important to me to go out and check with the field. ... You just want to make sure that what we say we are delivering is getting delivered to the local districts."

The Florida commissioner said he is proceeding on the presumption that he will be identifying gaps to fill in technology or training rather than slowing down implementation.

Vol. 32, Issue 22, Page 17

Published in Print: February 27, 2013, as Fla. Chief Weighs 'Plan B' on Tests
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