Arkansas Board Rejects Switch From PARCC to ACT, Defying Gov. Hutchinson

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 11, 2015 2 min read
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The Arkansas state school board has rejected the push by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to use the ACT exam next year instead of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, known as PARCC.

The Arkansas Times reported that the board’s 7-1 vote on June 11 not to switch to the ACT Aspire test for the 2015-16 school year was a “surprising rebuke” of Hutchinson by the board. Education Commissioner Johnny Key, who was appointed by the board earlier this year with Hutchinson’s explicit backing, also supported the move from the PARCC test to the ACT exam, but to no avail.

In a subsequent 7-1 vote, the board also authorized Key to re-up the state’s contract with the PARCC consortium for another year without any further board action. Both PARCC and the ACT Aspire exam are aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

UPDATE: In a June 11 email, Arkansas education department spokeswoman Kimberly Friedman said the state had not yet signed its contract extension with PARCC, and that, “We are in consultation with Governor Hutchinson’s office about next steps.” The Associated Press reported that state board members criticized the governor’s push to drop PARCC, saying his decision to do so was made too quickly and without proper consultation of teachers.

Hutchinson’s recommendation that the state drop PARCC for the ACT followed a recommendation from the state’s Council on Common Core Review that the state do so. The council is led by Lieutenant Gov. Tim Griffin who, like Hutchinson, is a Republican. Explaining the council’s recommendation, Griffin said that the ACT had national recognition, among other positive attributes.

For what it’s worth, right after the state board’s vote, Griffin made a point on Twitter of highlighting PARCC opposition in schools:

Before the state board’s vote, in a June 8 press release, the state education department treated the switch to PARCC like a foregone conclusion, stating that Arkansas “will not renew its contract with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers when it expires June 30, 2015, and will pursue negotiating a contract with ACT and ACT Aspire to provide testing services for the 2015-2016 school year.”

One important political note: Although Arkansas state board members are appointed by the governor, all of the current board members were appointed by former Gov. Mike Beebe, Hutchinson’s predecessor.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.