Assessment Consortia: Who’s In And Who’s Out?

By Catherine Gewertz — October 21, 2013 2 min read
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Snap Quiz Number One: How many states belong to one or both of the two consortia that are designing tests for the common standards? Answer: 42 and the District of Columbia.

Snap Quiz Number Two: How many states are planning to use those tests in 2015? Answer: Um, let me get back to you.

That’s the frustrating and unclear state of play on the common assessments.

For a long time now, EdWeek has been running a map of consortium membership. And for a long time, who belonged to the consortia was pretty much the same as who planned to use the tests. But little by little, things have shifted.

A few states dropped out of the consortia. A few more are undecided about their testing plans, but still belong to the consortia. One (Pennsylvania) still belongs to both PARCC and Smarter Balanced, but has announced that it has no intention of using either group’s tests.

We’ve updated EdWeek’s assessment consortium map with the latest clarification: Oklahoma—which went out of its way in July to make clear that it was downgrading its membership in PARCC but not withdrawing—is actually leaving the consortium. State superintendent Janet Barresi laid it out in a September letter to PARCC.

You’ll see on the map the news we reported as it happened over the last year: Utah, Georgia, and Alabama quit the consortia. You’ll see, also, the states that never joined to begin with: Texas, Virginia, Minnesota and Nebraska. So that takes us to eight states that are not participating in the two consortia, and one (Pennsylvania) that still is, but isn’t using the tests.

Beyond that, it gets less clear. Florida and Indiana are still officially PARCC members, although signals coming from top state officials suggest that might not be true much longer. PARCC has yet to receive clear word of withdrawal from either state, however.

Stay tuned for more confusion, too. A recent press release from Missouri, for instance, sounded at first blush like the state had thrown over the Smarter Balanced tests for new assessments created by a private vendor. But state department of education spokeswoman Sarah Potter hastened to explain that that wasn’t the case.

“We are not pulling out of Smarter Balanced,” she wrote in an email. Instead, Smarter Balanced will “create all of our [English/language arts] and mathematics items” as well as the computer adaptive system for the assessment. But CTB/McGraw-Hill will administer the test, and also develop items for its science and social studies tests.

This, of course, is consistent with the post-2014 management structure SBAC announced earlier this year, in which states are responsible for figuring out how to administer and score the Smarter Balanced tests. They can do that themselves, or hire vendors to do it.

But the wonky details of consortium management are not the stuff of typical dinner table conversations. So I’m guessing that there could be lots of patient explaining ahead for state education folks.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.