Florida Curtails Role in State Testing Consortium

By Andrew Ujifusa — October 01, 2013 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Florida’s recent decision to sharply curtail its role in a state consortium developing assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards has called into question the prospects for the tests and whether more states will decide to chart their own course.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott last week served notice that Florida would leave the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (which includes 19 states and the District of Columbia) and relinquish its role as the financial representative for the consortium, while simultaneously initiating a new search for common-core assessments aside from the ones PARCC is developing.

In a Sept. 23 letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Gov. Scott expressed fundamental concerns about the federal government’s involvement in the consortium.

“Unfortunately today, PARCC has become a primary entry point for the involvement of the federal government in many of these state and local decisions,” he wrote. The governor, however, did not highlight in this letter any specific examples of federal intrusion into state schools through PARCC.

Cost, Usefulness

Gov. Scott also cited concerns expressed over the summer by two Republican state lawmakers, Florida state Senate President Don Gaetz and Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, about the PARCC tests, including their cost and the usefulness of the results for teachers.

Officials from PARCC have said these concerns are not based on accurate information. A cost analysis by the think tank Education Sector determined that PARCC’s tests would save Florida money on assessments.

In a separate letter to the state board of education, Gov. Scott seemed to signal tepid support for the common core.

The words and actions from Gov. Scott last week are “going to have outsized significance, and it’s going to sting more” for common-core advocates than if the same thing had happened in another state, said Frederick M. Hess, who oversees education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. That’s because Florida is home to former Gov. Jeb Bush, a high-profile Republican and a vocal common-core champion.

But supporters of PARCC say that work on the new assessments will go on unhindered. In fact, Florida has not been actively involved in PARCC for months, said Massachusetts education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester, the chairman of PARCC’s governing board.

“I’ve believed all along that no single state will make or break the future of PARCC,” he said.

There was some initial confusion last week about whether Florida was formally leaving PARCC altogether. Although Gov. Scott said publicly that the state was withdrawing, the state is technically remaining a member of PARCC’s governing board (although not as the fiscal agent) pending its final decision about which assessments to use for the common core, said Florida department of education spokesman Joe Follick.

In September, Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart and board members had discussed deciding on a common-core assessment in March of 2014, and she said Mr. Scott’s announcement did not change that timeline.

“We’ll be examining all options,” Ms. Stewart said.

Winning Strategy?

Gov. Scott is clearly “playing to his base” and trying to quell political opposition to the common core itself among conservatives with his decision about PARCC, said Michael J. Petrilli, the executive vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington-based think tank that supports the standards.

But he argued that officials who try to distance themselves from certain policies related to the standards, while keeping the common core itself in place, may not appease the common core’s conservative critics, citing Georgia as an example.

In August, after that state had left PARCC, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, ordered the state school board to conduct a review of the common core in response to opponents to the standards in the state who had raised concerns about the “reading exemplars” (essentially recommended texts) that accompany the standards.

“The politics are terrible on the right,” Mr. Petrilli said.

On the common core itself, Gov. Scott argued in a separate letter last week to Gary Chartrand, the president of the Florida board of education, that what people needed to know is “not whether our leaders are ‘for Common Core’ or ‘against Common Core,’” but whether the state had the “highest standards” while rejecting federal intrusion.

This year, both Georgia and Indiana have announced their departures from PARCC. Oklahoma has decided not to use the PARCC assessments, but it has not left the group, and Pennsylvania has said it will not use tests from PARCC or Smarter Balanced, the other multistate common-core testing group, though it hasn’t left either group.

Related Tags:

Associate Editor Catherine Gewertz contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the October 02, 2013 edition of Education Week as Florida Curtails Role in Testing Coalition


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
From Chaos to Clarity: How to Master EdTech Management and Future-Proof Your Evaluation Processes
The road to a thriving educational technology environment is paved with planning, collaboration, and effective evaluation.
Content provided by Instructure
Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Standards Florida's New African American History Standards: What's Behind the Backlash
The state's new standards drew national criticism and leave teachers with questions.
9 min read
Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference at the Celebrate Freedom Foundation Hangar in West Columbia, S.C. July 18, 2023. For DeSantis, Tuesday was supposed to mark a major moment to help reset his stagnant Republican presidential campaign. But yet again, the moment was overshadowed by Donald Trump. The former president was the overwhelming focus for much of the day as DeSantis spoke out at a press conference and sat for a highly anticipated interview designed to reassure anxious donors and primary voters that he's still well-positioned to defeat Trump.
Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference in West Columbia, S.C., on July 18, 2023. Florida officials approved new African American history standards that drew national backlash, and which DeSantis defended.
Sean Rayford/AP
Standards Here’s What’s in Florida’s New African American History Standards
Standards were expanded in the younger grades, but critics question the framing of many of the new standards.
1 min read
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the historic Ritz Theatre in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., on July 21, 2023. Harris spoke out against the new standards adopted by the Florida State Board of Education in the teaching of Black history.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the historic Ritz Theatre in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., on July 21, 2023. Harris spoke out against the new standards adopted by the Florida state board of education in the teaching of Black history.
Fran Ruchalski/The Florida Times-Union via AP
Standards Opinion How One State Found Common Ground to Produce New History Standards
A veteran board member discusses how the state school board pushed past partisanship to offer a richer, more inclusive history for students.
10 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards The Architects of the Standards Movement Say They Missed a Big Piece
Decisions about materials and methods can lead to big variances in the quality of instruction that children receive.
4 min read
Image of stairs on a blueprint, with a red flag at the top of the stairs.
Feodora Chiosea/iStock/Getty