PARCC Undertakes a Major Restructuring (Again)

By Catherine Gewertz — December 14, 2016 2 min read
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The PARCC assessment consortium has outlined plans for a major restructuring which is designed to make it easier for states to use its test content, and also to ensure its own long-term survival.

The revamping of the PARCC testing group is detailed in a “request for proposals” released to the assessment world on Wednesday. The document asks for bids from organizations interested in providing “support services"—which means managing the PARCC consortium. Bids for the three-year contract are due Feb. 7, and the consortium plans to make its decision on March 17, according to the solicitation.

The states that currently use the PARCC test in its entirety—six states and the District of Columbia—are looking for a new entity to manage the consortium, since their contract with its current manager, Parcc Inc., runs out in June. The contract with PARCC’s test administrator, Pearson, runs out in June 2018.

As those changes draw near, the consortium has been shaping a new vision of how it will be run, and of how it will survive, since its membership has dwindled to a half-dozen from a high of 25 states. PARCC issued a “request for information” last August, asking the testing field for feedback on how its reorganization should take shape.

One move it has already made is to adopt a “tiered” approach to selling its content; Instead of having to buy the whole test, states were allowed to choose just some parts of it. Massachusetts and Louisiana are two states that have taken them up on that offer.

PARCC’s request for proposals, or RFP, envisions even more options for states; They can license all, some, or individual test items. They can each choose their own test-administration vendor—a role currently filled for all PARCC states by Pearson—or they can band together and use a common vendor to give the test. States can also opt for a smaller role, allowing them access only to some, but not all, test items.

The “support services” organization would also take on a major new layer of responsibility that Parcc Inc. currently doesn’t have: test development. Right now, the consortium has a contract with Pearson to do that. But going forward, the entity that manages PARCC will handle item development itself, and will manage the item bank, according to PARCC officials.

That doesn’t necessarily mean a testing company would have to be the one to win the contract. A management organization could win it, and subcontract the test-development function to a company with that kind of expertise.

The support-services entity will also take on a quality-control role. Test content will be developed primarily by the yet-to-be-chosen organization, but it could also be developed by states, according to PARCC. If states contribute their own content, the new organization would have to vet that content for quality and format. States would retain ownership of the content they create, and could get a discount on PARCC fees in exchange for their contributions, the RFP says.

Another new twist in PARCC’s future is its planned transfer of ownership of PARCC content to a third party. The consortium is currently negotiating with an organization to serve as an “intellectual property holding company,” to handle licensing of PARCC’s content and monitor any possible copyright infringements.

Here is the RFP, embedded for your perusing pleasure. Dive in and let us know what you think.

7551209 PARCC Support Services RFP by cgewertz on Scribd

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