South Carolina has withdrawn from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
According to South Carolina Department of Education spokesman Dino Teppara, State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais notified consortium leaders in writing on April 14 that the state would be pulling out.
For those of you who obsessively track states’ assessment plans, South Carolina’s move comes as no surprise, since there has been a bit of testing turmoil in South Carolina in recent weeks. (If you’ve been taking an extended nap, or otherwise managed to get off the grid of relentless chatter about states’ scrambles to get tests in place before next year, you can catch up over at State EdWatch, where my colleague Andrew Ujifusa has been tracking the churn—and I do mean churn—of events in South Carolina.)
An obscure but intriguing tidbit in South Carolina’s case revolves around who, exactly, has the authority to pull the state out of the Smarter Balanced consortium.
As you might remember if you were really into the weeds at the beginning of the federally funded test design, states that got on board with Smarter Balanced or PARCC, the other state testing group, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to participate. That MOU bore the signatures of three people: the state commissioner of education, the governor, and the president of the state board of education. The presumption—at least in some places—was that to reverse a state’s membership, all three of those players would have to sign off.
Apparently not. Smarter Balanced dropped South Carolina from its list of member states based on the notification of one person: Zais. As Andrew has reported, Zais did this after consulting with the legislature, and with Gov. Nikki Haley.
As for the state’s board of education, which had wanted to stick with Smarter Balanced, its chairman conceded that Zais has the legal authority to pull the state out of the consortium, as Andrew reported. The chairman did, however, insist that the board still wields some power over what test is actually used—consortium membership or no.
Now the question is: What tests will the state use in 2015? And who will be the key drivers in that decision?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.