Testing Scuffles Persist, Cast Doubt on Common-Core Assessments

By Catherine Gewertz — January 23, 2015 2 min read
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On the chance that you fell into a deep slumber this week, and dreamed that you live in a country that’s reached a state of Zen-like peace with its educational assessments, we offer you a brisk wakeup call. Here are just a few of the many recent outcroppings of pushback against testing.

Arizona supe wants to dump its new test. Remember when Arizona signed a contract with the American Institutes for Research to design an assessment that it can use instead of PARCC? That was just a few months ago. Brand-new state Superintendent Diane Douglas is asking state lawmakers and the governor to throw that test, AZMerit, overboard. She thinks that using AZMerit would amount to using students “as guinea pigs to advance an education agenda” according to the Associated Press.

Indiana senators propose dumping ISTEP. Remember when Indiana decided to stick with its own test, the ISTEP, instead of switching to PARCC? That was sooooo 2014! Now a trio of state senators wants to throw the ISTEP overboard and use something cheaper. According to the Associated Press, a new bill proposes revising Indiana’s standards and choosing an off-the-shelf set of exams by July 2016. They like the cost of that idea better than paying a vendor to develop tests just for Indiana, which is what the state currently plans to do.

Chicago restricts PARCC to 66 its schools. Remember when Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett launched a bid to delay PARCC testing? She’s backing it up with a risky declaration: her district will defy the mandate to give the tests, and administer PARCC in only 66 of its 600-plus schools. Byrd-Bennett’s decision puts Chicago schools at risk of losing some federal funding, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Byrd-Bennett had unsuccessfully sought a waiver from the state board of education to allow her schools to skip PARCC for a year, the Tribune reports. State Superintendent Christopher Koch asked the U.S. Department of Education for clarification on the question of districts opting out, and said he received word that the feds didn’t look kindly on it, the newspaper said. “The department agreed with our interpretation that the annual assessments are required of all districts and that there is no waiver available,” Koch wrote early this month in a regular address to educators, according to the Tribune.

Byrd-Bennett’s bid for a year’s delay springs from her concern that many of her schools—and students—aren’t ready to take exams online. A spokesman for the Illinois board of education told the Tribune that “it is our hope that they will comply voluntarily with state and federal laws.”

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