The State Testing Landscape Continues to Fragment

By Stephen Sawchuk — March 01, 2018 1 min read
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After a period of convergence, the K-12 testing landscape is once again looking more and more fragmented, concludes a new report from consulting group Education First.

The report—really more a lean set of slides—walks through the complicated last few years of shifts in the testing world. Although much of this data has been reported elsewhere, including by Education Week, it’s very handy to have it all in one place.

The report’s biggest takeaway is that hopes that states might move towards a shared system of gauging student expectations aren’t going to come to fruition anytime soon. Back in 2010, 46 states belonged to one or both of the federally funded consortia designing shared tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. That’s down to just 15 or 16 now, depending on whether you count Illinois’ recent decision to replace PARCC (formally the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Another four states use items from the consortia tests but blend them into their own exams.

Here’s a map from Education First depicting the main testing provider, as of December 2017, for each state’s K-8 tests. By far the provider that has made the biggest inroads of late is the American Institutes for Research, which until recently was better known for program evaluation and research.

More Changes Ahead?

It doesn’t look like this landscape will be any less complicated in the future. This year, 23 different states are either seeking new providers or have a testing contract that will expire, which means that many are likely to shift gears in the next few months as they reopen the bidding.

The political landscape portends shifts that are likely to affect testing. Seven governors will take office in 2018 or 2019 who have the power to appoint their state’s education chief, and could set a new direction for testing. (Two already took office in 2017.) Here’s the political landscape in map form:

We’ve reported some interesting news about the consortia recently, including Illinois’ recent decisions to back away from PARCC and some concerns about students’ test-score patterns on SBAC; make sure to read the latest news here at Curriculum Matters.

Images: Education First, “Whatever Happened to All Those New and Better State Tests?” (2018)

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