Whiteboard Advisors has a monthly “Education Insider” series that solicits opinions from leaders in the field. Its new one looks at leaders’ views on the prospects of ESEA/NCLB reauthorization (dim); whether the recent NCLB federal waivers have diluted the impact of school accountability (yes); and whether the Student Success Act, the Republican House education bill that slashes education funding, is an improvement over NCLB (not at all; see Daily Kos for a good description).
One other item in Whiteboard’s survey of “Insiders” is the prospects for the PARCC assessment consortium, which is one of two groups designing Common Core-aligned tests. (The other one is called Smarter Balanced.) States that had committed to PARCC, however, are fleeing, driven by dismay at the cost of implementation ($29 per student) and the prospects of politically unpalatable lower scores because the new tests will be harder than the old state tests.
Matthew Chingos did a paper for the Brookings Institute last November and estimated each state’s additional cost or savings once it switched to PARCC. Half will save money. Half will have to spend more. NJ is part of the latter; it will cost us an additional $5.6 million to implement PARCC testing.
Twenty states are still enrolled in PARCC. Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Alabama have dropped out. Florida is considering dropping out too, and State Education Commissioner Tony Bennett’s abrupt resignation last week is an additional complication.
New Jersey is part of the PARCC consortium and, at least judging by Gov. Christie and Ed. Comm. Cerf’s allegiance to the process, is in for the duration, or at least as long as PARCC remains viable. John Mooney at NJ Spotlight has a great piece today on NJ’s pick last week as one of 14 states to field-test the assessments this year in anticipation of their roll-out in 2014-2015.
We had been conducting our own PARCC practice anyway, and Mooney interviews administrators from some of the participating schools, who found that the students adapted surprising well to the computer-based tests (perhaps more easily than the adults). One principal noted that “the new age of testing will help drive more critical thinking in instruction and learning, and the use of online tools will press schools to integrate laptops and other devices into their earliest grades.”
But Whiteboard’s Insiders are concerned about PARCC’s vital signs. Here’s some of the WhiteBoard experts’ comments on PARCC and its prospects:
• Almost all Insiders think that if Florida were to withdraw from the PARCC assessment consortium, it would have a somewhat or very significant impact on the future of the consortium.
• “PARCC continues to struggle with basic management issues.
• “Sticker shock on the assessments gives states the out some were looking for.”
• “Too expensive for many states; too few schools will be technologically ready.”
• “Prototype questions are a big hit with teachers.”
• “The consortia seem to be on the right track, but they can’t afford to keep losing states.”
New Jersey appears to be in it for the long haul. A bigger question, however, is whether PARCC will be there to provide the ride.