Checker Finn of the Fordham Institute is skeptical of the future of Smarter Balanced and PARCC:
This prediction will puzzle, upset, and maybe infuriate a great many readers—and, of course, it could turn out to be wrong—but enough clues, tips, tidbits, and intuitions have converged in recent weeks that I feel obligated to make it:
I expect that PARCC and Smarter Balanced (the two federally subsidized consortia of states that are developing new assessments meant to be aligned with Common Core standards) will fade away, eclipsed and supplanted by long-established yet fleet-footed testing firms that already possess the infrastructure, relationships, and durability that give them huge advantages in the competition for state and district business.
Although the College Board and ACT have traditionally focused on the high-school-to-college transition, both also have experience earlier in the K–12 sequence. ACT Explore is aimed at eighth and ninth graders, ACT Engage goes down to sixth grade, and ACT “WorkKeys” is a significant player in determining career-readiness. The College Board’s Pre-SAT test is typically taken in tenth grade. Its “Readiness Pathway” assessment program reaches down to eighth grade, and its “Springboard” program to sixth—with “alignment” guides already prepared for Common Core standards in both English language arts and math for grades six through twelve.
So it’s not too big a stretch for either organization to dip deeper into the K–12 curriculum and assessment business, and it’s no stretch at all for their chief test-administration partners—Pearson in the case of ACT, ETS for the College Board. Each has ample experience in devising and administering tests from the early grades onward. (In fact, Pearson already has pre-K assessments.)
Well it would seem that Gates money didn’t buy Finn’s endorsement of SBAC and PARCC. Though with ACT and College Board jumping into the Common Core fray I think we have just jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
Why? Because according to Finn this would remove the federalism argument.
If I’m right that ACT and College Board scarf up much state business, there won’t be a lot left for the consortia—and they may founder. That would, of course, represent a considerable waste of federal dollars. On the other hand, it would remove from the Common Core debate (at least until NCLB-reauthorization time, if that day ever comes) the specter of Arne Duncan and Barack Obama clutching those standards to the federal bosom.
Some may buy that argument, but the Common Core exists based on what the Feds have already done. As I’ve stated before I’m also concerned about the impact these organizations aligning to the Common Core will have upon private schools and homeschoolers.
However, there is the opportunity for states to interject how they implement these new tests, if at all, should the consortiums fall apart. So there is a silver lining here.