Oklahoma rejects Common Core assessments, but not Common Core Standards.

This is the Choice Media Ed Reform Minute for Monday, July 8.

Produced by Maryrose Mullen

janetOklahoma State Superintendent Janet Barresi said last week the state would pull Oklahoma out of testing through the consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers, or PARCC, following teacher and staff concerns. PARCC is one of the two state consortia to develop student testing to measure how well kids are learning the Common Core Standards of English, language arts, and math, the other consortium being SBAC, which stands for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

For those who haven’t been living in the weeds of the Common Core story, it’s important to note what this story doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean Oklahoma is ditching the Common Core Standards of which grade to teach long division, which grade to teach algebra, or which grade to introduce Shakespeare. The state says it will comply with the national standards. Not that dumping those standards hasn’t been considered: The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill in May that would prohibit Common Core implementation without legislative approval. That bill ultimately went nowhere, but one needn’t look far to see to see the rumbles of discontent across the country. Earlier this year, Alabama withdrew from PARCC, while Florida, despite being a PARCC member, has expressed concerns they’re not committed to those consortium’s new assessments.

So to continue the distinction, the two consortia are not the standards. They have to so with assessments, the tests you give kids to see if their learning what those standards say. Oklahoma is exercising its right not to utilize PARCC’s assessment. Instead, the state will develop its own standardized test to be implemented in the 2014-15 school year.

Sherry Fair of the Oklahoma Department of Education gave three reasons the state is resigning from PARCC: time, tech, and money.

The three reasons that we decided to  not use their assessments includes the time that students would have to spend taking tests. It includes the technology issue. The state of Oklahoma really isn’t at a readiness level to be able to administer those tests online, and also we can save some money from creating our own Oklahoma test. We think we’ll be saving around $2 million. We are absolutely still going to have the Common Core State Standards in English and math. Our test that we develop will be aligned with those standards in English, language arts, and math.

standThe question remains, though, of how Oklahoma plans to test their compliance to the Common Core Standards with their own exams. Common Core’s mission is to ensure education standards remain level when a kid crosses state lines. A third grader in Tulsa should get the same education as a third grader in Atlanta. Brian Hunt of Stand for Children Oklahoma says this new announcement from the state leaves plenty of unanswered questions.

With Oklahoma proposing to do their own RFP for a test assessment, I think superintendents across the state are kind of scratching their head right now, not knowing what does that process look like? How quickly can  someone respond to this RFP? And does this still give us the original concept of being able to compare across state lines? The whole purpose of Common Core, in addition to the higher standards, is being able to measure that across the state.

There’s something to wonder about here. Generally, economies of scale do create lower cost products, which is why you have economies of scale. That’s the whole point, and that was the point of the consortia. What remains confusing is why it would be cheaper for a single state to develop its own Common Core Assessments than to share the development cost with a couple of other states. Either Oklahoma’s test will be demonstratively inferior, the state will prove to be wrong about saving money as it claims it will do now, or Oklahoma’s absolutely right and their correctly calling out the PARCC group for considerably overcharging. One thing is clear: if it’s that last explanation, more states are likely to follow in Oklahoma’s lead. 

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