Florida Backing Out of PARCC…Sort of

Florida Governor Rick Scott has created a lot of confusion with a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stating that the State of Florida will stand down from its current role in supporting the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, better known as PARCC. This is one of two national assessment systems under development to measure student performance on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). (The Oregon State Board of Education has already committed to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the other assessment system.) Both groups received $180 million each of Race to the Top funds to develop approaches to measuring CCSS.

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Some are claiming that this means that Florida, which has been a strong supporter of PARCC and was serving as the fiscal agent for the development project, has removed its support for Common Core and PARCC. Technically, this is not quite true, as Governor Scott’s letter primarily addresses Florida’s involvement as fiscal agent. Withdrawing from PARCC requires the approval of the Governor, the Chair of the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent. Florida has not gone that far, yet. But the Florida legislature has cooled to the idea of the Common Core and the PARCC following the controversy created when ex-Florida Superintendent, Tony Bennett, was accused of inflating the results on state accountability measures for a charter school in Indiana while serving as that state’s superintendent. Bennett has denied the allegation, but resigned the superintendency in Florida.

So, Florida’s participation in CCSS and PARCC is still present, though significantly reduced by withdrawing from fiscal agency. It suggests that the Florida legislature may well decide to fully withdraw its support and develop its own assessment of state standards. Florida is a large state with a long history of using state performance data in school and district accountability. If they withdraw, they would join Indiana which has already withdrawn from the PARCC consortium. Governor Scott’s letter refers to PARCC as "a primary entry point for federal government involvement in many of these state and local decisions." This does not sound like a state that really wants in.

A critical issue seen in Indiana and Florida that will appear in other states as we get closer to implementation of the Common Core State Standards and either SBA or PARCC is the political will to move away from state-level determination of educational goals and measures to a national-level process. When the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers initiated the national conversation about a set of common standards and measures, the majority of states saw this as a plus. Critics of state standards and measures disliked the variance and lack of comparability from state-to-state. But the move to national measures may be causing "buyer’s remorse" among some. Not surprisingly, the news out of Florida shows that political considerations are potent forces in the road ahead.


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