Arkansas Shuts Door on PARCC

arkansas-state-flagThe Arkansas House originally passed a bill that would pull the state out of PARCC.  The Arkansas Senate amended that bill to delay PARCC’s use, but still left the door open to use it.   Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson effectively slammed the door shut.

Hutchinson launched a council on Common Core Review.  The council is still completing a “listening tour,” but submitted their first recommendation because of timing.  The recommended that Arkansas withdraw from PARCC and instead use ACT Aspire for grades 3-10 and ACT for 11th graders.

“I have accepted the recommendation of the Common Core Review Council that the state leave PARCC and use the ACT and ACT Aspire, pending state Board of Education approval and a contract agreement with ACT and ACT Aspire,” Hutchinson said in a released statement.

The Arkansas Legislature endorsed the use of the ACT and ACT Aspire assessments by the passage of Act 989, and the Governor’s office believes this transition is in keeping with the spirit of that legislation.

What I’m unclear of is why this pending state board of education approval?  The state board of education can overrule Governor and Legislature?  That seems unlikely to me, and perhaps it is just a formality, but it is something we’ll watch.

Regarding the ACT Aspire exam itself – it is the Common Core-aligned assessment created by ACT.  Alabama is the first state to adopt it.  ACT’s college entrance exam which will be used for high school juniors is not currently aligned to the Common Core.  So this is not a repeal, but it is a shift away from an assessment consortia that has been federally funded.  Also ACT does not have the memorandum of understanding with the Federal government regarding student level data like PARCC does.  So there are some positives with this move even if the fight against Common Core is not finished.

The downside is that ACT Aspire will also involve social emotional testing.  EdWeek reported back in 2012:

The assessment would look beyond academics to get a complete picture of the whole student, he says. There would be interest inventories for students, as well as assessment of behavioral skills for students and teachers to evaluate.

As with PARCC we recommend that parents refuse ACT Aspire as well.  On the bright side however PARCC is also one step closer to a collapse.

The review council will release further recommendations regarding the Common Core State Standards themselves later this summer.

Arkansas Senate Votes to Delay PARCC

arkansas-state-flagToday the Arkansas Senate joined the Arkansas House voting to pass HB 1241.  They voted in favor of the measure 29 to 0 with five State Senators not voting.  The bill has been amended from the original House version that completely shut the door on the use of PARCC.  The Senate version could have the same impact, but it also leaves the door open.

The bill as it stands right now requires the State Board of Education to not renew their membership or involvement with PARCC.  Like the House bill, it still allows PARCC to be administered this school year.  Then the bill’s language gets a little fuzzy.  “The state board shall take into consideration any  recommendations that are made by the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review before entering into any contract or agreement related to statewide assessments for public school students for the 2016-2017 school year,” the bill reads.

So theoretically the State Board could, as I understand this, opt to readopt PARCC as an assessment not next school year, but the one after.  Not that it will necessarily take place, but it could.  Regardless this is a big step for the state.  Since the bill was amended it returns to the Arkansas House to be voted on.

Arkansas House Votes to Pull State Out of PARCC

Photo credit: J. Glazer (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: J. Glazer (CC-By-2.0)

Arkansas is one big step closer to pulling out of PARCC, the Common Core assessment consortia the state is a governing member of.  Just a  few days after passing through the Arkansas House Education Committee, the Arkansas House of Representatives voted 86-1 to pass HB 1241 on Friday.

It is important to note that this bill if passed does not stop testing this spring, so Arkansas parents will have to still refuse the test you can find out more specific Arkansas information about opting out here. The bill requires the state to pull out of PARCC by June 30, 2015, and Arkansas Department of Education or Arkansas State Board of Education will not be allowed to require PARCC after that date.

The bill’s author is State Representative Mark Lowry (R-Maumelle).  The bill’s co-sponsors are State Representatives Mary Bentley (R-Perryville), Justin Harris (R-West Fork), John Payton (R-Wilburn) and Marcus Richmond (R-Harvey).  The bill has now been sent to the Arkansas Senate for consideration.

HT: Arkansas Against Common Core

PARCC Pull-Out Bill Advances in Arkansas House

arkansas flagThe Arkansas House Education Committee has passed HB 1241 out of committee for consideration by the entire House.  It has also been amended considerably.  It started out as a delay and review bill, not looking at the engrossed version that has been amended it forces the state to exit PARCC by June 30, 2015.

The bill originally would have delayed PARCC until the 2017-2018 school year.  The bill also called for the Governor to convene a task force that includes teachers to review PARCC and other assessments and determine what assessment is best for Arkansas.  They are to report its findings to the Governor of Arkansas by October 1, 2017.

The amended version does not contain any of that language.

The bill’s author, State Representative Mark Lowry (R-Maumelle), also offered the three amendments to the bill that passed in committee.  The bill’s co-sponsors are State Representatives Mary Bentley (R-Perryville), Justin Harris (R-West Fork), John Payton (R-Wilburn) and Marcus Richmond (R-Harvey).

Common Core Fight Coming to Arkansas Legislature

arkansas flagThe Arkansas News Bureau reports that a fight is brewing in Little Rock over the Common Core State Standards.  Last year there was a resolution introduced State Representative Randy Alexander (R-Fayettevile) in the Arkansas House – HR 1007 along with a companion piece of legislation introduced in the Arkansas Senate State Senator Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) –  SR 4.

The legislation was meant to authorize the introduction of a nonapropriation bill (needed according to House and Senate rules at that point of the legislative session) concerning delaying the implementation of the Common Core; and to declare an emergency.  Basically it was attempt to defund Common Core, and both bills died in committee.

John Lyon for the Arkansas News Bureau writes that Common Core opponents, unfazed, are retooling for the 2015 legislative session.

Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, told the Arkansas News Bureau he is considering filing a bill to repeal Common Core.

“This one size fits all, I just don’t buy that, because there’s just too much difference in different school districts in different states,” Stubblefield said. “I just think there’s a better way to do it.”

Stubblefield said some teachers in his district think Common Core is all right, but “some of them hate it.”

“They think it’s a waste of time. They spend more time trying to learn how to give a test than they actually do teaching,” he said…

…Likely supporting repeal would be the group Arkansas Against Common Core. The group did not respond to requests Thursday and Friday for an interview, but its website states that Common Core has “effectively eliminated the ability of parents and local school boards to influence content standards to suit local needs.”

The Arkansas Department of Education continues with the same, old, tired propaganda.

That claim is “absolutely false,” said Debbie Jones, assistant commissioner of learning services with the state Department of Education.

“They’re standards only,” Jones said. “They do not tell a teacher how to teach. They do not tell teachers which books to teach.”

Eye roll, that argument would be more convincing if Arkansas was implementing PARCC (one of the few states that hasn’t bailed) an assessment aligned to the Common Core.  Also textbook publishers are aligning to Common Core.  So saying that a school can still choose its own curriculum rings hollow when you have mandated standards and an assessment that drives curriculum and classroom instruction.

My colleague, Jane Robbins, also testified in Little Rock last week.

Another common complaint is that PARCC will collect and share extensive personal information about students and their families. Jane Robbins, senior fellow with the Washington, D.C.-based American Principles Project, made that argument in a presentation to the state House and Senate education committees on Wednesday.

“PARCC has a cooperative agreement with the federal government that allows the federal government to have access to any student-level data that it collects from the testing,” Robbins told the Arkansas News Bureau.

“We don’t know yet what data PARCC is going to require,” she said. “They’ll probably start out with something very unobjectionable, but as time goes on they’ll say, ‘You should also collect this, and you should collect this.’”

Robbins said the ultimate goal is more power for the federal government.

“It fits in with the progressive theory of education and the economy,” she said. “If you’re going to run a managed economy that is planned by experts at the top, very smart people in Washington who will tell the rest of us what to do, they have to have data.”

Then there was this response from Jones of the Arkansas Department of Education.

Jones said the state Department of Education collects “minimal” information on students and never shares with the federal government or anyone else information that could identify individual students.

“Many of the statements that (Robbins) made that could be possible in her opinion, collecting private information on kids, is not what Arkansas does,” Jones said. “For example, she mentioned collecting students’ baptismal certificates. We don’t do that, nor would we ever do that. That would serve no purpose whatsoever.”

The state of Arkansas may not (yet), but that doesn’t mean PARCC won’t. We also don’t know what kind of data PARCC will require because they haven’t released that information.  The agreements that PARCC has with states and then with the U.S. Department of Education are tangible, concrete pieces of evidence.  My question to education officials and legislators is why is there agreement to share student-level data with the U.S. Department of Education if student-level data is not going to be collected?  You then have the data-sharing agreements between the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education – why?

One Democratic, pro-Common Core, legislator – State Senator Joyce Elliot (D-Little Rock) tried to say that Jane was putting forth a conspiracy theory.  She’s not.  She’s just pointing out warning signs that legislators need to be wary of.

We may not know what data will be collected, but we can however see the tone of the debate and the talking points that are used.  There is an assessment and data collection that accompany the Common Core State Standards.  Concerned citizens and parents in Arkansas should expect that there will be a reasonable, respectful debate among their elected officials and that their concerns will be heard.