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Common Core PARCC Test Consortium in ‘Death Spiral,’ Boston Globe Admits

Common Core test consortium PARCC – which has dropped from 26 member-states down to fewer than 10 – is in a “death spiral,” says the Boston Globe.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is one of two federally funded interstate test consortia that have been developing tests aligned with the controversial Common Core standards. The high-stakes tests are critical to the education reform initiative that forces teachers to adhere closely to the standards in the classroom in order to produce positive student test results.

In an op-ed at Breitbart News, Ze’ev Wurman, former senior policy adviser with the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush, also said he believed the entire Common Core initiative’s days are numbered:

[A]ll serious studies have found Common Core academically mediocre, trailing behind international high achievers in its expectations. As for the proponents’ definition of “alignment,” they consider having the same content but in a different grade as “aligned.” One is forced to conclude that Common Core’s “excellence” exists only in the mind of its peddlers.

On Thursday Arkansas became the latest state to drop PARCC, and New York has announced that it would drop publishing giant Pearson – the primary vendor for PARCC – as its testing vendor.

Mitchell Chester, who chairs the PARCC test consortium, says he is surprised by the intensity of the reactions against the PARCC test.

But Joanna Weiss, writing at the Globe, aptly observes, “[M]uch of it could have been anticipated…planning that largely took place outside of public view creating distrust and raising questions about how much influence outside groups, companies, and philanthropists should have over local policy.”

Just generally speaking, the lack of transparency and conflicts of interest seem to have no end where Common Core is concerned.

The standards were developed by three private organizations in Washington D.C.: the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and progressive education company Achieve Inc. All three organizations were privately funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and none of these groups are accountable to parents, teachers, students, or taxpayers.

There is also no official information about who selected the individuals to write the Common Core standards. None of the writers of the math and English Language Arts standards have ever taught math, English, or reading at the K-12 level. In addition, the Standards Development Work Groups did not include any members who were high school English and mathematics teachers, English professors, scientists, engineers, parents, state legislators, early childhood educators, and state or local school board members.

Chester himself – who is also the commissioner of K-12 schools in Massachusetts – is also the subject of intense controversy. Later this year, Chester will make a recommendation to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about whether to replace the state’s MCAS test with the PARCC test.

In an op-ed at BostonHerald.com, Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass of the Boston-based Pioneer Institute, point out the obvious conflict:

The problem is that Chester chairs PARCC’s governing board. As such, he should recuse himself from any involvement with the MCAS/PARCC decision-making process.

Chester serves as secretary to the state board and oversees the process for choosing between MCAS and PARCC. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that he heads gathers the information on which the decision will be made and conducts the internal evaluation.

Chester has formed a team of PARCC Educator Leader Fellows within the department. According to a memo from Chester, the PARCC fellows, who receive a stipend, should be “excited about … the Common Core State Standards” and “already engaged in leadership work around them.” The department has no MCAS fellows.

The “strong whiff of conflict” observed by Chieppo and Gass – and apparently of no consequence to Chester – seems just another reason of many why PARCC finds itself in a “death spiral.”

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