WFSU News Team
Mon September 23, 2013
Common Core 'PARCC' Tests Face Uncertain Future In Florida After Governor's Executive Order
After Governor Rick Scott issued an executive order pulling back Florida’s support of nationwide education standards called Common Core, the state will no longer have a say in the development of new exams aligned with those standards. Still, that does not mean the state is dropping out of the multi-state testing consortium known as PARCC.
In an executive order issued Monday, Governor Rick Scott calls on the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Board of Education to give up their financial control over the PARCC exams. Those are the tests meant to replace Florida’s current FCAT exams in math and language arts, and align the state with the Common Core standards Florida and more than 40 other states have adopted.
“We were the treasurer for this group," says Florida Department of Education spokesman Joe Follick. "We handled the money that came and went. It wasn’t additional money for Florida, we were just kind of doing the book-keeping. Per the announcement today, we’re ending our role as the fiscal agent for PARCC.
Under the governor's executive order, the PARCC exams would be one of several tests considered as leaders decide what the state’s next assessments will look like.
State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart stresses that right now, the order does NOT mean Florida is pulling out of PARCC all together:
“I don’t think there’s anything in there anywhere that addresses we’re removing ourselves from PARCC. In fact, when you look at the competitive process that’s outlined in the documents, it mentions PARCC as one possibility," Stewart told reporters during a conference call to address Scott's order.
The Governor's decision has won approval from those like State Senate President Don Gaetz, who opposes to the PARCC tests:
“We have a system here that hasn’t been fully invented or vetted yet, that we are being asked to comply with," he said.
Gaetz says it doesn’t make sense that Florida should stay in the consortium when it’s capable of developing its own exams. The Senate President has also raised concerns similar to the Governor’s regarding the price of the exams and length of the testing time.
Scott’s executive order calls on the state to institute a competitive bidding process to choose a new, statewide exam. Included in that is the possibility Florida could again create its own tests.
Students will continue to take the current FCAT and end-of-course exams during the current school year, with new exams aligned with Common Core still expected to be in place in time for the 2014-15 school year.
Update: 2:12 p.m.: It may be a bit too soon to begin writing off new exams aligned with nationwide common core education standards.
In a conference call with reporters, the Florida Department of Education says the state is only ending its financial relationship with the PARCC consortium, which includes 17 states and the District of Columbia (Georgia withdrew from PARCC earlier in the year).
Florida officials say they plan to turn over the financial reins to the tests to a non-profit aligned with the consortium.
Under the governor's executive order, the PARCC exams would be one of several to be considered in a competitive bidding process to pick what Florida's next assessments will look like. Students will continue to take the current FCAT and end-of-course exams during the current school year, with new exams aligned with common core still expected to be in place in time for the 2014-15 school year.
Education Commissioner Pam Stewart also addressed issues surrounding who has the authority to pull the state out of PARCC. Stewart says it's not the State Board of Education, contrary to what some of its members have said.
Update: 12:52 p.m.: As expected, Governor Rick Scott has issued an executive order which, among other things, recommends Florida leave the group of state's working to develop tests aligned with nationwide education standards called the common core.
Scott and other state leaders, have said the PARCC assessments are too expensive and will take students too long to complete. Other state's that have gone ahead with similar exams have noticed big drops in student test scores.
The executive order also calls on the State Board of Education to begin a series of public hearings to get input on the state's current English/Language Arts and Math standards.
If Governor Rick Scott issues an executive order announcing Florida’s withdrawal from a testing consortium aligned with national common core education standards, a source says that pullout could be complicated.
Scott does not have the authority to pull the state out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium. That authority lies with the State Board of Education.
During a recent state board of education meeting, outgoing member Kathleen Shanahan said an executive order would mean Scott is, "disrespecting the statutory responsibility of this board.”
According to people familiar with the issue, the legislature’s role in that would be from a fiscal perspective. Florida is the fiscal agent for the consortium, which includes 18 states and the District of Columbia.
By pulling out of PARCC now it’s not clear what happens to the funds already spent and monies still leftover.
The Palm Beach Post reports Scott will send a letter to U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan announcing Florida will no longer participate in PARCC.
If that happens, it’s also not clear what tests would go in place of the PARCC assessments. PARCC was designed to replace the English-Language Arts and Math Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT.
The executive order would come weeks after Scott convened an education summit to address issues stemming from the state's implementation of Common Core, including big drops in school grades, stagnant student progress on state exams, and questions about the validity of the way the state grades schools and teachers.
Criticism against common core has also increased in the past few months by groups on both the right and left.
For more news updates, follow Lynn Hatter on twitter @HatterLynn