Common Core in the States Fall 2014: Mapping the Future of Testing in America (INTERACTIVE)

By Emmeline Zhao

People protesting the Common Core education standards demonstrate near the hotel where the meeting of Tennessee's Education Summit is taking place on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo)

The Common Core couldn’t catch a break this summer as politicians geared up for November’s midterm elections.

While more states began rolling out the standards over the last year, the Common Core saw its image damaged as it became increasingly politicized.  In June, Oklahoma dropped the standards when Gov. Mary Fallin signed a repeal that reversed her former support for the academic standards. At the time, Fallin said that federal overreach had “tainted” the Common Core and Oklahoma was “capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core.” The U.S. Department of Education was unconvinced and yanked the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver in August because Oklahoma failed to produce an adequate replacement for the Common Core. As a result, the Sooner State lost flexibility about how it can use about $30 million in federal education funding.

Indiana was the first to withdraw from the standards in March. In Louisiana, where Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is fighting ferociously to repeal the Common Core (and is suing the Obama administration over the standards) the issue of Common Core has rocketed to the front of the Senate race. In New York, where Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is up for reelection, the former Common Core cheerleader is starting to distance himself from the standards.

[Jump to the interactive graphic]

The Common Core is a set of benchmarks -- not a curriculum -- that lays out what students across the country should know by the end of each grade level in an effort to ensure students are college-and career-ready by the time they graduate high school. Individual states and districts determine how to teach and assess their students to meet those standards, which were developed by education experts and interest groups representing state leaders. Nationally, 45 states, Washington, D.C. and three territories originally adopted the standards between 2010 and 2011.

A majority of Common Core-adopting states created two new federally funded organizations to design and develop tests aligned to the Common Core: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. But as contention over the new standards has grown, states that originally committed to one of the two consortia have been dropping out, citing high costs, politics or concerns about effectiveness. PARCC lost Arizona and Tennessee over the summer. Smarter Balanced lost Iowa as a governing member. [Updated 11 a.m. 10/28/2014] The state is staying on as an advisory or affiliate state as it considers whether to use Smarter Balanced or other assessments for its Common Core-aligned tests for the next academic year, said Smarter Balanced spokesperson Jacqueline King. (Iowa is a grey state on the map to represent its shift in status. We'll update its grouping on the map as the state comes to a decision on assessments.) Michigan, North Carolina and Wyoming are likewise slated to shift from governing members to affiliate status on Nov. 1.

Just last week, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced that she would ask the Illinois Board of Education and the U.S. Department of Education for a one-year delay on PARCC tests.

“At present, too many questions remain about PARCC to know how this new test provides more for teachers, students, parents and principals than we are already providing through our current assessment strategies," Byrd-Bennett said at the monthly Board of Education meeting last Wednesday.

In May, RealClearEducation broke down what each state is planning in the coming years for its Common Core-aligned assessments for grades 3-8 and high school. At the time, 13 states still had requests for proposals out seeking bids from testing vendors. The debate about Common Core has further changed the landscape since then. The American Institutes for Research, for instance, doubled its Common Core testing market share. Four states – Delaware, Maine, South Dakota and Washington – signed with AIR over the summer. Georgia has contracted CTB/McGraw Hill. Eight states still have RFPs out.

A caveat to note in our graphic: Because we’re mapping the Common Core, the total number of states contracting Measured Progress drops by one -- not because Measured Progress lost a contract, but because Oklahoma withdrew from the Common Core. Phil Bacharach, director of communications for Oklahoma Department of Education, told RealClearEducation that while Oklahoma was planning on contracting Measured Progress for its Common Core-aligned exams, the state’s withdrawal from the standards is not affecting the testing deal. Students will continue to be assessed in compliance with the state’s current academic standards by Measured Progress.

Pearson remains the most widely contracted vendor, in part due to its overall market dominance and unmatched capacity to produce and score exams. The commercial education giant is also the contractor for PARCC states in test development, delivery, scoring and student performance analysis. Unless AIR continues to win bids in the states with RFPs still out, Pearson’s deal with PARCC means that it will continue to play a pivotal role in the assessment market. Testing giants like Pearson, CTB/McGraw Hill, and Educational Testing Service have been awarded Common Core contracts worth more than $300 million combined.

The "NA," or "Not Adopted" greyed-out states - Alaska, Indiana, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia -- are those that are opting not to adhere to the Common Core benchmarks. The teal "None" states - Pennsylvania, Alabama, Kentucky and Minnesota - are those who never joined a consortium as a governing member. Minnesota only adopted the Common Core English Language Art standards, but not the math portion. States shaded in the light blue and light green are those who no longer belong to either PARCC or Smarter Balanced because they withdrew membership in favor of developing and distributing their own assessments. For more on the consortia’s funding models and more on some state with outlier data points, click through to our first piece on the Common Core landscape.

Hover over the map, graph and bubble chart below for more information about each state's Common Core, consortium and testing status. Zoom controls are at the top left. To drag the map, hold down the shift key, click, and pull with your mouse. Highlight states on the map by consortium grouping first by clicking on the highlighter icon to the right of the "Consortium” header, then by selecting its category in the legend. Select consecutive groups to highlight by clicking while holding down the shift key, or highlight nonconsecutive groups by clicking while holding down the control key.

This article and the data below were last updated on October 28, 2014.

Hover over the map, graph and bubble chart below for more information about each state's Common Core, consortium and testing status. Zoom controls are at the top left. To drag the map, hold down the shift key, click, and pull with your mouse. Highlight states on the map by consortium grouping first by clicking on the highlighter icon to the right of the "Consortium” header, then by selecting its category in the legend. Select consecutive groups to highlight by clicking while holding down the shift key, or highlight nonconsecutive groups by clicking while holding down the control key.

Emmeline Zhao
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