Common Core in the States: Mapping the Future of Testing in America (INTERACTIVE)
Common Core is roiling the country. The new set of national education standards are attracting attention not only from wonks and teachers but also from late-night talk shows and celebrity parents.
This spring, students across the country are taking the first iterations of year-end exams aligned to the Common Core State Standards. 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. Individual states and districts determine how to teach and assess their students to meet those standards. These standards were developed by educational experts and interest groups representing state leaders in an effort to ensure students are college-and career-ready by the time they graduate high school.
Nationally, 45 states, Washington, D.C. and three territories adopted the standards between 2010 and 2011, but Indiana became the first state to drop out of the Common Core in March following months of backlash against the education benchmarks.
A majority of those states created and joined 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. The new tests will be computerized and available for English and math for grades 3-8 and for high school students. PARCC exams are more traditional in fixed-form delivery, where students are given a test with a set formula of questions. Smarter Balanced exams, however, uses adaptive delivery, where a student's exam questions are tailored depending on his or her responses to previous questions. PARCC's testing package contracts exam development, delivery, scoring and student performance analysis to a single entity - commercial education giant Pearson - whereas Smarter Balanced's testing package takes care of exam design and development, but leaves states to arrange their own contracts with vendors to deliver and execute those exams. Smarter Balanced is currently contracting American Institutes for Research for pilot test delivery.
As contention about the new standards has grown, states that originally committed to one of the two consortia have been dropping out, citing costs or political concerns. PARCC's test will cost states an average $29 per student, while Smarter Balanced estimates that a full assessment system, inclusive of a state's separate vendor implementation contract, will cost an average $27.30. Kansas, for example, withdrew from Smarter Balanced last December, opting to develop and distribute its Common Core-aligned exams through a deal with the Kansas University Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation. State officials estimated a $1 million savings from the move.
As states continue to change their relationships with Common Core assessments 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. (Head over to Education Week see a comprehensive map of what the standardized testing landscape will look like just next year.)
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 also 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 exams.
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 (group)" 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.
Pearson is the most widely contracted vendor, in part due to its market dominance and its unmatched capacity to produce and score exams. Its deal with PARCC means that Pearson will continue to play an outsized role in the assessment world. Smarter Balanced states cut deals with a wider cast of companies, and 13 states still have requests for proposals out looking for bids from contractors. The majority of those undecided states will decide during the summer.
Some states have a more complicated Common Core testing future than others. While New York belongs to PARCC, political unrest has pushed the state to delay committing to the consortium's exams. Still, New York began administering its own Common Core-aligned tests last year, according to Jeanne Beattie of the New York State Education Department. Massachusetts is in the midst of a two-year pilot, and will determine in Fall 2015 whether to officially adopt the PARCC assessments, says Jacqueline Reis, a spokesperson for the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. And in Arizona, an RFP is out to identify the test to be used for the 2014-2015 school year despite the state's PARCC membership.
"While PARCC is welcome to apply, there is no guarantee that they will be the assessment, as our procurement process is separate to the [Arizona Department of Education's] participation in the consortium," spokesperson Jennifer Liewer said.
Other non-consortia states like Kentucky and Pennsylvania are developed or co-designed by the state's educators and subject experts, and delivered, scored and analyzed by their commercial contractors.
Five states don't have contracts with testing companies, nor have they put out an RFP: Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wyoming.
While Iowa is a Smarter Balanced governing member, its legislature has not yet approved its use of the consortium's assessments. Until then, the state is still using the Iowa Testing Service for state year-end exams. The earliest Iowa would implement an SBAC exam is Spring 2016, according to state education officials.
Montana has just started with Smarter Balanced field tests and hasn't yet pushed out an RFP for a test contractor. The state will continue to use its current vendor - Measured Progress - for its science and alternate assessments. South Carolina, like Montana, has yet to post an RFP, and Wyoming is using its current Educational Testing Service-contracted exams until Spring 2015, and will deliberate then whether to use Smarter Balanced assessments in 2016.
North Carolina doesn't use a contractor to develop or distribute exams - that's all handled by the state's Department of Public Instruction, said Lynda Fuller, spokesperson for the state's Department of Public Instruction. The state has chosen to keep testing students with its current year-end exams until 2016, and will evaluate for the 2016-2017 school year whether to adopt Smarter Balanced assessments.
This article and the data below were last updated on May 22, 2014.