The United States is being transformed from a decentralized educational system to a national system from P-20 right before our eyes. In 2010, 45 states adopted Common Core, a standard of college readiness for math and English Language Arts. Logically, ONE common standard cannot have FIFTY state tests. The question became what test would become THE Common Test aligned with the Common Core to provide the framework for the P-20 education to the workforce system?
A little known but significant fact in answering that question is that the ACT and College Board were partners in the development of Common Core. ACT was already the test of choice in many states for their high school exit exam In 2012, David Coleman became President of the College Board signalling that College Board was also integral to the new P-20 system. Clearly, ACT and College Board were not going to just roll over and watch their companies crumple into pile of ovals and fade into history like the #2 pencil. But for the time, each state had its own assessments. Also worth mentioning, Pearson with CEO Sir Michael Barber, is a player who is “always learning” new ways to capitalize on common standards and assessments in the global marketplace.
After the Common Core was adopted, two testing consortia were set up, SBAC and PARCC. Pearson was awarded the contract to create the new assessments. Remember “state-led” standards require the same cover for”state-led” testing. States now had a choice between SBAC and PARCC for their assessments. Michigan became a governing state in SBAC. But ONE standard cannot have TWO tests forever and ACT and College Board are still around and working behind the scenes.
College Board also announced a complete overhaul of the of the SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) Exams. In 2012, ACT launched ACT Aspire (with Pearson) to go along with their flagship ACT exam with WorkKeys. WorkKeys has been adopted by many states in order to grant a National Skills Readiness Certificate (NCRC) to students. Michigan adopted the ACT with WorkKeys in 2005 and implemented as part of the MME. So the stage is set for the common assessment pathway from P-20, education for the workforce but who will emerge the champion in the quest for the test?
A year ago, Chester Finn at Fordham was very positive about the long-term prospects of ACT and College Board and predicted SBAC and PARCC would “fade away”
“eclipsed and supplanted by long-established yet fleet-footed testing firms that already possess the infrastructure, relationships, and durability that give them huge advantages in the competition for state and district business.”
So it should be not great surprise that many states are rethinking their participation in the consortia. Michigan adopted the ACT with WorkKeys as our high school exit exam in 2005 and is debating assessments. An ACT rep was present at hearing to let lawmakers know just how great the Aspire would be for our state. South Carolina is the latest to pull out of SBAC and adopted WorkKeys and considering ACT. EdWeek reports that participation in SBAC and PARCC is declining.
“The most recent tally shows that 13 states do not belong to either the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. At the peak in 2010, PARCC claimed the membership of 26 states, and Smarter Balanced had 31. Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia are sticking with PARCC, and 22 are in Smarter Balanced.”
ACT, with the full force of its reputation, is lobbying to be the test of choice for states and providing the cover against federalism. In the end, Michigan and other states are still left with mediocre common national standards and assessment they do not control with a national work skills certificate (NCRC) as a bonus; add in the data tracking with the state longitudinal data system (SLDS) and you have the P-20 framework in place.
Time will tell. Maybe the question we should all be asking ourselves is this, are parents and students ready to opt out of the ACT or College Board in order to defeat the Common Core and halt the transformation of education from P-20?