Happy 4th! I’m about to be patriotic and read the SMARTER and PARCC applications for Race to the Test. Both are enormous, so I’m sure I won’t catch every detail of their applications. PARCC hasn’t even put their entire application online because it’s so big. Before I begin, I’ve got a few opening thoughts.
First of all, I think the state involvement is not what you’d expect. SMARTER has 31 states while PARCC has 26. Of course, the usual states aren’t participating: Texas, Alaska, and Wyoming. A few other states aren’t in on it either, though: Nebraska, Minnesota, and Virginia (notice that Wisconsin is participating, even though Rep. Obey wanted to reduce the funding to it to RttT). It’s notable that none of those states applied for Race to the Top. Minnesota and Virginia claim that their standards are higher than the CORE standards on which the assessments will be based. While Minnesota may have some basis for their claim, all seven states ahead of them in the strength of their standards according to Education Next, Virginia ranks 40th among states in standards rigor. I’m having a hard time believe a C would bring down a D. Of course, the timeline could have something to do with this. States had to sign on to being a part of these consortia before the CORE standards were even released, so states didn’t have much to go on. By most accounts, the standards are higher than most if not all states currently, so that’s not a worry to those participating.
Aside from the states not participating, some states are participating in both of the consortia. Their staffs must be working overtime. Those in both are Colorado, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. It’s important to note that those states are considered “Advisory States” within SMARTER, rather than “Governing States.” Here’s a graphic to explain what that means. Most likely, they are only decision-makers in PARCC, but are working collaboratively with SMARTER on the R&D parts. This might actually prove handy to SMARTER. They get more states doing work for them (31 to 26), but have fewer states arguing over what to do (19 to 26).
Other observations? Going back to the state standards rigor, 9 out of the top 10 states participating are in SMARTER (Massachusetts isn’t), while only three are in PARCC (New Hampshire and New Jersey are in both). The states not participating are ranked 8 (MN), 23 (WY), 27(AK), 40(VA), 45(TX), and 49 (NE). It’s clear that it’s local-control politics (read Conservatives), rather than worry of low standards that is keeping these states out of participating. I suppose it’s just as well. That means that Virginia, Texas, and Nebraska can’t drag down the quality.
CORRECTION: After reading Bill Tucker’s post, I realize I overlooked the organization of PARCC. Those states that are advisory within SMARTER and are also in PARCC are also only advisory in PARCC. In addition, Iowa and South Dakota are advisory within SMARTER and not in PARCC, while California, Mississippi, and Arkansas are advisory within PARCC, but not in SMARTER. That means that PARCC only has 11 governing states, 8 less than SMARTER. Tucker also points out that the openness of the structure allows states to join or become governing states fairly easily, so it is likely that the consortia one stay in this configuration.