State of Florida withdraws from Common Core’s PARCC consortium

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by: Eric Holcombe

Common Core “state” Standards testing arm PARCC describes Florida as “a Governing State in and the Fiscal Agent for the PARCC Consortium“. Like Kevin Huffman, they still list Florida’s former Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett as being on the governing board of PARCC, but in addition Bennett was PARCC’s fiscal agent. Florida Governor Rick Scott has issued an executive order for the Education Commissioner to withdraw Florida from the exclusive, non-competitive bid,  PARCC testing agreement and construct a comparable solicitation for assessments. He also directed the Commissioner to recommend to the State Board of Education that they terminate their role as Fiscal Administrator for PARCC by the end of the year.

This should be interesting. Bennett had ties to PARCC before he came to Florida. He was previously Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana and was PARCC’s fiscal agent while there. After losing his reelection bid in November 2012, he moved to Florida and kept the title with PARCC and Florida suddenly became the “Fiscal Agent” after their State Board of Education named him Commissioner in December 2012, only a month after losing the election in Indiana. Bob Sikes lays out some of the many conflicts of interest in these relationships in Florida and asks the question: “Is he [Bennett] more devoted to PARCC than he is to Florida’s schools and children?”

Unfortunately, we may never know. Bennett resigned in August “amid allegations that he changed the grade of a charter school run by a major Republican donor during his previous job as Indiana’s school chief.” Oops.

Well, well. Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma and Georgia have pulled out of PARCC and now the PARCC “Fiscal Agent” Florida has too. Florida is a HUGE loss for the scheme. What will PARCC governing board member Kevin Huffman and PARCC’s “project manager” Achieve Inc. (Bill Haslam, board member) do now? What can we expect from Achieve Inc.’s affiliate relationship with Pearson, who was touting to investors that they would be cashing in on making the tests for PARCC? Who will PARCC now use for a third string “fiscal agent”?

My question is: Are Huffman and Haslam more devoted to PARCC and Achieve Inc. than they are to Tennessee’s schools and children?

Is Tennessee going to stay in the PARCC/Pearson testing consortium funneling those overpriced assessment fees back to a company in England and still try to call it “state-led”?

Note that some believe the sudden pullback from PARCC by these states is orchestrated, that other opportunists are now positioning themselves to create a “state-led” assessment model to test the same Common Core “state” Standards without the obvious, blatant, federal appearance that PARCC and SBAC have. Time will tell. Of course, this is merely treating a symptom and not the disease. They would likely rely on the same test makers – or copy “big” states like Florida, the same way they do with textbook selection.

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