published Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Georgia withdraws from Common Core group

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ATLANTA — Georgia has withdrawn from a consortium tasked with creating standardized tests aligned with Common Core curriculum, state officials announced Monday.

The state withdrew from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers mainly because of the cost associated with administering the tests, State School Superintendent John Barge said.

Based on the number of students in grades three through eight who took Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in 2012, administering the consortium’s math, reading and writing tests would cost Georgia about $27.5 million.

The figure eclipses the statewide K-12 assessment budget of $25 million — which includes advanced placement tests for low-income students and English as a second language testing, Barge said.

“That is a significant cost increase,” Barge said, “It’s just priced us out of the game.”

Common Core curriculum has been a touchy issue, with some lawmakers and educators saying the set of national standards is a path to a federal takeover of state education systems. Barge said Monday that he hopes Georgia’s pulling out of the consortium doesn’t add fuel to that debate.

“Folks need to know that as we move forward, whatever assessment we end up with, they’ll be more rigorous than what we currently administer, and they’ll be aligned with our standards,” he said. “Our expectations for students will be increasing.”

The partnership announced Monday that computerized reading, writing and mathematics tests are estimated to cost $29.50 per student. The figure is nearly three times higher than what the state currently spends per student on standardized tests, Barge said.

“Georgia can create an equally rigorous measurement without the high costs associated with this particular test,” Republican Gov. Nathan Deal said in a statement. “Just as we do in all other branches of state government, we can create better value for taxpayers while maintaining the same level of quality.”

The state doesn’t have the technological infrastructure to administer completely computerized tests in 2014, Barge said, adding that administering a paper version of the tests was expected to increase the price by $3 to $4 per student.

Georgia was one of 22 states that joined the consortium with the intent of administering new tests during the 2014-15 school year, State Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said in a release. In early July, Oklahoma education officials announced they were pulling out of the partnership in part because of higher costs associated with administering the tests.

Of the states participating in the consortium, Georgia spends the least on standardized testing, partnership spokesman Chad Colby said.

“For some states in the consortium, they’ll actually save money by staying in PARCC,” Colby said, adding that Maryland spends about $61 per student on standardized tests. He added that most other states in the consortium already are spending within $3 of $4 of the amount the partnership plans to charge for the assessments.

The Georgia Department of Education is planning to work with educators from throughout the state to craft an independent test that is aligned with Georgia’s English and math standards, Cardoza said in a statement.

Creating the tests in Georgia will ensure that state education officials maintain control over state standards, Cardoza said, adding that using the general assessment would have kept state officials from being able to adjust Georgia’s standards if teachers said revisions were necessary.

State education officials will look to the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia for help in creating the tests, Barge said.

“They are stakeholders with a vested interest [in] that we are sending them students who are ready for college,” he said. “They need to be at the table with us.”

The tests likely will be similar to the partnership tests but will include more constructive responses and fewer multiple choice questions, Barge said.

Even with an independent test, the state likely will pay more for standardized assessments because Georgia currently is paying a vendor for CRCT tests based on a contract that was negotiated in 2006.

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