Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida’s Out, But Hillsborough Schools Are Giving PARCC A Trial Run

Some Hillsborough County students will take a trial run of the PARCC exam this spring.

sixninepixels / freedigitaldownloads.net

Some Hillsborough County students will take a trial run of the PARCC exam this spring.

Students in Hillsborough County schools will field test the multi-state Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test this year, despite state leaders rejecting the exam.

School officials said one class at most of the county’s schools will try out the new exam. Students will take the math and language arts exam in two sections, once in March and another in May.

Florida is replacing most of the FCAT as part of the switch to new K-12 standards, known as Common Core. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said she will recommend a new exam by the end of March.

PARCC seemed like a shoo-in a year ago — until legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott criticized the exam.

Hillsborough schools spokesman Stephen Hegarty said the district signed on before PARCC became public enemy number one for the next generation of standardized tests.

“It’s good to be a part of that,” Hegarty said. “We saw it as being a benefit.”

PARCC will replace the Stanford Achievement Test the district normally uses. The district can double-check FCAT results against the nationally-normed Stanford exam to see if scores match up. PARCC can serve the same purpose, Hegarty said, and allow Hillsborough schools to compare results with other districts using PARCC.

The PARCC trial run will help the district prepare parents for what to expect when the state switches to a new Common Core-tied exam next year. The test is expected to be harder, and states already using Common Core-tied exams — Kentucky and New York — saw a big drop in the percentage of students meeting state goals.

PARCC will also test Hillsborough schools’ ability to deliver the online exam. School districts around the state are concerned they don’t have the network capacity and devices needed to administer online exams to every student.

“That’s been a concern all along,” Hegarty said. “We think we’ll be OK, but it will be a heavy lift.”

PARCC has been a point of contention since state leaders opposed its use.

Five companies submitted bids to provide Florida’s next test. PARCC submitted a packet of materials explaining how the exam meets the criteria the Florida Department of Education set out.

Stewart said the agency is not including PARCC as part of the bidding process. But Stewart couldn’t answer when lawmakers asked Wednesday if she could still recommend PARCC in March.

But as Education Week reports, politics makes that unlikely:

That last part—”during the ITN evaluation process”—is kind of important: It means that while PARCC can’t technically be considered an applicant, the state still has the option of choosing it, since procurement rules allow it to choose another testing vendor if the responses to the ITN do not meet its specifications or needs.

The likelihood of that happening, however, given the political realities in the state in recent months, is another matter entirely. Indicators that the Sunshine State would dump the PARCC tests have been gathering for some time (see here, here, and here).

You can check out our video showing some of the differences between the PARCC and FCAT here.


About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »