As the District retools its standardized tests to align with the Common Core standards, the charter community is expressing concerns that the new testing regime will limit schools’ control over curriculum.
Under PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), which the District currently plans as a replacement for the DC CAS (DC Comprehensive Assessment System) beginning in the 2014-15 academic year, schools will administer not just the usual annual spring exams but a series of three interim or “through-course” assessments during the year that will count toward AYP standing. Under the CAS, schools were not accountable for interim assessments.
Robert Cane, executive director of FOCUS (Friends of Choice in Urban Schools), a charter advocacy group, said Thursday that PARCC, as currently configured, threatens the rights of the publicly financed, independently operated schools to control their instructional programs
“Leaving aside the question about whether we have enough testing, the problem with PARCC as designed is that it imposes a certain sequence of instruction,” Cane said.
Charter school leaders aired other issues at a Thursday morning briefing on Common Core, convened by D.C. State Superintendent of Schools Hosanna Mahaley. One was that they had little to no say on PARCC’s selection. Mahaley said it was a decision made by former mayor Adrian M. Fenty and his superintendent, Kerri Briggs.
There is some sentiment among charters for the other Common Core-themed exam under development, the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Interim exams under Smarter Balanced are optional.
Mahaley said she understood the concerns and that the decision to go with PARCC was “not final.” She pledged a place at the table for the charters and to work with them on their objections.
“If there is overwhelming evidence that PARCC is not appropriate for this state, we will make another decision,” she said.
At the briefing, D.C. officials walked through the timetable for phasing out the DC CAS. Next year’s CAS reading test will be largely aligned to the Common Core, with math to follow in 2013. Both would be replaced by PARCC in 2014.
To help schools prepare for the advent of the Common Core, OSSE has published a “crosswalk” listing the current D.C. standards that are also part of the new system. It can be viewed here .