In this photo taken Feb. 12, 2015, sixth grader Alex Greuey, 11, reads through a problem in the English Language Arts section of the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test as he and his classmates practice for the Common Core State Standards Exams at Morgan Elementary School South in Stockport, Ohio.. The goal is to test students on critical thinking skills, requiring them to describe their reasoning and solve problems. (AP Photo/Ty Wright) (Ty Wright/AP)

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which created a standardized test to measure whether students have mastered the Common Core State Standards, announced Thursday that it will allow states to pick and choose whether to buy a complete test or just a portion or even individual test questions.

PARCC is one of two groups of states that got hundreds of millions of federal dollars to develop new tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

Twenty-six states originally signed onto PARCC in 2010 as it developed the new tests but they have steadily dropped out as they sought cheaper tests or responded to political pressures to walk away from a national consortium.

Just 11 of those states and the District of Columbia were still on board when the PARCC was administered for the first time in the spring.

Since then, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Ohio all have defected, and just seven states and the District plan to give the test in 2015-2016, raising questions about whether the consortium is in danger of disintegrating.

The PARCC tests have come under fire for their length and technical glitches and for efforts by their test publisher, Pearson, to crack down on cheating via social media. There was a wave of protests around the country this spring in which parents in several PARCC states refused to allow their children to take the exams.

Even as they were administering the PARCC exam to 11 million students in the spring, PARCC officials announced that they would shave 90 minutes off the test next year.

The PARCC tests are designed to replace fill-in-the-blank “bubble tests” with more demanding questions that measure critical thinking skills. They were also supposed to serve as a consistent measure of student achievement across state lines.

“The transition to these high-quality assessments has not always been easy, but today we are beginning to see renewed interest in joining the partnership among new states and agencies,” said Laura Slover, chief executive of PARCC. “We are ready to meet the growing demand for high quality assessments by providing different tiers of participation and opportunities for customization. We look forward to supporting states during this expansion as we collectively work to make the highest quality assessments available to more students than ever before.”

The new Chinese-menu approach will allow states to choose from multiple options, at various pricing levels, for the 2016-2017 year. They will be able to choose from:

* The complete PARCC test using the Pearson platform

* The PARCC test blueprint and content but with the ability for states to hire their own vendor instead of Pearson to administer the test

* Blocks of test items, with the ability to choose their own vendor to administer the test

* Any individual test questions or sets of test items, to be sprinkled into their own state tests

Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said the menu of options is welcomed by the states.

“PARCC’s high-quality content is among the best in the country, and we are pleased that state chiefs will soon have the ability to access it in multiple ways. State education chiefs need to make decisions based on what works best for their students, parents and teachers, and this flexibility will help in that work.”

Federal law requires that states annually test students in math and reading in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school.