On a recent conference call with other superintendents and state officials, including Florida Education Commission Pam Stewart, Carvalho asked about field testing the new standardized tests that Florida is developing to replace the troubled Florida Comprehensive Assessment System. The answer was rather surprising.
Florida had been a charter member and fiscal agent of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, one of two multi-state consortia that — with some $350 million in federal funds — promised to develop standardized tests aligned with the Core. The Core standards were adopted in full by 45 states plus the District of Columbia but a number of states are reconsidering their participation as opposition has grown, and some have pulled out of PARCC.
Florida dropped out of the consortium and said it would create its own standards — called the Florida Standards –– that remain remarkably similar to the Common Core. It also said it would create its own standardized test to measure teaching and learning of these standards, and the Education Department entered into a six-year $220 million contract with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to develop new tests. AIR is a nonprofit that developed Florida’s “value-added” scores for teachers, which are purported to be able to assess how effective teachers are through complicated formulas that use student standardized test scores as a base.
When Carvalho asked about field testing, he got a surprising answer. Most states field test their standardized tests in their own state. Not Florida. Florida’s new tests are being field tested in, of all places, Utah. He tweeted:
The vast majority of public school students in Utah — 76.5 percent 2013-14– are white; 15.9 percent are Hispanic/Latino; and 1.3 percent are classified as Black/African American, according to state officials. In Florida, more than half of the student population is black or Hispanic.
What’s the Florida-Utah connection? Utah, like Florida, had approved the Common Core but decided to create their own “Utah Core Standards,” based on the Common Core. In addition, the American Institutes of Research are under contract with Utah to develop K-12 tests there.
Correction: An earlier version misspelled Carvalho’s name and said he had won a principal’s award when it was a superintendent’s award.