Legislators eye one-year delay in PARCC test with re-bid

Tennessee’s legislative leaders are eyeing a one-year delay in launching student testing connected with implementation of Common Core standards as a compromise over a controversial education issue.

As things now stand, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests are scheduled to begin statewide in the school year that begins in August. A bill passed by the state House last month, since held without a vote in the Senate, calls for delaying the PARCC tests for two years and declares there shall be no further implementation of Common Core.

“I think we all agree that there should be more opportunity to consider alternatives to PARCC, or at least to put PARCC out for bid,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. “There shouldn’t be a rush to implementation on that, and I think that’s what the consensus will be.”

Under the proposed compromise, PARCC tests would be delayed for a year, and the state Department of Education would put out a “request for proposals” for alternative testing. The state’s current testing program, known as TCAP, would continue in the interim.

Procedurally, House Speaker Beth Harwell says the compromise could be attached to a non-controversial bill dealing with Common Core that has already passed the House and Senate, HB1549, by lopsided margins but with minor differences. That means that, if the compromise is incorporated into the measure, it can be rapidly approved by both chambers in the last moments of the 2014 session.

On one side of Tennessee’s Common Core debate are conservative Republican and tea party critics who see the standards as a step toward nationalization of the education system, allied with state Democrats who see the new tests as imposing another unnecessary burden on teachers. On the other side are business organizations and national education reform groups, supported by Gov. Bill Haslam, who view the Common Core standards as a needed step in uniform measurement of student development to ensure quality in education.