Catherine Gewertz reports in Education Week that fifty-one percent of American students will not be taking either the PARCC or Smarter Balanced (SBAC) tests. These tests were underwritten by a U.S. Department of Education grant of $360 million and were designed to test the Common Core standards. Eighteen states will use the Smarter Balanced tests, while only ten states and the District of Columbia will use PARCC. About a dozen states that initially agreed to administer the PARCC tests have backed out. The SBAC might lose one of its eighteen states, since Governor Scott Walker proposed pulling Wisconsin out of SBAC.
Given these numbers, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tests samples of students in every state (and D.C.), will continue to be the authoritative national gauge of student test scores. With only twenty-eight percent of the nation’s students taking the same test (SBAC), the public will not be able to compare student performance from state to state, unless they happen to live in the eighteen states giving the SBAC. Why it is valuable to compare the performance of students in different states remains a puzzle; why it was necessary to spend $360 million to do so is even more puzzling, given that the same information is gathered and published by NAEP for all fifty states and D.C.