The official website for Colorado Senator Mike Johnston (D-Denver)

SB 12-172: Multi-State Student Assessments

In 2010, 45 states coordinated their efforts to improve college and career readiness by creating the rigorous Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. With the widespread adoption of the Common Core, states will be able to compare student performance and skill mastery across states.

Also in 2010, 49 states joined in creating two state-driven consortia to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core. The consortia are federally funded and will provide high-quality assessments to member states. The work of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium most closely aligns with Colorado’s standards and represents the most cost- effective alternative to developing our own assessments.


What Will a Consortium Provide for Colorado?

• Cost-Effectiveness: Consortium assessments will provide higher quality tests at lower cost than Colorado can do on its own. The cost of developing our own assessments will cost more than $25 million, but adopting and using consortium assessments will only cost $6 million.

• Standards Alignment: Consortium tests will be carefully aligned to the standards Colorado has adopted. As a result, the standards will drive the tests (as well as local curriculum), rather than the tests driving classroom instruction.

• Formative Assessments: Consortium tests will allow the main portion of the summative test to be administered close to the end of the school year, while performance task assessments (writing, research, problem solving, critical thinking skills, and the ability to apply math to real world situations) will be given three-quarters of the way through the year.

• College Alignment: The consortium assessments will measure college-readiness, allowing students, parents, and teachers to annually gauge whether a student is academically on track to college readiness. Post-secondary institutions will be able to use the results of the high school assessments to determine if students are ready for credit-bearing courses.

• Rapid Turnaround: All assessments will be machine score-able, meaning that scoring costs will be low and results will be available by the end of the school year. This allows districts to integrate the scores into student report cards if desired. Additionally, optional non-summative assessments are designed to generate timely information for informing instruction, interventions, and professional development during the school year.


How Will the Consortium be Funded?

Each consortium’s members successfully coordinated to win a federal grant to fund their efforts. PARCC, for example, received a $186 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top assessment competition in the fall of 2010 to support the development and design of the next- generation assessment system. In March of 2011, the U.S. Department of Education awarded PARCC an additional $15.86 million to support states’ transition to the Common Core Standards and common assessments.


What is the Governance Structure of the Consortium?

The two consortia are state-led, with a subset of each consortium’s states making up its Governing Board. These states have made the strongest commitment to the consortium’s activities and have the most decision-making authority. In the case of PARCC, each Governing State has agreed to participate exclusively in PARCC and will administer the assessment system statewide during the 2014-2015 school year. These states will pilot and field test components of the assessment system during the development period. Governing States have also committed to use the results from the proposed assessment system in their state accountability systems. Any state prepared to make the commitments and take on the responsibilities of a Governing State may become one.

The Governing Board is comprised of the K-12 chief state school officer (or his or her designee) from each Governing State. The Board meets quarterly to consider input from all PARCC states and to make major policy and operational decisions on behalf of the consortium, including decisions related to the overall design of the assessment system, procurement strategy, common achievement levels for the assessments, and modifications to the governance structure and decision-making process as necessary.


What are the Responsibilities of a Consortium Governing State Member?

• A Governing State may not be a member of any other consortium that has applied for or receives grant funding.

• A Governing State must be committed to statewide implementation and administration of the assessment system developed by the Consortium no later than the 2014-2015 school year, subject to availability of funds.

• A Governing State must be committed to using the assessment results in its accountability system, including for school accountability determinations, teacher and leader evaluations, and teaching, learning, and program improvement.

• A Governing State must provide staff to the Consortium to support the activities of the Consortium (coordinating the state’s overall participation, participating in the management of the assessment development process, representing the chief state school officer when necessary in Governing Board meetings and calls, and/or participating on Design Committees)

• A Governing State must identify and address the legal, statutory, regulatory, and policy barriers it must change in order for the State to adopt and implement the Consortium’s assessment system components by the 2014-15 school year.