Test Vendors Weigh In On Future of PARCC

Managing Editor

We’re playing a bit of catch-up here, but one of the country’s big consortia of states that sponsors common-core tests, PARCC, recently sought input on how it should reorganize itself to serve states.

Some of the best-known testing organizations in the country–Pearson, ACT, ETS, and Measured Progress among them–weighed in with ideas. It offers some fascinating reading, and implications for the assessment industry.

Our colleague Catherine Gewertz recently broke it down in a blog post on Curriculum Matters:

PARCC is doing some deep soul-searching, with its future at stake. It’s figuring out how it should reorganize to survive the coming years, and who should run it.

The most recent phase of that process has produced input from the testing field. To be precise: 128 pages of input. We’ve obtained it for you through a Freedom of Information Act request. You can scroll through the pages yourself, at the bottom of this post.

The documents were a response to a “request for information” issued by PARCC’s governing board in February, with responses due in March. The request for information, known in the procurement world as an RFI, seeks feedback from the field about the questions at hand–in this case, how PARCC should reorganize itself to serve states. We’re talking about stuff like coordinating the development of new test questions, making test items available to states, and coordinating contracts with vendors to administer and score the test.

The RFI is designed to get ideas from the industry, but it also can be a preview of who’s going to throw their hat in the ring to win the contract for the reorganization itself. Those hats will be thrown during the second stage of this process: the “request for proposals,” or RFP, that PARCC will issue later this year.

A caveat, as you leaf through the RFI responses: Just because someone chimed in during the RFI doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to submit a proposal in response to the RFP. And the reverse is true, too: Just because someone stays silent during the RFI part of the process doesn’t mean they won’t jump in when the RFP comes out. So while you can have a little fun reading the tea leaves here, don’t assume too much.

You’ll see that there were nine responses to PARCC’s RFI. Most are from the usual players in the assessment industry, including ACT Inc., the Educational Testing Service, Measured Progress, Pearson, and Questar. Parcc Inc.–the nonprofit that manages PARCC, the consortium–also submitted a response, signalling an interest in continuing that management role. And there was an entry that some could find surprising, too: from Smarter Balanced, the other state consortium (along with PARCC) that designed common-core tests with federal funding. (Data Recognition Corp. also submitted some thoughts, without making a formal RFI response.)

The companies responding to the RFI pointed out the challenges ahead, such as adequately protecting the security of PARCC’s bank of test questions, how to price test items, and how to produce enough income to sustain the organization. (Only six states and the District of Columbia currently administer the PARCC test. Two others blend some of PARCC’s questions with their own.) They also try to grapple with the question of who will own PARCC content when some of it could be created by states, and other parts by the organization that runs the consortium.

One interesting tidbit that emerges from the responses is that states are apparently chatting about the prospect of having one entity that could offer them both PARCC and Smarter Balanced test content. Here’s what ETS says about that in its response, referring to test content as intellectual property, or IP:


Smarter Balanced remained silent on that question in its submission, choosing only to discuss that elements of its operation that it believes have made it successful.

Another interesting tidbit in the responses was a reflection on how the exact players responding–testing companies–might not be good candidates to do the job. And that response came from a big testing company, ACT Inc., which notes that assessment companies are really good at some of the things PARCC wants, but not so good at others:


There is a lot more in these responses to peruse. Let me know what you find interesting!

You can read the full document with 128 pages of responses from vendors here.

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