By Brad McQueen
Florida’s rollout of its computerized Common Core tests this past week was called a “catastrophic meltdown” by Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Florida’s largest school district.
Districts across the state reported technology problems prompting them to stop testing as there were difficulties logging onto the computerized tests as well as problems staying connected with students repeatedly being booted off.
This led two Democrat Senators, Dwight Bullard and Jeff Clemens, to write a letter to Governor Scott calling for the suspension of Florida’s Common Core test (known as FSA) and blasting the department of education’s handling of the situation.
Why should Arizona care? We should be very concerned because the same company, American Institutes for Research (AIR), that is administering Florida’s Common Core test is administering Arizona’s Common Core test this month. Arizona has named its version of AIR’s Common Core test the AZMerit.
Like Arizona, Florida was part of the PARCC testing consortium and like Arizona it was all but assumed they would adopt the PARCC Common Core test.
Bowing to political pressure Florida decided to drop out of the PARCC group in 2013. Arizona dropped out of the PARCC testing group in a for political expediency a year later in 2014.
Almost a year ago to the day Florida chose AIR to produce and administer its statewide computerized Common Core test in March 2014. Many educators in the state complained that a year would not be enough to produce a valid test for its students to take.
Contrast Florida’s concern with Arizona’s leaders seeming lack of concern over its belatedly adopted Common Core test, the AZMerit.
Arizona chose AIR to produce and administer its computerized Common Core test just months ago in November of 2014 with the test to be given just over 3 months later. No one on the Board of Education, loaded with unelected governor appointees, nor anyone at the Department of Education or the Governor’s office seemed to be concerned.
Due to the these time constraints many fear that AIR will merely cut and paste test items from other states where it holds a testing contract into Arizona’s version of the Common Core test, the AZMerit, rather than creating a truly unique Arizona test.
This fear is only supported when the Arizona Department of Education released its uniquely Arizona “AZMerit practice tests” which ended up just being a cut and paste version of the practice tests that Utah and Florida used for their kids to prepare for their states’ version of the Common Core tests.
Florida isn’t an isolated case. AIR also had massive technology failures with its rollout of Minnesota’s statewide math test in 2013 preventing thousands of students from taking their statewide test.
Arizona schools are already experiencing unexpected financial setbacks related to the AZMerit as Tucson schools alone had to spend $750,000 to buy calculators that high schoolers taking the paper version of the test required.
Arizona schools are scrambling to prepare for the looming task of testing every student from 3rd grade through high school using a test that was belatedly adopted and cobbled together at the last minute to satisfy the desire of an unelected State Board of Education’s desire to inflict the Common Core machine on our kids and teachers.
We’ll see in a few short weeks if the problems experienced by Florida will be relived here in Arizona.
Luckily two bills will be considered this week in the AZ House. HB2190 would rid our state completely of every facet of Common Core and return control over education to our state and local school districts. HB2246 would confirm parents’ right to opt out of any statewide test without penalty to their kids or the schools.
It would remain to be seen if either of these two bills could be enacted soon enough to have an impact on the administering of this year’s AZMerit test.
As a teacher I only look towards the AZMerit test with sadness as the kids in my class and those across the state will be the true victims who must endure this child abuse known as Common Core inflicted upon them by its enablers at the State Board and the Department of Education.
Brad McQueen is a former Common Core insider and current public school teacher in Tucson, Arizona and is the author of the anti-Common Core book “The Cult of Common Core”. Connect with Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org