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story.lead_photo.caption Deborah Jones, assistant commissioner for learning services with the Department of Education, speaks Thursday to the state Board of Education. ( Gavin Lesnick)

The state Board of Education voted Thursday against authorizing the state to administer standardized tests produced by ACT Inc., clashing with a review panel that recommended the change and Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who endorsed the plan.

Hutchinson on Wednesday praised the recommendation from the Governor's Council on Common Core Review that Arkansas offer the ACT tests rather than the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, ones that debuted to some criticism this past school year.

Hutchinson said the ACT tests are better for several reasons, including that they will allow Arkansas to better track student performance and compare results with other states.

But Education Board members criticized the process as rushed and said they had various concerns about approving the change. They voted 7-1 in favor of a motion not to make the switch with only board member Alice Mahony voting against it. The board then voted the same way to continue the PARCC assessments.

Board member Mireya Reith said her phone was "ringing off the hook" this week from teachers who felt left out of the process that resulted in the recommendation to shift to ACT tests. She also noted that the state board reached out and offered to have a representative on the Common Core review panel, which was led by Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin.

"That opportunity was not taken," she said.

Board member Vicki Saviers said she was concerned by the lack of involvement from Department of Education assessment officials as well as having to approve the measure without a contract in place.

"Truthfully, it feels a little political," she said. "It's like, 'We need to do something. We don't want to get rid of Common Core, but we need to do something.' … And the people that end up paying for it are the teachers."

Griffin said Thursday after the vote that he was "obviously disappointed" by the decision. But he defended the process the review panel followed, saying it was inclusive of all stakeholders, including teachers.

"Anybody that thinks that this council and its overwhelming vote was based on politics hasn't been paying attention and hasn't watched the 40 hours of hearings and hasn't been in the listening sessions," he said, saying that such a suggestion is an "insult to the 16 Arkansas citizens who volunteered" on the panel.

Hutchinson in a statement Thursday afternoon that he was "disappointed" by the state Board of Education's decision.

"The legislature had directed through Act 1074 that the current PARCC contract not be renewed long term and for the State Board to consider a change for the 2016-17 school year," Hutchinson said in the statement. "I determined it best to make the change for the next school year for the sake of long-term stability for the teachers, school districts and for the sake of our students."

Hutchinson will work with Education Commissioner Johnny Key and the board on "next steps" for student assessments, he said.

Griffin added he believes three new appointments are coming to the board, though he didn't know the details on whether another vote could be held in time for the next school year. Hutchinson will pick replacements for Chairman Sam Ledbetter and Mahony, whose terms are expiring, as well as board member Kim Davis, who announced he is stepping down after taking a job with the Walton Family Foundation.

Board member Toyce Newton before the vote also voiced displeasure with timing of the process and how it did not involve competitive bids.

"It's not clean, and I think we owe that to ourselves to have a clean process," she said, adding that it "doesn't align with good business practices."

Deborah Jones, assistant commissioner for learning services with the Department of Education, presented the board the proposal, calling the ACT tests a "good option."

"What we cannot have is we can't have inconsistency, instability in our testing system," she said. "We need to make a decision. We need to make a decision that will stand and be consistent for many years."

Board member Jay Barth, though, said approving the ACT tests would mean more instability. He said one major problem is another change in assessments would mean the board wouldn't have consistent data as they judge academic distress situations.

"Nobody on this board is out to be an obstructionist at all," he said. "But we are left with so many questions."

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Archived Comments

  • RBBrittain
    June 11, 2015 at 12:46 p.m.

    I wonder how many of these board members will soon find themselves out of a job for bucking both Gov. Asa! & Tim "Prosecutor Purge" Griffin. In ordinary circumstances I might sympathize with them, but they're obviously trying to preempt The Asa! & Tim Show even as two of them are leaving anyway (one apparently for a cushy Asa! & Tim-backed Walton job) -- along with the one who actually supported Asa! & Tim. (At least Asa! & Tim don't wanna ditch Common Core completely like many of their pals.)

  • RBBrittain
    June 11, 2015 at 1 p.m.

    It should be noted that according to the ADE website, SBOE Chairman Sam Ledbetter does not vote. Therefore, only ONE of the seven board members bucking Asa! & Tim -- Kim Davis, the one taking the Walton job -- is definitely on the way out. (I'm sure Asa! and especially Tim will find ways to get to all the others, even if it means calling another special session to purge the board -- actually more legal than Tim's U.S. Attorney purge under George W. Bush.)

  • shelde
    June 11, 2015 at 1:01 p.m.

    "...wouldn't have consistent data as they judge academic distress situations." This remark is interesting to me. I am curious to see the results of the PARCC testing. Judging from reports of other states, we may end up with many Arkansas schools in academic distress.

  • TeacherOpinion
    June 11, 2015 at 3:29 p.m.

    I find it quite funny that they call the ACT testing "inconsistent", considering the fact that it is by this measure that AR students receive scholarships. The ACT has been around forever, PARCC is brand new.... Heaven forbid they get their pride hurt that the Governor has left them out of the decision making process and they seem to prefer a test that doesn't even have CUT SCORES established. Teachers have no way of even knowing what the data will look like and nobody can provide us with any answers, "wait and see, it's a new test.". Well, that seems really bright. There are no released items, no stems such as we had with Benchmark, Why? because it is so new....I also thought it humorous that this decision was "inclusive" of 'all stake holders', I am a teacher- not one survey asking my opinion or any teacher's opinion that I even know; how about parents? As a parent knowing my child may or may not get a scholarship based on my child's ACT scores, I would see a lot of benefit in several years experience in the same format of testing, ACT Aspire would give them that experience. But no, lets opt for the PARCC, idk why, but lets not change now...lets get really far down the line with years of useless data and THEN change horses mid stream...let's not choose a system of measurement that colleges use NOW, that IS the measure of academic performance NOW... One that DOES reflect college readiness as shown by the FACT that THIS is the measure colleges TRUST.

  • hogfan2012
    June 11, 2015 at 5:08 p.m.

    Seems funny to me that every teacher I have talked with and all of the opinions shared on their personal Facebook accounts show them to be thrilled to be getting away from Common Core. This is definitely a case of "sour grapes" over these personal individuals not being given a voice in the decision.

  • motherwolf
    June 11, 2015 at 5:55 p.m.

    As an old retired teacher who taught pre-standards movement, I think the board is wrong on this issue. Teacher Opinion is correct in her reasoning for moving to the ACT/Aspire. In addition, ACT requires less time to give whereas PARCC spends so much time preparing and testing that students lose a sizeable amount of real teaching time. The ACT/Aspire is based on Common Core standards, however, so teachers and parents trying to get away from those are bound to be disappointed. I do hope if Arkansas does adopt the ACT/Aspire testing program that we keep it for enough time to begin to be able to correlate scores nationally and in-state for a number of years. Arkansas has swapped and changed tests, testing companies, grade levels at which students are tested so much over the last 25 years or more that I would defy anyone to be able to compare our scores nationally for more than a handful of years. It's those national comparisons that allow us to see how our students stack up against students from Main to Washington. That comparison also allow us to manipulate our standards and curriculum to try to improve education for our students.
    But why ask the teachers what should be done?

  • PM1118
    June 11, 2015 at 6:10 p.m.

    Asa is to blame for appointing Johnny Key to a position for which he was imminently unqualified. The law was changed to allow the appointment of a man with NO EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE. Director of University Relations is no more than a glorified lobbyist. He holds a BS in engineering. Glad we are able to keep our grandchildren in private school. What total idiots!

  • arkateacher54_aol.com
    June 11, 2015 at 8:37 p.m.

    PARCC was a disaster - I know, I helped administer it. Took WAY too much time. Common Core is a disaster, at least in my teaching field. Standardized testing as a whole is terrible idea, but I suppose we are stuck with it. ADE is a disaster too. I am sure the board is ticked off because nobody asked their opinion.

  • TheBatt
    June 12, 2015 at 2:12 a.m.

    PARCC must go! But the real issue is Common Core... Several states have pulled the plug... Why can Arkansas not?

    Sigh

  • PopMom
    June 12, 2015 at 9:34 a.m.

    If you read Common Core, it contains nothing controversial. While there was some grumbling with the first version of the PARRC, it is what most states are using now. The ACT version for younger children is not the same as the college scholastic test although it is owned by the same company. The format of the test is not as important as the ability read, write, and solve math problems. Testing is important to determine the level of the child and it is best to use the same one year after year. That being said, anybody who is a good reader can take a test in any format. The education officials need to focus on how they can get more children reading at a higher level. The answer is to make the children read more. Socioeconomically deprived children to read large amounts in class; they seldom do it on their own at home. Teachers need to lecture less and have the children read more. The education officials need to look at what the great school districts are doing (making the kids read) and hire people to train the Arkansas teachers to do this. Also, we need to hire more reading specialists. All the politicians need to stop their whistle tours and stop listening to people such as Arkteacher who probably was a C student at a C college in Arkansas. They need to listen to the good people at the Walton Foundation who are financing many improvements in education for the economically distressed.

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