- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Board of Education’s vote to stick with its existing student-testing program, bucking the governor’s wishes, has left testing plans in limbo.

The Education Board decided June 11 to stay with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests in math and English/language arts for grades three through high school. The board voted specifically against Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s recommendation to change from PARCC to the ACT college-entrance exam and the related ACT Aspire tests for lower grades.

But as of Friday, state leaders had not signed a contract for the PARCC tests to be given in the 2015-16 school year. The deadline is July 1, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/1Bu8Bkh ).

Meanwhile, the state Education Department has not sought permission from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration to use ACT Inc. as a sole-source vendor for a new grade-by-grade testing program. That’s a likely step if the state is going to forgo taking competitive bids on a new testing program.

The contract for a state testing program affects more than half of the state’s 460,000 public school students, and officials estimate it will cost up to $9 million.

Arkansas Education Department leaders would only say this past week that they were “continuing to consult with the governor’s office about next steps.”

Arkansas phased in the education standards over the 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years and then administered the largely online PARCC exams based on those standards for the first time this past school year.

A statewide testing program is required by both state and federal law.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act calls for states to administer math and literacy tests to students in grades three through high school and to use the results of those tests to evaluate the performance of schools and school districts.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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