- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Gov. Asa Hutchinson told education officials on Monday to drop Arkansas’ involvement in a standardized test linked to the controversial Common Core standards, despite a state board rejecting his request to change providers earlier this month.

The Republican governor directed state Education Commissioner Johnny Key to withdraw Arkansas from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers Consortium. Hutchinson told Key to coordinate with the state board on a new testing provider.

The move comes 11 days after the state board rejected Hutchinson’s request to switch from the PARCC assessments to ACT tests. Hutchinson requested the move at the recommendation of a task force studying the state’s involvement in the Common Core standards.

In his letter, Hutchinson cites a part of the state’s 2010 memorandum of understanding with PARCC that requires a consortium state’s new governor or chief state school officer to reaffirm the state’s involvement within five months of taking office. Hutchinson noted the state hasn’t done so since he took office in January.

“On the contrary, I have publicly expressed my support for withdrawing from PARCC,” Hutchinson wrote. “Based on actions during the regular session, it is clear that legislators want to move away from PARCC.”

The PARCC tests are based on the Common Core standards, math and English benchmarks adopted by a majority of states that describe what students should know after completing each grade. They were developed by states to allow comparison of students’ performance. The Obama administration embraced the standards and encouraged states to use them, but Common Core has faced increasing criticism primarily from conservatives.

The task force that recommended ending the state’s involvement in the PARCC consortium has held hearings on Common Core, but has not issued a final recommendation on the standards. The board voted against switching test providers on a 7-1 vote, with several members criticizing the process as rushed. The state’s contract with PARCC ends on June 30.

Key backed Hutchinson’s move.

“I support Governor Hutchinson’s decision and will work with the State Board of Education to fulfill the governor’s goal of a high-quality assessment and long-term stability for students, parents and educators,” Key said in a prepared statement. “We will notify PARCC of this decision, and the ADE team will immediately begin developing options for a new assessment to present to the state board.”

It was unclear what steps the board would take next. Board Chairman Sam Ledbetter did not immediately return a call seeking comment late Monday. Jay Barth, a member of the board who voted against dropping PARCC earlier this month, said he wanted to review the MOU Hutchinson cited before commenting.

In his letter, Hutchinson repeats his support for using the ACT and ACT Aspire tests and says they “are the right assessment tools to accomplish the goal of national comparison of student achievement and long-term stability.”

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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