PARCC, the Non-profit
Frequent visitors to this blog know that I distinguish little between companies that operate for a profit and those who hold non-profit status. For example, Pearson is a for profit company; they make millions in Oklahoma alone from testing. Meanwhile, College Board is a nonprofit; they also make millions in Oklahoma alone from testing.
I’m also not saying that making money is a bad thing. Schools spend money on textbooks, software, hardware, and any number of things legitimately tied to instruction. The companies behind those sales make money, and it’s appropriate.
As far as assessment goes, we’ve been testing for 100 years. The Otis-Lennon, Stanford, and Iowa tests have taken many school days and made money for the entities behind them as well. Again, when a company provides a product or service, it deserves to make money for that.
So it’s no real surprise this week that PARCC – the testing consortium for Common Core to which Oklahoma belongs – is incorporating as a non-profit. From yesterday’s press release:
WASHINGTON – March 12, 2013 – The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) today announced the formation of a new non-profit organization to oversee the development of its next generation assessments. To date, PARCC has been a consortium of states with no legal status; under its new non-profit status, PARCC will become its own legal entity as a 501(c)(3). Launching the non-profit is the first step in the process to ensuring the PARCC assessment system can be sustained in the long term and beyond the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top Assessment grant period which ends in September 2014.
It seems like just yesterday that the National Governor’s Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers gave us Common Core. And it seems like just later in the day yesterday that two testing consortia were formed from the molten promises of the USDE’s grant funding, only to split apart, not unlike Cain and Abel. And now, the path that we have chosen will be its own self-sustaining entity – provided that the 22 member states will actually pay for the assessments, which are being developed at a higher-than-anticipated cost.
If the tests are ready by the 2014-15 school year, as promised, the newly formed non-profit will certainly be looking to maintain its viability. That means providing a service at a cost that allows it not only to avoid losing money, but to increase the bottom line within a reasonable margin. Remember: non-profit does not mean breaking even. Already, the purveyors of the Common Core and PARCC are walking back prior plans to offer testing throughout the school year. They now say that while tests will be available during the year (and not just at the end), they will not be mandatory, but rather available to schools for an additional fee.
I’m sure that is something schools will jump at the opportunity to pay.