LITTLE ROCK — Bills to abolish the administration of tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards and allow Arkansas public schools to obtain the same waivers that are available to charter schools cleared a House committee Tuesday.

LITTLE ROCK — Bills to abolish the administration of tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards and allow Arkansas public schools to obtain the same waivers that are available to charter schools cleared a House committee Tuesday.


In a voice vote, the House Education Committee endorsed House Bill 1241 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, would require the state Department of Education to end participation in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, by June 30.


Arkansas is currently a member of the multi-state consortium and is set to administer tests developed by PARCC that are based on, but not required by, the Common Core standards for the first time this spring. The testing would be held as scheduled in this school year under Lowery’s bill, but not in the next school year.


"Going on all across the country, there is revolt tied to the PARCC test," Lowery told the committee.


He said the head of Chicago’s school district has said that administering PARCC tests this is not in the best interests of that city’s students and that hundreds of students in New Mexico have protested the PARCC tests by walking out of their schools.


Lowery said he has heard complaints that up to 15 total hours of "seat time" will be required during the testing regimen, which is scheduled to begin April 9 and run through May 27 in two phases.


"There are a lot of problems with this particular test," he said. "It’s not ready for prime time, but yet we’ve spent, we are committed to, a $9 million contract just for this academic year."


Lowery said ending the state’s participation in PARCC would give the newly created Governor’s Task Force on Common Core "a clean slate, an ability for them to look at all potential assessments and not be overburdened with the specter of PARCC hanging over their heads."


Jerri Derlikowski, director of education policy and finance for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, urged the committee to allow the Governor’s Task Force on Common Core to study the issue and come up with recommendations without committing the state to an exit from PARCC.


"I’m not going to debate whether or not PARCC is a good thing," she said. "I don’t think there’s been enough study yet, and I’d like for us to wait and make that decision with the Governor’s council."


Lowery said enthusiasm for PARCC has been declining nationwide.


"Twenty-six states were originally part of the consortium, and for some reason we’re down to nine" he said.


The bill goes to the House.


The panel also endorsed HB 1377 by Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, which Murdock said would help public schools compete with charter schools.


The bill would allow a public school to obtain the same waivers from state regulations that the state Board of Education grants to an open-enrollment charter school operating in the same district, if the public school has lost more than one student to the charter school.


Murdock told the committee that allowing waivers to be granted to open-enrollment charter schools gives those schools flexibility that public schools don’t have.


Tiffany Hardrick, superintendent of the Forrest City School District, told the committee that much of a charter school’s success comes from the flexibility afforded by waivers.


"I wasn’t successful because I was in a charter, I was successful because of some of the flexibility that was granted to me and allowed me to do what was in the best interests of the children," she said. "One example would be extended day/extended year. There is no magic bullet to student achievement; it is simply time on task."


Brenda Robinson, president of the Arkansas Education Association, said the bill could have the effect of watering down the standards for public education in Arkansas.


After more than 90 minutes of debate, the committee advanced the bill in a voice vote. It goes to the House.