Mississippi approves $8.4 million for Common Core tests

JACKSON — Mississippi’s state Board of Education has approved spending about $8.4 million on standardized tests aligned with the new Common Core state standards.

The board voted May 16 for the first year of what could be a four-year contract with a division of the British firm Pearson PLC. The money is Mississippi’s share of the cost of a multi-state testing group called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

Common Core is a set of standards for public schools. Mississippi and 44 other states signed on, although opponents have attacked the effort as a federal takeover of education. The federal government gave money to PARCC and another multi-state group to help develop tests.

Mississippi and some other states deployed PARCC tests as a pilot project during this school year. Local and state school officials are awaiting the roll-out of the full testing program in spring 2015.

Test scores typically dip any time a new standardized test is introduced. But James Mason, Mississippi’s state testing director, warned the state Board of Education the PARCC tests will be “probably twice as hard” as current tests.