(Updated 8:36 a.m.) Four companies are vying for a $1 million public relations contract with the state Education Department to promote a new assessment tool called the Common Core State Standards.
The names of the four companies are exempt from public disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information statutes until the contract has been awarded. A spokeswoman for the Education Department declined to divulge the names of the companies Friday explaining that the contract had not yet been awarded.
In the meantime, even though they declined to comment on the amount, at least two education stakeholders said they believe informing parents and the public about the changes is in the best interest of the state and will prevent misunderstandings in the future.
“The Common Core will provide a clearer, deeper understanding of what our students will need to know when they enter the global marketplace,” Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said Friday. “It gives them enough information so they can make good decisions in the future.”
The National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers developed the Common Core out of a concern that the United States was falling behind the rest of the world. The standards are expected to teach children to be critical thinkers and to resolve problems in ways that go beyond memorization.
A national poll released in August by Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup found that nearly two out of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards.
The new assessment also sets a national bar defined by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. That means when the Common Core is implemented, scores likely will appear to drop.
Rader said board of education and other stakeholder groups plan on making sure the public understands what the Common Core is all about, since it’s likely scores will drop.
“It’s really a very different new set of standards,” Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said Friday.
He said Connecticut doesn’t want to end up like other states where the new assessment tool has been panned by teacher unions or compared to the botched launch of the Affordable Care Act website.
In April, the New York teachers’ union denounced the Common Core and argued that the state did not give them enough time or resources to prepare. Of the 45 states that have adopted the Common Core, New York and Kentucky were the first two states to begin testing students on the material.
The teachers’ union in New York called for a three-year moratorium on using the test to make employment decisions. The exam scores factored into New York’s new teacher evaluation system.
In Connecticut, the new assessment system will be rolled out as the 2012 teacher evaluation system goes into effect. Last year, the legislature delayed implementation of the new teacher evaluation system, giving schools two years to adjust to the new system, which means it will be taking effect the same time the new test is being used.
Connecticut has earmarked about $14.6 million over the next two years to transition to the Common Core. Most, or about $13 million, will be used for professional development and technical assistance.
Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the state Education Department, stressed that the state is looking for financial support from private nonprofit foundations to help pick up part of the tab.
“One of our main priorities has been finding the best ways to support teachers and administrators during this transition,” Donnelly said Friday in a statement.
Under the system approved by the state board of education, standardized tests and other student indicators will make up about 45 percent of a teacher’s performance while the rest will be made up by classroom observation, parent and peer surveys, and mutually agreed upon goals.