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Feds to shape the future of assessment

High-stakes testing will get a 21st-century makeover will the help of federal funding

Feds to shape the future of assessment

Educators say it’s time to move to multiple=

Federal officials are leading the charge to develop a new generation of summative, end-of-year exams that are delivered and scored by computer; focus on a deeper understanding of the curriculum, instead of just multiple choice; and can measure students’ readiness for college or a career more accurately.

“There is widespread concern that the most prominent assessments currently being used in the U.S. are inadequate and may have a significantly negative impact on student learning,” says Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) Senior Fellow Robert Rothman, author of a recent issue brief called “Principles for a Comprehensive Assessment System.”

The Obama administration aims to change that. U.S. Department of Education (ED) officials are now offering more than $360 million in the first wave of federal grants to help states redesign their assessments—and technology is expected to play a significant role in the process.

The vast majority of this money—$350 million—has been set aside from the “Race to the Top” competition to help states develop new tests based on the Common Core Standards in English and math. Another $10.7 million is available to encourage innovate test formats that are more accessible for students with disabilities and that use multiple measures of student achievement.

“Unless we take action—unless we step up—there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential,” President Obama said during a video address as he announced his administration’s blueprint for overhauling the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in February. “I don’t accept that future for them. And I don’t accept that future for the United States of America.”

Efforts to rethink assessment began with a series of public meetings from November to January, during which federal officials heard from 42 experts and nearly 80 members of the public. From these meetings emerged a framework for the administration’s grant competitions, which aim to support the development of better state assessments that measure higher-order thinking skills and not just multiple-choice responses.

States will have until May 27 to apply for $10.7 million in grants through a program called “Enhanced Assessment Instruments.” To apply, states must team up with a higher-education institution or other research facility to develop a system for evaluating student achievement based on “multiple measures … from multiple sources,” and one that can chart students’ progress over time. Preference will be given to projects that increase the accessibility and validity of tests for students with disabilities.

ED will hand out roughly seven grants through this program, ranging in value from $750,000 to $2 million.

In addition, states have until April 29 to declare their intention to apply for the $350 million in Race to the Top funds for creating new assessments, and final applications are due June 23. Funding will be given to one or two consortia of states to build new assessments around the Common Core Standards in reading and math, and eligible consortia must include at least 15 states. The new tests must be implemented within each participating state no later than the 2014-15 school year, ED said.

Applicants seeking these Race to the Top funds must “use technology to the maximum extent appropriate to develop, administer, and score assessments and report [on] results,” according to the agency’s request for proposals.

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Comments:

  1. oekosjoe

    April 19, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    When faced with Linda Darling-Hammond’s suggestion that portfolios are a better means of measuring multi-dimensional learning than a test, Joanne Weiss muttered, “if we don’t spend money on tests, what will we spend it on!” And so it goes to Pearson. How sad that the promise of real innovation has been corporately co-opted once again. One thought that with Obama there was to be real and – shall dare say it – measurable change. But it is more of the same, with a more expensive and just as effective interface.

    Portfolios – ePortfolios, etc. – have had plenty of demonstrated impact in both assessment, evaluation, and documentation of 21st century skills, yet the best they can do is adaptive tests on 19th century standards! Ridiculous, and it was even ridiculous when they “listened” to their critics in Boston a few months ago. Out with Duncan!

  2. oekosjoe

    April 19, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    When faced with Linda Darling-Hammond’s suggestion that portfolios are a better means of measuring multi-dimensional learning than a test, Joanne Weiss muttered, “if we don’t spend money on tests, what will we spend it on!” And so it goes to Pearson. How sad that the promise of real innovation has been corporately co-opted once again. One thought that with Obama there was to be real and – shall dare say it – measurable change. But it is more of the same, with a more expensive and just as effective interface.

    Portfolios – ePortfolios, etc. – have had plenty of demonstrated impact in both assessment, evaluation, and documentation of 21st century skills, yet the best they can do is adaptive tests on 19th century standards! Ridiculous, and it was even ridiculous when they “listened” to their critics in Boston a few months ago. Out with Duncan!

  3. monty

    April 19, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Sadly, it does not seem that the Department has a lot of interesting in either multiple measures (multiple sources of evidence of different kinds). Whether the consortia will take seriously the possibility of major use of performance tasks remains to be seen – it could be they will propose minor use, thus retaining the overemphasis on recall and rote application that now dominates testing. There is a danger on continued reduction of ‘formative’ assessment to mini- standardized tests administered at the command of central offices – a very destructive development producing lots of money for many vendors. In short, while the rhetoric from the Dept is how wonderful the new assessments will be, a read through the RfP suggests at best they are interested in a very modest step forward, and in some ways potentially a step backwards (e.g., use of tests in evaluating teachers). To a great extent the results will depend on the willingness of the consortia to push the envelop, to build systems that promote and build on teacher expertise, rather than replace it with remote control and standardization.

  4. monty

    April 19, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Sadly, it does not seem that the Department has a lot of interesting in either multiple measures (multiple sources of evidence of different kinds). Whether the consortia will take seriously the possibility of major use of performance tasks remains to be seen – it could be they will propose minor use, thus retaining the overemphasis on recall and rote application that now dominates testing. There is a danger on continued reduction of ‘formative’ assessment to mini- standardized tests administered at the command of central offices – a very destructive development producing lots of money for many vendors. In short, while the rhetoric from the Dept is how wonderful the new assessments will be, a read through the RfP suggests at best they are interested in a very modest step forward, and in some ways potentially a step backwards (e.g., use of tests in evaluating teachers). To a great extent the results will depend on the willingness of the consortia to push the envelop, to build systems that promote and build on teacher expertise, rather than replace it with remote control and standardization.

  5. gerardj

    April 19, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Computer based exam–Will schools have enough computers? If there are not enough computers then testing all students could take weeks. While the testing is going on, when will students be able to use the computer labs for their assignments? President Obama needs to examine the needs of schools which have limited number of computers.

  6. gerardj

    April 19, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Computer based exam–Will schools have enough computers? If there are not enough computers then testing all students could take weeks. While the testing is going on, when will students be able to use the computer labs for their assignments? President Obama needs to examine the needs of schools which have limited number of computers.

  7. thekingster

    April 19, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    You can apply whatever bandaids you desire. Nothing will fix education until you make the playing field level for all socioeconomic regions. More testing, improved testing, or state-administered assessments will result in “teaching to the test” regardless of the depth propagated in anyone’s “fix”.

    HOLD STUDENTS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR LEARNING! Here’s one: have a financial disincentive. Parents are required to PAY if their student fails. Maybe, if their feet are held to the fire, they’ll take an active interest.

  8. thekingster

    April 19, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    You can apply whatever bandaids you desire. Nothing will fix education until you make the playing field level for all socioeconomic regions. More testing, improved testing, or state-administered assessments will result in “teaching to the test” regardless of the depth propagated in anyone’s “fix”.

    HOLD STUDENTS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR LEARNING! Here’s one: have a financial disincentive. Parents are required to PAY if their student fails. Maybe, if their feet are held to the fire, they’ll take an active interest.

  9. computerhead

    April 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Here we go again. Wasting hundreds of millions. The Full Employment Act for State Education Bureaucrats. Amateur Hour.

    We already have adequate national standardized tests that have been done by companies and organizations with testing expertise. But we
    are afraid to pick one and use it as a national test. Because we want to
    maintain the fiction of 50 state departments of education. For one nation.

    Meanwhile the nations that are our global competition do this
    the sensible way.

  10. computerhead

    April 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Here we go again. Wasting hundreds of millions. The Full Employment Act for State Education Bureaucrats. Amateur Hour.

    We already have adequate national standardized tests that have been done by companies and organizations with testing expertise. But we
    are afraid to pick one and use it as a national test. Because we want to
    maintain the fiction of 50 state departments of education. For one nation.

    Meanwhile the nations that are our global competition do this
    the sensible way.

  11. fencer

    April 20, 2010 at 9:35 am

    ” states must team up with a higher-education institution or other research facility to develop a system for evaluating student achievement based on “multiple measures … from multiple sources,” and one that can chart students’ progress over time. ”

    Perhaps they should consider giving periodic (for example, quarterly) exams that evaluate not only the curriculum that is required to be addressed within the given time frame, but also at least parts of ALL the curriculum. That way they can really show growth during the academic year.

    As a teacher myself, I realize the down side to this would be the time it would take to administer such an assessment, but if it were truely designed as an assessment that would keep teachers informed regarding more of what their students were learning &/or retaining no matter what curriculum units were being taught, shouldn’t it lead to better time on instruction?

  12. fencer

    April 20, 2010 at 9:35 am

    ” states must team up with a higher-education institution or other research facility to develop a system for evaluating student achievement based on “multiple measures … from multiple sources,” and one that can chart students’ progress over time. ”

    Perhaps they should consider giving periodic (for example, quarterly) exams that evaluate not only the curriculum that is required to be addressed within the given time frame, but also at least parts of ALL the curriculum. That way they can really show growth during the academic year.

    As a teacher myself, I realize the down side to this would be the time it would take to administer such an assessment, but if it were truely designed as an assessment that would keep teachers informed regarding more of what their students were learning &/or retaining no matter what curriculum units were being taught, shouldn’t it lead to better time on instruction?


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