Sunday, March 14, 2010

Replacing NCLB (part 2): what's coming on assessments?

The proposed blueprint for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (and replacing No Child Left Behind) calls for each state to use "high quality" assessments aligned with its college-and-career-ready standards.

The blueprint expects those assessments to allow reporting on students' growth from year to year, and it proposes federal grants to support improvements in assessment methods.

Beyond that, though, it's hard to find details on what "high quality" will mean.

I have a hunch about about why those specifics are not filled in.  I think the department wants the goals for ESEA assessment to be closely related to the ones they will use for the upcoming $350 million competition to develop new assessments using money from the federal stimulus bill.   The draft specifications for that competition will be published sometime in the next few months, comments will be gathered, and then a final set of application requirements will be set.  I predict that when that application is released, the assessment goals listed there will also become the assessment specifics of the executive branch proposal for ESEA.

Two added details: The blueprint is the administration's opening bid, and it's essentially certain that what becomes final law will include important changes from the starting proposal.  Second, for those following the money, the $350 million for assessments is actually a slice of the Race to the Top program.  The total appropriation was $4.35 billion, with $4 billion already scheduled be handed out in the two rounds of the main competition that has received plenty of public attention.  As Secretary Duncan announced last fall, the rest of that pot will be distributed in a separate competition to develop new and stronger state assessments.

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