Monday, June 21, 2010

Standards, testing, RTTT and some fresh details

$320 million in Race to the Top money is on the table to support new assessments to support multi-state standards and replace current NCLB testing.

At EdWeek's Curriculum Matters, Catherine Gewertz offers some fresh detail from an annual assessment conference for chief state school officers. 

The Smarter/Balanced Consortium:
  • Includes 30 member states, including Kentucky.
  • Has Susan Gendron (former Maine commissioner) as policy director.
  • Plans to develop computer-adaptive tests (which I think means that students' answers to early items can change the later items they answer, allowing better information on student performance levels).
  • Putting major weight on teacher involvement on developing and scoring the assessments.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC):
  • Has 26 member states, including Kentucky.
  • Is managed by Achieve, Inc., with Laura Slover of their research team doing the conference presentation.
  • "Uses both human and artificial scoring and allows states to decide how involved teachers will be," according to Gewertz's summary of today's discussion.
The blog post also identifies some common elements of the two approaches:

  • Expecting to include formative, interim, and summative tests in their systems.
  • Aiming to provide rapid data for immediate instructional adjustments.
  • Looking for ways to include "student work that spans multiple periods, days or weeks."
In this competition, both groups can win. The federal education department plans to award two grants of up to $160 million.  In fact there can be three testing winners, because there's also a separate competition for $30 million to create high school  end-of-course assessments--and that one has only one known consortium planning to apply (and Kentucky's in that one, too).

Since only groups of states can apply, no additional contenders are likely to emerge between now and Wednesday's application deadline.  Of course, even if there are just three competitors for three grants, the reviewers and Secretary Duncan will still be looking for proof that the applications are strong enough to warrant the federal investment.

(It may be worth repeating that this stimulus money is different from other stimulus resources that have gotten lots of publicity on this blog and elsewhere.  The $320 million for K-12 testing and the $30 million for end-of-course are completely separate from:

  • the main Race to the Top applications for shares of $4 billion dollars
  • the school improvement grants that will provide $56 million to Kentucky's weakest schools
  • the Title I, IDEA, and other program dollars districts are receiving from the stimulus bill
  • the state fiscal stabilization funds that Kentucky is using to maintain SEEK funding)

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