U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has set aside up to $350 million of Race to the Top funds to support a consortia of states in developing and implementing a new generation of assessments. The Race to the Top Assessment program is designed to fill an urgent need in the nation’s educational system—the need for valid and instructionally useful assessments that provide accurate information about what students know and can do and that are anchored in standards designed to enable every student to gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college or the workplace by the time he or she graduates from high school.
“States are leading the way in creating new standards designed to ensure that students graduate from high school ready for success in college and careers,” Secretary Duncan said. “To fully realize this vision, states need new assessments that measure a broader range of students’ knowledge and skills.”
Funding will be awarded to a consortia of states that create assessments that:
- Measure standards that are rigorous, globally competitive, and consistent across the states in the consortium;
- Provide accurate information about what students know and can do—including both students’ achievement of standards and students’ academic growth from year to year;
- Reflect and support good instructional practice so they inspire great teaching;
- Include all students from the outset—including English learners and students with disabilities; and
- Present data to everyone who needs it—students, parents, teachers, administrators, policymakers—in ways that are clear, useful and actionable.
In addition to funding the development of a new generation of statewide standardized assessments to replace states’ current tests, the Department will award up to $30 million from the $350 million set-aside to fund better assessments for high schools. These “end-of-course” tests will support high school improvement efforts in consortium-member states by promoting broader and more equitable access to rigorous courses and a diverse set of course offerings in both academic and career/technical areas.
“Better tests will show us what kids are learning and what is working in the classroom,” Secretary Duncan said.
To provide expert and public input to its notice, the Department hosted 10 meetings in Boston, Atlanta, Denver, and Baltimore/Washington, D.C. to learn and facilitate sharing of information with states and the public. Given the highly technical nature of this work, the body of knowledge that exists about how best to design valid and instructionally useful assessments, and the many promising practices currently employed across this country and in others, the Department solicited a wide range of input from more than 40 assessment practitioners and researchers. Officials from 37 states and D.C. joined Department leadership and nearly 900 members of the public to hear from assessment experts in general assessment, high school assessment, the role of technology in assessment, assessing students with disabilities, and assessing English learners. The Department also received and reviewed written comments from 200 commenters.