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Education Department Announces Grants to Reduce and Improve Tests

States that want to develop new types of tests, revamp test scoring and score reporting, or take a close look at the number and type of tests they offer to eliminate low-quality or redundant tests can apply for $9 million in federal competitive grants under the Enhanced Assessment Grant program, the U.S. Department of Education
announced Friday. 

The department also put out a report highlighting local and state efforts to pare back testing, including a John-King-Jr-blog.jpgDelaware district's efforts to get rid of low-quality tests and replace them with better formative assessments, efforts in Tennessee to reduce tests for kindergarteners and 1st graders, and the work in Tulsa, Okla., to cut back on testing, especially in grades 3 and 5. U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. was in Tulsa Friday to hold a roundtable on those efforts.

The report and the grant program are part of the Obama administration's "testing action plan", announced last October, which is aimed at cutting back on standardized tests and improving test quality.  

During the first six years of the administration, the Education Department championed using state scores to inform teacher evaluations, even going so far as to pull Washington state's waiver from the No Child Left Behind law because the state allowed districts to use local—not state—test scores in evaluations.

But during the past year and a half, as the testing opt-out movement has gained steam, the administration has shifted gears, focusing on reducing or eliminating assessments. 

The administration has made it clear it's still not a fan of opt-outs, going so far as to warn states that they should take steps to make sure that 95 percent of students take tests, as is required under the new Every Student Succeeds Act. (The law also says that states, and states alone, get to decide what happens when schools miss that threshold.) 

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