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$350 Million 'Race to the Common Test' Starts Now

By guest blogger Michele McNeil, cross-posted from the Politics K-12 blog:

The U.S. Department of Education has given the green light to the $350 million Race to the Top assessment competition, which will award grants to groups of states to create rigorous common tests to complement the common standards effort already underway.

The $350 million is part of the larger $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund grant program. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced in June 2009 he wanted to peel off $350 million to help states create the "next generation of assessments."

According to the final regulations out today, a consortium, to be eligible for the awards, must be at least 15 states big. The department is expecting to give out one to two awards, at around $160 million each, according to the application materials. For insight into what these assessments might look like, read my colleague Catherine Gewertz's story on the run-up to the competition.

Even as EdWeek reporters begin wading through the 85 pages of regulations and even more hoops in application materials, intrepid Teacher Beat reporter Stephen Sawchuk already has found one noteworthy item about this competition: If states get letters of support from their colleges and universities, saying, for example, that they'll use these tests to exempt students from remedial work, then states will get bonus points in the competition.

Within the $350 million, there's going to be a smaller, $30 million competition for states to design end-of-course tests for high school students.

The $30 million high school assessment competition is open to smaller consortia of states, those with at least five members. But there will only be one winner in that competition, the application materials say.

It's important to note these are final rules; there will be no more public comment or hearings—input that's already occurred.

Catherine, who covers and blogs here about assessments, is sure to have much more about these competitions tomorrow.

Applications for both will be due sometime toward the end of June (the exact date is 75 days after the final rules have been published in the Federal Register, and that hasn't happened yet). Money will be awarded in September.

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