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Competition Narrowing in 'Race to the Common Test'

You already know that the $350 million Race to the Top Assessment competition opened yesterday, and we will have more on that for you later today. But here's an interesting note to share: the field of competitors for the money appears to have narrowed considerably even before the government issued regulations on how to apply. Which is a lucky coincidence (ahem), since the feds plan to give out only a few awards in this contest.

Remember when we told you back in February that states were scrambling to join one of six consortia that were applying for the RTT assessment money? It seems that those six have now merged into three.

Achieve is working with many of the states in the so-called "Florida" consortium to design new-age summative tests that would include performance assessments. That effort is being helmed by Achieve's Mike Cohen and leaders from Massachusetts, Florida, and Louisiana. Three other consortia—the "SMARTER" group, which is interested in using adaptive technology; the "MOSAIC" group, which was zeroing in on formative assessments; and the "balanced" consortium, which was aiming for a system of curriculum-embedded, performance-based tasks scored by teachers—are all working together now, under the leadership of Linda Darling-Hammond and the handful of states that led those consortia, such as Maine, West Virginia, and Oregon. Finally, the National Center on Education and the Economy, which proposes to design a system of high school assessments based on the British "board exams," is aiming for the $30 million carved out for high school assessment. UPDATE: Darling-Hammond let me know that I got something wrong here. She is not leading the consortium, but is one of many people advising it. It's being led by state chiefs and assessment leaders from the states. She also said the "balanced" group is working on "a fairly traditional test" of multiple-choice and constructed response items that will also include "a couple of fairly modest" performance tasks at each grade level.

The numbers of states involved in each of the three consortia are still in flux, but word is that about 30 are participating in discussions with the Achieve-Florida group, and about 40 are talking with the MOSAIC/SMARTER/balanced group (gads, we need better names for these!). Last I heard, the NCEE group involved eight states, but that could be changing. As I said, nothing's set in stone yet.

Could NCEE be the only entity applying for the high school slice of the money? Achieve has a history of developing common assessments at the high school level, too, and the government's regulations permit consortia applying for the "comprehensive" assessment systems to apply separately for the high school assessment money. What about College Board, keeper of the Advanced Placement franchise? And could anyone else be cropping up to apply for all this cash? These consortia are the big ones folks are talking about, but it will be interesting to see if they remain the only ones.

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