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Words of Caution on Race to Top Assessment

Today's the deadline for Race to the Top assessment applications, and we'll have a story for you later on what the applicants are proposing. Keep checking back on our home page for that. UPDATE: Our story is posted here.

I told you a couple of days ago about the basic ideas being proposed by the two consortia that we know are applying for the $320 million for comprehensive testing systems. At a presentation at the CCSSO conference on student assessment in Detroit, representatives of the two consortia outlined plans for testing systems that represent quite a significant shift away from what states are doing now.

Even as states sign on to new and different visions of assessment, though, notes of caution are mixing into the excitement. At one conference session, Wayne Camara, the vice president for research and development at the College Board, said that the lack of funding for assessment research in general hampers any effort to develop sound, large-scale, new tests, and that the situation is exacerbated by the fast implementation timeline that RTT requires (tests up and running by 2014-15). He questioned whether that timeline allows sufficient time to field-test and pilot the new tests, and cautioned that developing and using them too quickly could pose significant risks. "Research in isolation from scale-up" is what's needed, Camara said.

At another session at the conference, the CCSSO's Gene Wilhoit, a top leader in the common standards initiative, hailed the standards and their accompanying tests as a critically important shift in education practice. But he also noted the quick pace at which the tests will have to be developed, noting that it creates a "fairly dangerous environment to be in," and cautioned the field to "be careful as we move forward."

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