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Common Assessments: Let the Bidding Begin

If you join us here often, you know that we talk a lot about the two big groups of states that have federal Race to the Top money to design assessments for the common standards. So far, we've been conveying to you their design ideas. But someone has to turn those ideas into testing systems. It seems that this season has begun.

The opening shot is a Request for Proposals issued recently by the SMARTER Balanced Consortium, one of the two federally funded assessment consortia. The 94-page RFP seeks bids from one or more vendors to develop item and task specifications for the summative and interim tests that will be part of SBAC's system.

It's pretty technical stuff, but it seeks scads of detailed requirements for writing four types of items and tasks—selected-response and constructed-response items, performance tasks, and technology-enhanced items (remember SBAC is all about computer-adaptive tests). There are general requirements, such as this: A performance task must be able to do 13 things, including "allow for multiple points of view and interpretations." And there are more-specific requirements, such as detailing "allowable stimulus materials" and "number of stimuli per performance task."

Proposals are due Aug. 25, with announcement of a winner ("apparently successful contractor"—you gotta love the RFP language) on Sept. 23. Work is to begin in mid-October and wrap up by the end of December. Winning vendors must be prepared for "intensive collaboration" with SBAC member states on what the specifications will look like, as well as "tight schedules," the RFP says.

This is the process by which we will see a better picture of what SBAC's tests will look like. As the RFP itself says: "We envision that the materials to be developed will constitute an encyclopedia of volumes designed to guide all of the SBAC assessment development work."

Stay tuned.

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