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Ed Department Seeks More Public Input on Assessments

From guest blogger Catherine Gewertz:

The Education Department has announced a second round of public meetings to gather input for the $350 million slice of Race to the Top money that is earmarked for designing common assessments. They're going to be held on Jan. 13, 14, and 20 here in Washington.

The first round of meetings, held in Atlanta, Boston, and Denver in November and December, featured testimony from assessment experts. (See our story from the Boston meeting, and transcripts of the oral and written testimony from all three meetings.)

Where the first three meetings focused on topics such as general assessment design, high school assessment, and tests for students with disabilities, the second round will dig into more targeted areas.

The Jan. 13 meeting will focus on project and consortium management (the money is for tests designed and shared by groups, or consortia, of states). The session on Jan. 14 will focus on the various state procurement rules that can come into play, and Jan. 20 is set aside for discussion of general and technical assessment.

The notices published in the Federal Register about the two rounds of public meetings (first one here, second one here) are handy summaries of the program.

The department states clearly what it's after in the new generation of assessments (see the "assessment program design and questions" section, which begins on page 8 of the first notice or page 11 of the second notice). It wants tests that are aligned to common K-12 standards that are internationally benchmarked and denote college and career readiness. They should measure student achievement at a given point in time, but also its growth over time, and the extent to which each student is "on track"—at each grade level tested—to be ready for college or a career when they graduate.

Tests wouldn't have to be limited to once yearly, either; they could be broken into multiple components given over the course of the year. And the information gleaned from the tests must be useable in informing the practice of teaching, gauging students' readiness for career or credit-bearing college work, and judging the effectiveness of teachers, principals and schools.

The department plans to issue a formal notice of competition, with accompanying application guidelines, by March. Applications will likely be due in the summer of 2010, with money awarded by September.

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