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National Academies' Board on Testing Offers Caution on RTT Rules

from guest blogger Lesli A. Maxwell

The official comment period for the proposed rules for the Race to the Top Fund has closed. But today, experts from the National Academies are weighing in with a heavy dose of caution for how the U.S. Department of Education is planning to use testing and assessments to measure how student achievement increases in the states that ultimately win the $4 billion in competitive grants from the economic stimulus.

Specifically, the Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council warned department officials not to use the National Assessment of Educational Progress as the primary yardstick. The NAEP, they write, "will be of limited value in judging the success or failure of individual initiatives under RTT, even at the state level," because the test is not aligned with any specific curriculum and states widely range in how much their standards and curricula overlap with what is tested on the NAEP. They also point out that NAEP test takers are in grades 4, 8, and 12, which "may not align with the targeted populations for some RTT interventions."

The board also warns that the department's proposal emphasis on the use of student-growth data to evaluate teachers and principals may be premature, because little study has been done on how such a system works and that there are practical barriers that keep a such a system from being done in a "fair, reliable, and valid" way.

There's much more to read in the board's comments, including questions its members raise about the type of assessments that should and should not be used in instructional-improvement systems.

Under National Academies procedures, the board's comments had to be reviewed by an independent group of experts before it could be publicly released, which is why they couldn't quite meet the department's deadline.

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