Feds offer $350 million for new competition on assessments

The U.S. Department of Education has released application qualifications for a much-anticipated $350 million competitive grant program for the development of high quality assessments.

The Comprehensive Assessment Systems grants are to be awarded to a consortium of states for the development of assessments that are valid, support accurate information about what a student knows and can do, and measure student achievement standards designed to ensure that all students gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college and the workplace."

Broken off from the original $4.35 billion provided under the federal Race to the Top competition, the assessment program offers two categories of grants: One to produce data that can determine the effectiveness of schools, individual principals and teachers, professional development needs, and teaching, learning and program improvement. The other would assess multiple high school courses including courses in core academic subjects and career technical education courses.

But, both are geared toward measuring the college and career readiness of the nation's students.

Comprehensive Assessment Systems

Federal officials have set aside $160 million to be awarded to a consortium of states for developing new assessments that measure student knowledge and skills against a common set of college and career-ready standards in mathematics and English language arts. Participating states may supplement the core standards with up to 15 percent additional standards developed by the individual states.

The assessments would need to be administered in all grades three through eight and at least once in high school to produce student achievement and growth data to determine whether students are college and career ready. The assessment would test all students including English learners and students with disabilities.

An eligible consortium would consist of at least 15 states willing commit to implementing the summative assessment components no later than the 2014-15 school year.

The assessment system will be used to meet the assessment requirements of Title 1 of the ESEA.

High School Course Assessment Programs

An additional $30 million will be awarded to a consortium of states to develop and implement assessment programs that cover multiple high school courses including core academic subjects and technical education courses.

These assessments would measure student knowledge and skills against a common set of standards or against state or other rigorous standards.

An eligible consortium must include at least five states. The grant funds must be used to ensure that at least one course assessment will be implemented in each state in the consortium no later than 2013-14, and all program assessments will be operational no later than 2014-15.

Assessments developed under this grant will not be required for use for Title 1 assessments.

These assessments will inform stakeholders whether high school courses are sufficiently rigorous and will prepare students for success in college and careers.

Priority points will be awarded to applications that include a high-quality plan to develop assessments for high school courses that prepare students for postsecondary study and careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Additional priority points will be awarded to applications that include plans to develop relevant business community participation and support, and assessments for career and technical education courses designed to prepare high school students for success on certification assessments or for postsecondary education or employment.

Noting a need for separate assessments for English learners and students with disabilities, the department announced additional grants will become available under a separate competition later this year and early 2011 for assessment development and implementation for those students.

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