Education Department Seeks Advice from Experts on Ways to Improve Assessments

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–October 20, 2009.  The U.S. Department of Education announced today that it will hold public meetings across the country to listen and learn from assessment experts and practitioners. The goals are two-fold: first to gather technical input to inform the development of a Race to the Top Assessment Competition; and second to enable states, who will be the competition applicants, and the public to participate in and learn from these events.

“The next generation of assessments will provide information that helps accelerate student learning and improve teachers’ practice,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “At these meetings, experts will give us their best ideas so we can support states’ efforts to build the new assessments our country needs to ensure that our students are prepared for success in college and careers.”

Duncan has pledged to reserve up to $350 million to support consortia of states that are working to create new assessments tied to a common set of standards. The grants will be distributed next year through a competitive process. The assessment grants will come from the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund and will be awarded under a separate program from the larger one designed to support states’ comprehensive efforts to reform education.

Over six days of meetings in November and December in three cities, department officials will solicit a wide range of input from expert assessment practitioners and researchers about how innovative and effective approaches to the development of the next generation of assessments. The department is inviting states, in particular, to attend the meetings and will share on its website both the transcripts of the meetings as well as all written input received.

In each city, department officials and invited experts will spend a full day discussing general assessment issues and half-days concentrating on specific topics. The meetings will be held Nov. 12-13 in Boston; Nov. 17-18 in Atlanta; and Dec. 1-2 in Denver. The half-day sessions will focus on high school assessments and using technology and innovation to improve the quality of assessments (Boston); how to improve the assessment of students with disabilities (Atlanta); and how to accurately measure the content knowledge of English language learners (Denver).

Department officials will use the input gathered to design the application for the assessment competition; consortia of states, who are the applicants for the competition, will use the information to inform their proposed assessment designs. The department plans to publish the application early next year and will award grants by next fall.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriated $4.35 billion for the Race to the Top Fund. The law requires the money to be distributed through four areas of reform:

  • Adopting college- and career-ready standards and assessments;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals;
  • Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve their practices; and
  • Turning around our lowest-performing schools.

“To succeed in comprehensive efforts to reform, states need to have plans to address each of these areas,” Duncan said. “But high-quality standards and assessments are the foundation on which reforms are built. High-quality assessments are one of the most important ingredients of reform. We look forward to supporting states as they lead the way in this critical effort.”

The department published an official notice about the assessment meetings in today’s Federal Register at