Today, the Department of Education announced more than $330 million in Race to the Top assessment grant awards to the consortia of states that submitted applications. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will receive $170 million and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) will receive $160 million. The goal of these two consortia is to develop a “new generation” of math and English language arts assessments for third grade through high school that will be aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The assessments will be put into place by the 2014-2015 school year.
PARCC is a coalition of 26 states and will test students’ ability to read complex text, complete research projects, excel at classroom speaking and listening assignments, and work with digital media. The consortia will replace the single year-end high stakes test with a series of assessments given throughout the year. PARCC’s application stated that its assessment system “will provide the tools needed to identify whether students—from grade 3 through high school—are on a trajectory for postsecondary success and, critically, where gaps may exist and how they can be remediated well before students enter college or the workforce.”
SBAC is comprised of 31 states that will test students using computer adaptive technology that will ask students tailored questions based on their previous answers. The consortia will still use a single test at the end of the year for accountability purposes, but will create a series of interim tests throughout the year to let students, parents, and teachers know whether students are on track. You can see which states are included in both of the consortia here.
In a speech this morning at Achieve, Inc. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that states in both consortia have agreed to set the same achievement levels or cut‐scores on their assessments and that the Department will ask them to collaborate to make sure student test results are comparable across participating states. Duncan also laid out how these assessments differ from existing state tests, including the use of smart technology, immediate feedback, accommodations, and the use of formative assessments that document student growth. Finally he said that “for the first time, the new assessments will better measure the higher‐order thinking skills so vital to success in the global economy of the 21st century and the future of American prosperity. To be on track today for college and careers, students need to show that they can analyze and solve complex problems, communicate clearly, synthesize information, apply knowledge, and generalize learning to other settings.”
As you may be aware, there was a third group of states, the State Consortium on Board Examination Systems, that applied for $30 million in funding under the competition to support assessments at the high school level. However, this group did not win an award.