Education Department Announces Second Round of Public Meetings Seeking Advice from Experts on Ways to Improve Assessments

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that it will hold a second round of public input meetings to listen to and learn from assessment experts and practitioners. To date the department has convened seven meetings in three cities (Boston, Atlanta and Denver). Thirty-seven States joined department leadership and nearly 700 members of the public to hear from assessment experts in general assessment, high school assessment, the role of technology in assessment, assessing students with disabilities, and assessing English language learners.

Today the department announces three additional public meetings to be held in the Washington, D.C. metro area. As with the previous meetings, the goals of these meetings 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. “Our first set of meetings was extremely helpful in gathering cutting edge expertise on assessment from around the nation and world. We are eager to continue learning from the field on an important range of next topics and questions. We are eager to employ that knowledge in supporting the work that States will do to build the new assessments our country needs to ensure that our students are prepared for success in college and careers.”

As announced in advance of the first round of public meetings, 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 the course of three additional meetings held in January, department officials will continue to solicit input from expert assessment practitioners and researchers about how innovative and effective approaches to the development of the next generation of assessments. The meetings are open to the public. 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. (Past transcripts and written input received to date are available on the department’s web site at .)

The meetings will be held in the Washington, DC metropolitan area on Jan. 13, 14 and 20. Department officials and invited experts will spend a full day on Jan. 13 discussing project and consortium management. The department has invited a panel of experts to join on Jan. 14 for a half-day discussion of procurement in complex cross-state initiatives. Finally, on Jan. 20 department officials and invited experts will spend a full day discussing general assessment issues. Department officials will use the input gathered to design 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 a notice inviting applications in the spring and will award grants by September 2010.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriated $4.35 billion for the Race to the Top Fund. The law focuses on 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.”