The U.S. Department of Education has earmarked $350 million in Race to the Top grants for states to develop new assessments for the Common Core Standards. On September 2, it was announced that the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) was awarded $170 million and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) won $160 million. The two groups submitted their applications in June 2010.
SBAC, the larger of the two consortia, is comprised of 31 states headed by the state of Washington. SBAC will develop standards that put an emphasis on computer-adaptive technology for disabled students that have difficulty using a computer.
"We'll be including what we call technology enhancement assessments," says Susan Gendron, policy director for SBAC. "A teacher will be able to start a student from where they are. It will recognize I may be a 4th-grade student on a 3rd-grade level and create questions accordingly. It will measure where a student is on the learning progression."
The other main competitor, PARCC, is a consortium of 26 states, but it accounts for 60 percent of the nation's public school students. Based in Florida, states associated with PARCC will also pilot computer-based testing; however, not using an adaptive method. Assessments will combine the computer-based testing with performance-based reviews in math and English over the course of the school year.
"We are working together to develop a system that will utilize performance-based assessments, evaluate what students are learning throughout the academic year, and build end-of-year summative assessments to provide the measures of student growth that states need to support valid accountability systems," says David M. Steiner, New York state's education commissioner. PARCC's design also puts an emphasis on parent and community involvement for student success.
"I think it's going to be important for districts to think about a transition plan to new standards and to help teachers become familiar with new types of assessment," Gendron says.