The U.S. Department of Education has released the latest batch of federal money aimed at making state assessments more “high-quality, innovative, and authentic,” with over $29 million in grants going to 10 state education agencies this time around.
State agencies will be able to use the money under the Competitive Grants for State Assessments program to improve their testing systems after years of COVID-19 disruptions. States paused testing during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and many didn’t see testing data until the results of spring 2021 tests, which had historically low student participation in many areas.
This year’s funding priorities under the grant program emphasize the importance of better understanding students’ academic achievement and creating more-equitable testing systems for English-learners and students with disabilities, the department’s announcement said.
And the department encouraged agencies to use funds to help parents and families better understand assessment data.
Better assessments will also help school leaders “personalize instruction to meet student’s diverse needs; make critical, data-informed decisions that can positively affect student opportunities and outcomes; and communicate progress to parents and families,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.
The new grants also come as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, otherwise known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” prepares to overhaul its design. The revamp will expand the list of devices used to take the exam, experimenting with computer-adaptive testing to alter questions as students get answers right or wrong, and gain a better understanding of achievement gaps to promote equity.
How the states plan to use their money
The states that received grants in this year’s program will be able to use the money for similar plans to improve equity and redesign assessment systems. Here’s the breakdown for this round of grants:
- Arkansas received $2.15 million for “making improved decisions for students on the cusp of alternate assessment participation using multiple measures of academic achievement from multiple sources”;
- Hawaii received nearly $3 million for “expanding the classroom-based assessment system components in Hawaii’s Comprehensive Assessment Program”;
- Illinois received $3 million for its “Transición Early High School Spanish Language Arts Assessment” program;
- Kentucky received $3 million for its program, “United We Learn: transforming educational opportunity for Kentucky’s youth through the creation and scaling of competency-based assessment and accountability”;
- Louisiana received $5.9 million for its projects, “Testing What’s Taught: Equity in Test Design Project” and “Project INTEL: Interim Assessments for English Learners”;
- Missouri received $2.5 million for its “Pathways for Instructionally Embedded Assessment” program;
- Montana received nearly $3 million for “demonstrating the full potential of a through-year assessment system in Montana”;
- Nebraska received nearly $3 million for its program, “Coherence and Alignment for Science Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment”;
- New York received nearly $3 million for its pilot program, “Performance Learning and Assessment Networks”; and
- North Carolina received $1.1 million for its “Multilingual-Multimodal Science Inventory” program.