Assessment

New Grants Aim to Help States Meet Testing Mandates

By Lynn Olson — February 26, 2003 1 min read

The Department of Education has announced $17 million in grants to help states develop better tests to measure the achievement of all students, especially those with disabilities or limited fluency in English.

Descriptions of the individual projects are available online, from the Education Department.

The competitive awards, authorized under the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, are being paid for with funding from the department’s fiscal 2002 budget. The money is in addition to the $370 million in grants provided last summer to all state education agencies to help meet the testing requirements under the law, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“These proposals reflect states’ serious and substantive attention to complex assessment issues,” Secretary of Education Rod Paige said in announcing the awards. Mr. Paige said the projects address the “most critical needs faced by states” as officials carry out the federal law’s testing and accountability provisions.

Under the act, states must include all students in their testing programs and use the results to determine whether schools are making adequate progress, so that all students perform at the proficient level on state tests by 2013-14.

The nine grants, which range from roughly $1.4 million to $2.3 million each, are all going to consortia of state education departments and other organizations.

Special Needs Studied

Four projects address the measurement of English proficiency for English-language learners. Two others focus on test design and accommodations for such students. (“States Scramble to Rewrite Language-Proficiency Exams,” Dec. 4, 2002.)

One project examines accommodations for special education students, while another aims to improve the technical quality of alternative assessments for students with severe disabilities. A ninth project will strive to improve capacity to evaluate and document the alignment between state standards and assessments.

“We’re excited to begin this project,” said Theodor Rebarber, the president of Accountability Works, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that is working with a consortium of five states, led by Pennsylvania, to develop a new generation of English-proficiency tests. “We hope that everybody learns from the efforts that are about to start.”

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