College & Workforce Readiness

Why the Race to Top Assessment Competition Is Important

By Catherine Gewertz — May 14, 2010 1 min read

As readers of this blog know, I’ve been following the Race to the Top assessment competition in stories and in blog posts in this space. (If you’re new and want to catch up, this story and this blog post will get you started, with lots of links to earlier stuff.)

Those of you who wonder how much $350 million will reshape the assessment landscape might want to take a look at what former Gates Foundation education director Tom Vander Ark has to say about it today in his blog for the Huffington Post.

Vander Ark argues that the federal grants represent a tremendous opportunity for states to throw their weight behind fully revamped, new-age, comprehensive assessment systems. But he fears that tight financial times could lead too many to opt for a cheaper, not-really-that-different form of exam, trading away a pivotal opportunity to make testing a valuable form of insight into student learning (and school improvement).

I’m not sure I completely agree with his characterizations of what the two camps in the main “comprehensive” part of the competition are planning. (See here for a paper outlining the visions of the consortia applying for the money.)

And I’m not sure what to think of Vander Ark’s assertion that half the states are “focused on less expensive common tests; the other half will venture into the realm of possibility.” Hmmm. Wonder what he’s basing his count totals on? But his depiction of the two camps’ positioning and views of each other are intriguing. UPDATE: A key player in one of the consortia responds to Vander Ark’s depictions here.

In any case, the post is worth a read. See what you think. (Those of you who are a tad squeamish should skip over the blood-and-scalpels metaphor. Wonder how he’s working that into a blog item about testing? We’re back at square one again: read it.)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.