Obama Administration Makes Another—Perhaps Final—Pass To Improve State Standardized Testing

President ObamaApparently, several states want to do away with the those Scantron-style “fill-in-the-bubble” tests and replace them with a newer, competency-based test. And, according to a new grant competition from the US Department of Education, those that do also seem to keep better record of how many tests they offer every year, getting rid of those tests which produce redundant results or improve scoring or otherwise ground assessment systems.

Perhaps more importantly, though, those states that want to try something new are going to got the chance to do so thanks to the new Enhanced Assessment Grants competition. Announced just this Friday, this contest will make available $8.6 million in funding focused solely on helping to improve their testing systems.

Improving education has been a major Obama administration objective since the beginning of his two terms. The first six years of his occupation he spent actually pressing for more standardized testing, in an effort to parallel teacher evaluation, principal hiring, principal firing, and more with test score growth. Roughly two years, ago, they switched gears and began to focus more on better—and fewer—more effective testing.

This new program, then, is just another aspect of the “testing action plan” which was announced last fall. Applications for this program are due on Sept 22 with the winners announced in January, at which point they hope to have three to six winners.

According to US Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. attests, “The President’s Testing Action Plan encourages thoughtful approaches to assessments that will help to restore the balance on testing in America’s classrooms by reducing unnecessary assessments while promoting equity and innovation. This grant competition is the next step as part of that plan, and will help states and districts improve tests to allow for better depiction of student and school progress so that parents, teachers and communities have the vital information they need on academic achievement.”

States that want to be selected for the Enhanced Assessments Grants competition must meet several program objectives:

  • The state must collaborate with various educational and research institutions/organizations with the focus on improving quality, validity, and reliability of state academic assessments
  • use a wide variety of measures in order to judge student academic achievement
  • track student progress over time
  • develop more comprehensive academic analysis tools