Feds Dangle Money at States for “Enhanced Assessments”


The U.S. Department of Education has launched yet another competitive grant program, actually it is a renewal of a grant program they have had in the past called “Enhanced Assessment Grants.” Applications just became available yesterday. The deadline for states to announce to the Department their intent to apply is August 29, and the deadline for applications is September 22.

Here is the description of the program:

The purpose of the Enhanced Assessment Instruments Grant program, also called the Enhanced Assessment Grants (EAG) program, is to enhance the quality of assessment instruments and assessment systems used by States for measuring the academic achievement of elementary and secondary school students.

NJ.com reports that it is to help decrease the amount of tests students take and improve the ones they do take.

New Jersey and other states will be eligible for $9 million in federal funding to study how to improve or reduce the number of standardized tests students take each year, White House officials announced Friday.

The “Enhanced Assessment Grants” competition is the second step in the Obama administration’s efforts to limit testing in public schools in response to parents and teachers who say standardized exams are taking up too much of the school year.

States will have until Sept. 22 to apply for money to help study how to improve, reduce or eliminate tests. The grants could be used to improve low-quality tests, upgrade scoring methods or eliminate redundant or unnecessary tests, federal officials said.

“We’re excited to see what states will create,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

Here are the “absolute” priorities that the Department has set to be met before states are eligible for funding. States have to meet at least one or more of these priorities:

Absolute Priority 1—Collaboration.

Collaborate with institutions of higher education, other research institutions, or other organizations to improve the quality, validity, and reliability of State academic assessments beyond the requirements for these assessments described in section 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA, as amended by NCLB.

Absolute Priority 2—Use of Multiple Measures of Student Academic Achievement.

Measure student academic achievement using multiple measures of student academic achievement from multiple sources.

Absolute Priority 3—Charting Student Progress Over Time.

Chart student progress over time.

Absolute Priority 4—Comprehensive Academic Assessment Instruments.

Evaluate student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment instruments, such as performance- and technology-based academic assessments.

It seems we’ve gone down this road before. The major difference here, however, is that it does not call for states to join a consortium (mission accomplished there – well for a time at least due to Race to the Top). Here is the thing states should be doing this anyway. They shouldn’t need to mosey up to the federal feeding trough to innovate, and in doing so adopt the Fed’s priorities.

Since the federal funding is limited it’s unlikely a state will be competitive if they do not adopt all of the federal priorities when they submit their applications.