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Conservative Think Tank Imagines Future of Assessments Under Donald Trump

Conservative Think Tank Imagines Future of Assessments Under Donald Trump

This week, Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. released the final regulations of testing under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

King’s announcement further articulated the Department of Education’s plans to help guide the journey to fairer, fewer and better assessments to best address the growing concerns of students, parents and educators. The Department of Education first began to address these growing concerns after President Obama released the Testing Action Plan in 2015.

"Smarter assessments can make us all smarter," King said in his introduction of the regulations.

The torch to developing better assessments will soon be passed over to President-elect Donald Trump, and conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has released a proposal this month detailing what Trump might do. Focused on chipping away at the controversial Common Core Standards that were rolled out during the Obama administration, the proposal imagines a complete redesign of assessments under the Trump administration.

The paper notes the topsy-turvy assessment environment states are currently dealing with since the failed implementation of Common Core aligned tests.

"Missouri…will have four different assessments in four years. In 2017, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin will have their third test since the transition to Common Core."

This encompasses what the paper defines as "the unraveling of new-era assessments."

As a solution to this problem, AEI offers the Trump administration the idea of creating what is called an "Interstate Test-Item Bank Cooperative" (ITBC).

Under the ITBC, states will no longer share assessments but rather will "share a bank of items from which to make assessments."

Comprised by items submitted by the Education Department, assessment consortia like Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, states and eventually "if a suitable payment system was established" private firms, the bank would be available to states to then build their own assessments.

"A sufficiently large item bank could be used for multiple test formats, giving states an array of choices regarding test format, duration and delivery method. States would also have control of the test content, choosing items from and expansive universe of items." 

Further, to get started, the paper argues that the test bank should be based on the test bank that National Association for Educational Progress (NAEP) uses already.

"Using NAEP’s widely accepted scales and frameworks as a base for the item bank minimizes contentiousness around establishing a new set of common frameworks, items and scales."

The paper goes on to speculate about how the ITBC would be founded and managed and addresses concerns about things like the fate of consortia and testing companies.

Overall, the paper says of ITBC: "Build It and They Will Come."

The ITBC will "replace a centralized, coercive approach to federal education policy with one that builds states’ capacity and invests in their authority to manage their public schools."

Read the full paper here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

12/9/2016

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