Public Gives Input on Race to the Top Assessments

According to Secretary Duncan, the new Race to the Top Assessments (RTTA) are “an absolute game-changer in public education.” Which is why ED is taking the necessary steps to ensure that stakeholders have a voice in the development of the assessments.

At a public forum on June 10 in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, about 70 educators and stakeholders from across the country had a chance to hear about the new assessment systems currently under development, listen to experts, and voice their ideas. The public forum was the second in a series of meetings ED is holding to gain input from the public on the new assessments being developed by the state-led consortia and how to best develop them in order to improve students’ readiness for college and careers.

“It’s integral that we not only measure results, but how students get there” said Douglas Stein, vice president of the Educational Records Bureau, during the feedback portion of the meeting.

Kent Williamson, executive director of the National Council of Teachers of English said that there “is a confidence problem among educators about testing. This process needs to start including teachers – not just in field testing, but in conceptual design.”

Max McGee, president of the Illinois Math and Science Academy noted that we can learn from the successful models of other countries: “Our international competitors have successfully addressed many of the concerns we have with testing. There are models out there.”

The new tests will be aligned with the Common Core Standards, which the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers created, and have been adopted by 43 states. The standards are designed to prepare students for success in college and careers. A total of 45 states plus the District of Columbia are participating in the two assessment consortia: The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). These consortia were awarded $360 million in RTTA grants. The assessments are expected to be rolled out by states in the 2014-15 school year.

Ann Whalen, Director of in Policy and Program Implementation in ED’s Implementation and Support Unit, and Patrick Rooney, team lead for the RTTA program, led the meeting, which was funded in part by a grant from Hewlett. Representatives from PARCC, SBAC, and other experts participated in a panel discussion about automated scoring in the assessments.

The transcript and other forum materials will be posted on the RTTA page, along with information from previous sessions and registration details for future forums. The next public RTTA meeting takes place in Washington, DC on Aug. 10, and will focus on assessing students with disabilities and English language learners.


  1. “70 educators and stakeholders from across the country had a chance to hear about the new assessment systems currently under development…” Seriously? Our country has over 300 million citizens and 70 people counts for involving “the stakeholders.” This is precisely why most of our population has no idea about RTTT and why most of your teachers and leaders do not buy into it! This is a tragic failure of Democracy in our great nation! I’m a life long registered Democrat and teacher and will not be voting for President Obama again. Closing the achievement gap and creating more teacher/school leader accountability is important but RTTT is going about it the wrong way.

  2. Greetings Secretary Duncan:

    One of my major concerns as an African American teacher is that assessments are graded accurately and fairly. I recognize the importance of racial demographics being indicators, yet, I do feel that writing assessments are judged with racial discrimination. I know for sure this can be alleviated with the regular scanned test, but how can we fix this problem with those which are graded by individuals.

    My sister worked for a State Standardized testing facility and this was a major concern as she assisted with grading state standardized test. Not to mention the people that were grading the test had no background in education.

    Therefore, I am simply wondering how do we ensure African-Americans that the test aren’t being tampered with, it is a silent concern that never receives a voice, because we are constantly under the belief that their is a conspiracy when educating our children and the educational system has not worked in our favor for years. But thank God with President Obama and you, Secretary Duncan, we have some assurance that these systems will no longer be bias towards African-American youth. Thank you Secretary Duncan for all of your continued hard work and efforts.

    Ms. Fisher

  3. Historically, testing children has told us very little about their success in school or life.
    So, one can only assume that any assessment of such young children is to really asses thtest teachers. If test/child assessment is hanging over the heads of teachers, I fear we will end up with more teaching to the test then letting children learn through play.
    We have tons of evidence of this occurring in elementary schools. Why would we want to repeat these horrible practices. Public schools are no longer a place to learn and explore and be creative. Public schools have become boring places where children are drilled and or spend tons of time practicing taking tests. Let’s not let EC go down the same road!

  4. Schools are a long way from preparing students for higher education or careers.

    The “skills gap” is being created by universities, education bureaucrats and those that believe in hiring younger, cheaper, inexperienced teachers. Older, seasoned teachers and people with vast amounts of knowledge, albeit low pedagogical skills, are turned away from schools or expected to “fit in” with teachers who have little worldly experience but are slick with interactive tools and school “frameworks.”

    The most talented, competent people are steered away from education by “the system.” Then academics and businesses complain that no one seems to know anything. Highest scores do not translate into experienced, competent workforces.

    When schools are forced to turn away a brilliant teacher with a boatload of industrial and scientific experience because they scored ONE point too low on a standardized Praxis test, our nation is headed for big trouble.

  5. I think we should have always included people from all races,creed,sex, and no matter where the parent can pay or not it should be availiable for all whether or not you can afford it or not. We should use a better learning system especially when our learning system is out dated and we can develop a better educational system because now we are going global and americans students not doing their part because they aren’t dong their part when it comes down to the
    work of art which is studying.

  6. It is encouraging to hear educators had input in the assessments along with the stakeholders. There is still a lot to be done in order for tests to be rolled out by 2014-2015.

  7. There are better ways to tests students knowledge and abilities;however tests should be conductive to advance and lower range students. One test does not fit every student.

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