By Donald Peasley, Assessment Team Lead, School Support & Accountability, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Over the past two years, the pandemic has brought immense challenges to our nation’s students, schools, and communities. Just one year ago, only 46% of our nation’s K-12 schools were open for in-person learning, and countless students experienced traumas, mental health challenges, and academic disruptions. Some students fell behind, and some disconnected from their schools altogether. That’s why since Day One of the Biden Administration, the Department of Education has been focused on reopening our schools safely, getting more Americans vaccinated, and addressing the impacts of the pandemic on students of all ages. As part of this effort, we invested $130 billion in America’s K-12 schools through the American Rescue Plan, and we allowed for unprecedented flexibilities in our K-12 assessment systems, so schools and districts could focus on getting students back in classrooms safely, first and foremost.
The Department of Education is proud that in just one year, we have returned to pre-pandemic levels of schools being open. Today, nearly all school districts are back to in-person learning five days per week. We are seeing students every day interacting with their teachers, peers, and school staff, receiving the academic and mental health supports they need to recover. And while this pandemic has underscored just how important it is for our students to be receiving in-person instruction to ensure all students are receiving high-quality, equitable education, it also has made clearer the gaps in our education system—and presented an opportunity for us to recover stronger than we were before.
That’s why today the U.S. Department of Education is releasing the 2022 notice inviting applications for the Competitive Grants for State Assessments program, a program designed to enhance the quality of state assessment systems to better reflect the needs and experiences of our nation’s students and communities. The program will allow for states to continue to use assessments to quantify the impacts the pandemic has had on our nation’s students, identify gaps which may have gotten worse, and explore ways to direct resources and funding to address those gaps and roadblocks to student achievement. The program will also allow the Department to identify, lift up, and help scale innovative approaches to assessments that advance teaching and learning that can better meet the needs of our evolving education system.
The program will award up to $17.7 million in grants to 4-6 state educational agencies, with estimated grant awards of up to $3 million per grantee. Grantees will use these grant funds over a period of up to four years. The program will focus on assessment systems based on multiple measures, competency-based education, and improved reporting of assessment results to parents and educators.
State educational agencies (or a consortium of state educational agencies) are invited to submit applications that 1) develop or implement assessment systems that use multiple measures of academic achievement; or 2) develop or implement comprehensive academic assessments that emphasize the mastery of standards and aligned competencies in a competency-based education model. The program also includes a competitive priority that focuses on improving how assessment results are reported to parents and educators, so members of school communities can better support how instruction is designed to meet the academic needs of children.
Applications will be due on April 18, 2022. Successful applicants will be selected, and awards will be made, by September 2022. Officials from the Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education will also conduct a webinar for potential applicants in the coming weeks. Registration information for the webinar, the application for this grant program, and additional information about the Competitive Grants for State Assessments program is available at https://oese.ed.gov/offices/office-of-formula-grants/school-support-and-accountability/competitive-grants-for-state-assessments/applicant-information/.
As we continue our work to support our nation’s students in their recovery from the pandemic, we look forward to working in partnership with schools, families, educators, and communities to strengthen our assessment and education systems, so every student has the opportunity to succeed academically and thrive.