From the Editor
Assessment Items and CTE Reauthorization
Anne Wujcik — Friday, April 20, 2012
In a story that is the equivalent of beneath the fold in today's electronic version of the newsletter, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium selected CTB/McGraw-Hill to develop items for the new Common Core Assessments. The job involved developing nearly 10,000 test items that will be used in the pilot test of the Smarter Balanced assessment system in early 2013. A separate contract solicitation will be issued for item and performance task development for the field test of the assessment system in spring 2014. The test items will include a variety of innovative formats, performance elements and rich technological enhancements. All items will be subjected to rigorous review and research. The contract announcement marks a new stage in the consortium's progress. Test items are concrete and move the SBAC assessment one step closer to being "real."
CBT will also work with a team of partners including:
- American Institutes for Research, which will be involved in the development of technology-enabled test items and new open-source scoring engines as well as research into new item types through cognitive laboratory studies and small scale trials.
- Data Recognition Corporation, which will also assist in item development and scoring.
- The Council for Aid to Education, which will support development of performance tasks.
- HumRRO, which will focus on evaluation of item procurement options.
- The College Board, which will provide validity work focused on college and career readiness.
Smarter Balance will be fielding assessments that move well beyond standard multiple choice items. Through the contract, CTB and its partners will research innovative item and task formats to ensure that the assessments gather authentic information that can help improve teaching and student learning. CTB will also hire and train educators from Smarter Balanced states to write and conduct quality reviews of the items and performance tasks.
In other news, the Department of Education announced the release of the Obama Administration's blueprint for reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. The reauthorization proposal is built around four core principles:
- Alignment: Ensuring that the skills taught in CTE programs reflect the actual needs of the labor market
- Collaboration: Incentivizing secondary schools, institutions of higher education, employers, and industry partners to work together to ensure that all CTE programs offer students high-quality learning opportunities.
- Accountability: Requiring CTE programs to show, through common definitions and related performance measures, that they are improving academic outcomes and enabling students to build technical and job skills.
- Innovation: Promoting systemic reform of state-level policies to support effective CTE implementation and innovation at the local level.
The President's 2013 budget request included a $1 billion competitive fund over three years to increase the number of high-quality career academies. Career academies combine college-preparatory and career and technical curricula, pulled together by a career theme, such as health care, business and finance, or engineering. This approach makes education more relevant by providing a context for the experience. Local employers play a critical role in career academy programs, providing both career mentoring and work-based learning opportunities for students.
It's nice to see the administration pay serious attention to the career side of the college- and career-ready mantra. Many students simply need to get on with their working life, dealing with family responsibilities and following their own interests. A solid CTE program that allows students to find meaningful employment while ensuring they have the skills and knowledge typically covered in a college prep curriculum allows for choice. Students who want to take on college at some point in the future will be able to do so and those who stay in the workforce will have the solid education they need to be both productive workers and responsible citizens.