[Federal Register: December 30, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 249)]
[Notices]               
[Page 69081-69084]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr30de09-41]    
         

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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

 
Race to the Top Fund

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 84.395C

AGENCY: Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of three additional public meetings and request for 
input from technical experts pertaining to a possible Race to the Top 
Assessment program, and provide technical assistance to States for the 
development and implementation of high-quality assessments based on 
common standards.

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SUMMARY: On October 23, 2009, the Department announced in the Federal 
Register (74 FR 54795) a series of public meetings to be held 
throughout November and December 2009 to inform its work on a potential 
Assessment Program within the Race to the Top Fund and to provide 
technical assistance to States. This notice announces three additional 
public meetings intended to address questions outlined in the October 
notice that have not been fully covered, and new topic areas and 
questions that have emerged based on public and expert input. As 
announced in the October notice, by March 2010, the Secretary of 
Education (Secretary) intends to announce a competition for a program 
that would support one or more consortia of States that are working 
toward jointly developing and implementing common, high-quality 
assessments aligned with a consortium's common set of kindergarten-
through-grade-12 (K-12) standards that are internationally benchmarked 
and that build toward college and career readiness by the time of high 
school completion. To inform the design of this program and the 
development of a notice inviting applications that establishes the 
requirements for this competition, and to provide technical assistance 
to States, the Secretary continues to seek input from States, technical 
experts, and members of the public through public meetings and written 
submissions. Following the public meetings and review of the written 
submissions, the Department intends to publish a notice inviting 
applications for such a competition.

DATES: Public meetings will be held on the dates and at the locations 
specified later in this notice. Written submissions must be received by 
the Department by 5:00 p.m., Eastern time, on Wednesday, January 20, 
2010.

ADDRESSES: For those submitting written input, we encourage submissions 
by e-mail using the following address: 
racetothetop.assessment@ed.gov. If you prefer to send your input 
by mail, address it to Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, 
Attention: Race to the Top Assessment Program--Public Input Meetings, 
U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Room 3W339, 
Washington, DC 20202.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: U.S. Department of Education, 400 
Maryland Avenue, SW., Room 3W339, Washington, DC 20202. Telephone: 202-
453-7246 or by e-mail: racetothetop.assessment@ed.gov.
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
    Background: The Race to the Top Fund, authorized under the American 
Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), Public Law 111-5, 
provides $4.35 billion for competitive grants to States to encourage 
and reward States that are creating the conditions for education 
innovation and reform; implementing ambitious plans in the four 
education reform areas described in the ARRA; and achieving significant 
improvement in student outcomes, including making substantial gains in 
student achievement, closing achievement gaps, improving high school 
graduation rates, and ensuring student preparation for success in 
college and careers.
    The Department is considering implementing two separate programs 
under the Race to the Top Fund. The first, a general program, was 
announced in November through a notice inviting applications and notice 
of final priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria 
published in the Federal Register on November 18, 2009 (74 FR 59688). 
Under this general program, the Department will award approximately $4 
billion to State applicants that have demonstrated that they have 
created certain conditions for education innovation and reform; 
achieved significant improvement in student outcomes, including making 
substantial gains in student achievement, closing achievement gaps, 
improving high school graduation rates, and ensuring student 
preparation for success in college and careers; and proposed to develop 
and implement comprehensive reform strategies that are integrated 
across the four ARRA education reform areas.
    Through this notice, we are seeking additional input on a second 
proposed program (Assessment Program), which would provide 
approximately $350 million in grants to consortia of States for the 
development of common, high-quality assessments aligned with an 
applicant consortium's common set of K-12 standards that are 
internationally benchmarked and that build toward college and career 
readiness by the time of high school completion.
    At a later date, guided by the input from the public meetings and 
written submissions described in this notice, and in conjunction with 
the input received in response to the October 23, 2009 notice, the 
Secretary intends to issue a notice inviting applications for a 
competition for this second program that would set forth the 
requirements and criteria for the submission of applications. Should 
the Secretary decide not to conduct the Race to the Top Assessment 
Program, the $350 million designated for this program will revert to 
fund additional grants under the general Race to the Top Program.
    Because requirements for an assessment program are highly 
technical, the Department has been soliciting input through public 
meetings to inform the design and development of this program, 
including the notice inviting applications, and to provide technical 
assistance to States. Based on the input received in the three public 
meetings and written comments received thus far, the Department will 
hold a second series of public meetings to address issues articulated 
in this notice. At these meetings invited experts and members of the 
public will have the opportunity to provide input, including written 
input. Should we decide to implement this Assessment Program by holding 
a competition, we do not intend to conduct notice and comment 
rulemaking. Section 437(d)(1) of the General Education Provisions Act, 
20 U.S.C. 1232(d)(1), allows the

[[Page 69082]]

Department to waive rulemaking for the first grant competition under a 
new or substantially revised program authority. This would be the first 
competition for an Assessment Program under the Race to the Top Fund.
    The three meetings announced in the previous notice and held in 
November and December have informed the Department's thinking on the 
design and development of the potential competition and on the notice 
inviting applications. In addition, these meetings have provided an 
important opportunity for the Department and States to learn more about 
the design, development, and implementation of high-quality 
assessments. The Department intends to extend that learning to a new 
set of questions in the next set of meetings announced in this notice. 
As with the previous meetings, the Department expects that States, in 
particular, will acquire critical knowledge about best practices in 
assessments, especially on the development and management of assessment 
consortia, and then be able to employ that knowledge in developing 
their applications and in designing high-quality assessments.

Details of Public Meetings

    Structure of Public Meetings:
    The Department anticipates that each meeting will have two 
components as follows:
    (1) Input from invited panels of experts and stakeholders:
    [cir] Each meeting will have an invited set of panelists who will 
have a set amount of time to respond individually to the questions in 
this notice.
    [cir] The Department representatives will then ask questions of 
individual panelists and facilitate cross-panelist discussion.
    (2) Open opportunity to share input:
    [cir] Each meeting will have 30 to 60 minutes for interested 
members of the public, who have registered to speak, to respond to the 
questions in this notice.
    [cir] Each individual scheduled to speak will have 5 minutes to 
provide oral input.
    [cir] Written submissions will also be accepted as described in the 
Submission of Written Input section.
    Each meeting will focus on a particular topic as indicated in the 
next section. The Department will share any updates, including posting 
additional questions, online at 
http://www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/index.html.
    Topic Areas, Dates, Times, Locations, and Registration Information:
    The public meetings will occur on the following dates at the times 
and locations indicated below.
     Topic Area: Project and Consortium Management
    [cir] Wednesday, January 13; in Washington, DC; at the United 
States Department of Education's Potomac Center Plaza at 550 12th 
Street, SW., 10th floor conference room, Washington, DC; from 10:00 
a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
     Topic Area: Procurement
    [cir] Thursday, January 14; in Washington, DC; at the United States 
Department of Education's Potomac Center Plaza at 550 12th Street, SW., 
10th floor conference room, Washington, DC; from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 
p.m.
     Topic Area: General and Technical Assessment
    [cir] Wednesday, January 20; in Washington, DC; at a Washington, DC 
metro area location to be determined and announced via the Department's 
Web site; from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    Attendance: If you are interested in attending an event, you must 
register by first sending an e-mail to racetothetop.assessment@ed.gov. 
The subject line of your e-mail must read, ``Request form.'' A 
registration form will be automatically sent to you. You must complete 
this form electronically and return it by e-mail. Detailed instructions 
are included in the form. Registrations will be processed on a first-
come, first-served basis with space reserved for State participants. 
Individuals will be notified by e-mail when their registration is 
confirmed.
    Providing input: If you are interested in speaking during the open 
input portion of the meeting, you must register by first sending an e-
mail to racetothetop.assessment@ed.gov. The subject line of your e-mail 
must read, ``Speaker request form.'' A registration form will be 
automatically sent to you. You must complete this form electronically 
and return it by e-mail. Detailed instructions are included in the 
form. Because the number of public speaking slots is limited, 
individuals and organizations may register to speak at only one of the 
three meetings. Requests to speak will be processed on a first-come, 
first-served basis. Confirmed speakers will be notified by the 
Department by e-mail, and will be asked to bring two hard copies of 
their input to the meeting. People who are unable to attend a meeting 
in person or who do not register early enough to speak during the 
meeting are encouraged to submit written input.

Assistance to Individuals With Disabilities at the Public Meetings

    The meeting sites will be accessible to individuals with 
disabilities and sign language interpreters will be available. If you 
need an auxiliary aid or service (e.g., interpreting service such as 
sign language, oral, cued speech, or tactile interpreter; assisted 
listening device; or materials in alternate format) to participate in 
the meeting, notify the Department using the contact information 
provided in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this 
document at least two weeks before the scheduled meeting date. Although 
we will attempt to meet any requests we receive after this date, we may 
not be able to make available the requested auxiliary aid or service 
because of insufficient time.
    Submission of Written Input:
    All interested parties, including those who cannot attend a meeting 
or from whom we do not have time to hear at a meeting, may submit 
written input in response to this notice.
    Written input will be accepted at the meeting site or via e-mail 
and mail at the addresses listed in the ADDRESSES section of this 
notice. Written input must be submitted by the date listed in the DATES 
section.
    When submitting input at the meetings, we request that you submit 
two written copies. Please include your name, organization (if 
applicable), and contact information.
    Both at the meetings and in your written submission, we encourage 
you to be as specific as possible. To ensure that your input is fully 
considered, we urge you to identify clearly the specific question, 
purpose, and characteristic that each of your suggestions addresses and 
to arrange your submission in the order of the questions listed in this 
notice. Please also include a description of your involvement, if any, 
in statewide assessment practices.
    Sharing Input Publicly:
    The Department is committed to gathering and sharing publicly the 
input from the meetings and written submissions. Each meeting will be 
transcribed. All transcripts will be available for viewing at 
http://www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/index.html. All written 
input received will be available for viewing via this Web site as well.

Assessment Program Design and Questions

    As described in the October 23 notice, we intend for the Assessment 
Program to support consortia of States working toward jointly 
developing and implementing a next generation of common summative 
assessments that are aligned with a common set of kindergarten-through-
grade-12 internationally benchmarked, college-

[[Page 69083]]

and career-ready standards that model and support effective teaching 
and student learning. Such summative assessments would allow students, 
including students with disabilities and English language learners, to 
demonstrate at each grade level tested their mastery of knowledge and 
skills and the extent to which each student is on track to college- and 
career-readiness by the time of high school graduation.
    In designing the requirements for this program, the Secretary is 
particularly interested in innovative and effective approaches to 
assessment that will assist States in creating powerful and useful 
systems of assessment that meet these requirements.
    In the following paragraphs, we have provided a framework that 
outlines the characteristics we believe should be required or 
encouraged in assessment systems supported by a grant under this 
proposed program. We then list the specific questions on which we seek 
input, taking into account this framework.
    It is important to note that this proposed program, the public 
meetings, and the framework below would focus on the design and quality 
of assessment systems and not on accountability policies, such as those 
described in section 1116 of the Elementary and Secondary Education 
Action (ESEA). Given the pending reauthorization of the ESEA, we intend 
that the Assessment Program would support the development of the best 
possible assessments that could be not only appropriately used by 
States under the current ESEA assessment and accountability 
requirements, but could also serve additional purposes as outlined 
later in this notice.
    Framework:

Design of Assessment Systems--General Requirements

    The Department is particularly interested in supporting the 
development of summative assessments that measure--
     Individual student achievement as measured against 
standards that build toward college- and career-readiness by the time 
of high school completion;
     Individual student growth (that is, the change in student 
achievement data for an individual student between two or more points 
in time); and
     The extent to which each individual student is on track, 
at each grade level tested, toward college- or career-readiness by the 
time of high school completion.
    At a minimum, we would expect that the common assessments would 
measure each of these elements in the subject areas of reading/language 
arts and mathematics, would provide information for each student 
annually in grades 3 through 8, and would provide information at the 
high school level about each student's college- and/or career-
readiness. The assessments would not need to be limited to a single 
end-of-year assessment but could include multiple summative components 
administered at different points during the school year. Moreover, the 
assessments might be viewed as replacing rather than adding to the 
assessments currently in use in States participating in the consortia.
    Information gathered from the assessments should be useable in 
informing--
     Teaching, learning, and program improvement;
     Determinations of school effectiveness;
     Determinations of principal and teacher effectiveness in 
order to inform evaluation and the provision of support to teachers and 
principals; and
     Determinations of individual student college- and career-
readiness, such as determinations made for high school exit decisions, 
college course placement in credit-bearing classes, or college 
entrance.

Design of Assessment Systems--Required Characteristics

    With respect to the design of the assessment system, the Department 
would likely require that the assessments, at a minimum, meet the 
following characteristics:
    (1) Reflect and support good instructional practice by eliciting 
complex responses and demonstrations of knowledge and skills consistent 
with the goal of being college and career ready by the time of high 
school completion;
    (2) Be accessible to the broadest possible range of students, with 
appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities and English 
language learners;
    (3) Contain varied and unpredictable item types and content 
sampling, so as not to create incentives for inappropriate test 
preparation and curriculum narrowing;
    (4) Produce results that can be aggregated at the classroom, 
school, local educational agency (LEA), and State levels;
    (5) Produce reports that are relevant, actionable, timely, 
accurate, and displayed in ways that are clear and understandable for 
target audiences, including teachers, students and their families, 
schools, LEAs, communities, States, institutions of higher education, 
policymakers, researchers, and others;
    (6) Make effective and appropriate use of technology;
    (7) Be valid, reliable, and fair;
    (8) Be appropriately secure for the intended purposes;
    (9) Have the fastest possible turnaround time on scoring, without 
forcing the use of lower-quality assessment items; and
    (10) Be able to be maintained, administered, and scored at a cost 
that is sustainable over time.

Design of Assessment Systems--Desired Characteristics

    In addition, the Department is particularly interested in 
assessment systems in which--
    (1) Teachers are involved in scoring of constructed responses and 
performance tasks in order to measure effectively students' mastery of 
higher-order content and skills and to build teacher expertise and 
understanding of performance expectations;
    (2) The assessment approach can be easily adapted to include 
summative assessments in other content areas (e.g., science, social 
studies) in the future;
    (3) The technology ``platform'' created for summative assessments 
supports assessment and item development, administration, scoring, and 
reporting that increases the quality and cost-effectiveness of 
assessments; and
    (4) The technology infrastructure created for summative assessments 
can be easily adapted to support practitioners and professionals in the 
development, administration, and/or scoring of high-quality interim 
assessments.\1\
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    \1\ Consistent with section 14006(c) of ARRA, the October 23, 
2009 Federal Register notice announcing the initial public meetings 
for the assessment competition stated that at least 50 percent of 
any award under this competition would have to be provided to local 
educational agencies through sub-grants (74 FR 54796). However, 
section 310(2) of the Department of Education Appropriations Act, 
2010 amended ARRA to make this requirement not apply to ``grants 
made by the Secretary to consortia of States to develop academic 
assessments that are aligned with academic standards.'' Therefore, 
the requirement that 50 percent of the funds must be sub-granted to 
LEAs does not apply to this assessment competition.
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    Additional Questions for Input:
    The specific additional questions on which the Department seeks 
input are listed below. All input, including expert presentations and 
discussions, public input, and written submissions, should focus 
primarily on responding to these questions in the context of the 
framework outlined above, and may also provide input on the framework 
itself. We encourage you to make your input as specific as possible, to 
provide

[[Page 69084]]

evidence to support your proposals and answers, and to present the 
information in a context and format that will be helpful to States 
implementing high-quality assessments. These additional questions focus 
on the topics of project and consortium management, procurement, and 
general and technical assessment matters.
    To ensure that your input is fully considered in the development of 
the notice inviting applications, we urge you to identify clearly the 
specific question, purpose, or characteristic that you are addressing, 
and to arrange your input in the order of the questions as they are 
listed in this notice.

Project and Consortium Management Questions

    1. How would you recommend organizing a consortium to achieve 
success in developing and implementing the proposed assessment system?
    a. What governance model do you suggest and why? What leadership 
model do you suggest and why?
    b. What recommendations do you have on the decision-making process 
within a consortium?
    c. What recommendations do you have for States that are organizing 
consortia regarding:
     how to differentiate roles, responsibilities, and 
workloads within a consortium?
     roles for third parties (e.g., conveners, project 
managers, assessment developers/partners, intermediaries)?
    d. What advice do you have on the characteristics that all 
consortium members must have in common in order for a consortium to be 
successful, and what characteristics can vary across member States, 
e.g., philosophical approaches to assessment, standards, scope and 
sequence, etc.?
    2. What would you recommend that a consortium be asked to 
demonstrate in its application to show that it has the capacity, 
structure, and potential to implement its proposed plan? What are the 
critical success indicators six, 12 and 18 months into the life of a 
consortium? What signals are predictive of ultimate success or failure?
    3. What could go wrong in the development and management of a 
consortium and what can States do to mitigate these factors up front? 
In what ways could the Department structure the competition to help 
mitigate these factors?

Procurement Questions

    1. How do differences in State procurement rules affect how you 
would design and manage a consortium? How will State procurement 
regulations, processes and time frames likely affect how a consortium 
carries out the development, piloting, and implementation of common 
assessments? (You may use examples from outside the education sector, 
if relevant.)
    2. States have expressed interest in acquiring information about, 
and input and ideas from, potential assessment partners/vendors in 
advance of completing their applications. What actions, if any, would 
you advise the Department to take to help facilitate this?
    3. States expressed a desire to run competitive (as opposed to 
sole-sourced) processes for selecting partners/vendors. How would you 
advise the Department to structure the application to enable States to 
do so? What other ideas would you offer in designing a process that is 
flexible enough to accommodate other challenges that States might 
encounter over time (e.g., challenges related to partner/vendor 
selection or contract change management)?

General and Technical Assessment Questions

    The Department continues to synthesize input received in response 
to the October 23 notice of public input meetings. Approximately two 
weeks in advance of the January 20 meeting on this topic, the 
Department intends to publish via our website 
(http://www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/resources.html) 
a list of general and 
technical assessment questions on which further input is requested.
    Accessible Format: Individuals with disabilities can obtain this 
document in an accessible format (e.g., braille, large print, 
audiotape, or computer diskette) on request to the program contact 
person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.
    Electronic Access to This Document: You can view this document, as 
well as all other documents of this Department published in the Federal 
Register, in text or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) on the 
Internet at the following site: http://www.ed.gov/news/fedregister.
    To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available 
free at this site. If you have questions about using PDF, call the U.S. 
Government Printing Office (GPO), toll free, at 1-888-293-6498; or in 
the Washington, DC, area at (202) 512-1530.

    Note:  The official version of this document is the document 
published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the 
official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal 
Regulations is available on GPO Access at: 
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/nara/index.html.


    Dated: December 24, 2009.
Arne Duncan,
Secretary of Education.
[FR Doc. E9-30975 Filed 12-28-09; 11:15 am]

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