FR Doc 2010-31881
[Federal Register: December 20, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 243)]
[Notices]               
[Page 79354-79358]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr20de10-921]                                  

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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

 
Assessment Technology Standards Request for Information (RFI)

AGENCY: Office of Innovation and Improvement, U.S. Department of 
Education.

ACTION: Notice of request for information to gather technical expertise 
pertaining to assessment technology standards.

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SUMMARY: The purpose of this RFI is to collect information relating to 
assessment technology standards. Toward that end, we are posing a 
series of questions to which we invite interested members of the public 
to respond. The Department anticipates making use of this information 
in the following ways. First of all, we expect to use this information 
to help determine the appropriate interoperability standards for 
assessments and related work developed under the Race to the Top 
Assessment (RTTA) program. Secondly, we expect to use this information 
to help us develop related standards-based programs. For example, we 
might, in the future, offer additional grants, contracts, or awards and 
some of those offerings may include similar interoperability 
requirements. This RFI may be used to help set the interoperability 
requirements for those offerings as well as the existing RTTA program.
    Under the RTTA program, the Department requires grantees to develop 
assessments that (see 
http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/executive-summary.pdf, 
p. 78):
    ``5. Maximize the interoperability of assessments across technology 
platforms and the ability for States to switch their assessments from 
one technology platform to another by--
    (a) Developing all assessment items to an industry-recognized open-
licensed interoperability standard that is approved by the Department 
during the grant period, without non-standard extensions or additions; 
and
    (b) Producing all student-level data in a manner consistent with an 
industry-recognized open-licensed interoperability standard that is 
approved by the Department during the grant period.''

DATES: Written submissions must be received by the Department on or 
before 5 p.m., Washington, DC time, on January 17, 2011.

ADDRESSES: We encourage submissions by e-mail using the following 
address: RTTA-RFI@ed.gov. You must include the term ``Assessment RFI 
response'' in the subject line of your e-mail. If you prefer to send 
your input by mail or hand delivery, address it to Steve Midgley, 
Office of Educational Technology, Attention: Assessment RFI, U.S. 
Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Room 7E202, 
Washington, DC 20202-0001.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Midgley, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Room 7E202, Washington, DC 20202-
0001 by phone at 202-453-6381 or e-mail at RTTA-RFI@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:

1. Introduction

    The Department is seeking information on technology standards that 
may be applied to the management and delivery of education-related 
assessments, as well as those that may be applied to the capture and 
reporting of assessment results within distributed online learning 
environments (i.e. learning environments with components managed by 
more than one organization). THIS IS A REQUEST FOR INFORMATION (RFI) 
ONLY. This document uses the term ``technology standards'' to refer to 
assessment technology standards, specifications, technical approaches 
and implementations, and any other functional or formal descriptions of 
technical functionality. (Note: This document refers to curricular or 
content standards specifically as ``curricular standards.'') 
Information about non-assessment technology standards and related 
issues may be relevant and included in responses, but this RFI is 
specifically inquiring into technology standards related to assessments 
of learning. For the purpose of this RFI, the Department does not 
distinguish between technology specifications and technology standards 
produced by consortia, other groups, or nationally or internationally 
recognized technology standards development organizations.
    This RFI is issued solely for information and planning purposes and 
does not constitute a Request for Proposals (RFP) or a promise to issue 
an RFP or notice inviting applications (NIA). This request for 
information does not commit the Department to contract for any supply 
or service whatsoever. Further, the Department is not at this time 
seeking proposals and will not accept unsolicited proposals. Responders 
are advised that the Department will not pay for any information or 
administrative costs that a person or entity may incur in responding to 
this RFI. All costs associated with responding to this RFI will be 
solely at the interested party's expense. Not responding to this RFI 
will not preclude individuals or organizations from applying under 
future contract or grant competition. If the Department issues an RFP 
or NIA, it will be posted on the Federal Business Opportunities 
(https://www.fbo.gov/) Web site (in the case of contracts) or the 
Federal Register (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/) Web site (in the case 
of grants, or other awards). It is the responsibility of the potential 
offerors to monitor these sites to determine whether the Department 
issues an RFP or NIA after considering the information received in 
response to this RFI. Any company or industry proprietary information 
contained in responses should be clearly marked as such, by paragraph, 
such that publicly releasable

[[Page 79355]]

information and proprietary information are clearly distinguished. Any 
clearly marked proprietary information received in response to this 
request will be properly protected from unauthorized disclosure. The 
Department will not use proprietary information submitted from any one 
source to establish the capability and requirements for any future 
acquisition or grant competition so as not to inadvertently restrict 
competition. The Department may publicly release or use any or all 
materials submitted which are not so marked.
    The documents and information submitted in response to this RFI 
become the property of the U.S. Government and will not be returned.

2. Background

    The Department is investigating open technology standards and 
specifications to support the interoperable delivery (that is, delivery 
in a way that allows effective use across multiple systems or 
components) of State- or locally selected content and assessments for 
purposes of education and training when conducted via online learning 
platforms. As a part of this effort, the Department is investigating 
the availability and current practice of open technology standards and 
innovative technologies to support management, delivery, and exchange 
of assessment content, and the capture and reporting of assessment 
results.
    Existing technologies may serve as the basis for the creation of 
new open technology standards and specifications, if implementation 
details related to these technologies can be disclosed and provided 
without restriction for technical standardization or use. We expect 
that applicable open technology standards and specifications will be 
combined with other technology standards, current or to be developed, 
providing the assessment capabilities for online learning platforms 
that will support the next generation of technology for learning 
content. Therefore, this RFI seeks information on a range of solutions 
and approaches to standardization of assessment via technology, 
including deployment, collection and reporting solutions, techniques, 
and technology standards.
    It is possible that RTTA grantees will be able to use one or more 
existing technology standards, or it may be that additional development 
work will be required to obtain sufficiently complete technology 
standards for the program. It is also possible that one or more 
existing technology standards are suitable but are not licensed in a 
way that will permit free and open use by the public. Through this RFI, 
the Department seeks to uncover and gather information on how to 
resolve as many of these issues as possible.
    The Department may engage in additional work to address these 
issues at the conclusion of its analysis of the responses to this RFI.
    There are numerous efforts underway across the Department that can 
benefit from assessment technology standardization of assessment 
content, results, and reporting interoperability. For example, the 
Department is providing significant funding for the development of 
``next- generation'' assessment systems via the RTTA program (see 
http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-8176.pdf; 
http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/index.html). In order 
to promote technological innovation and market competition, the Department 
has specified that all assessment content developed under this program 
be developed using an ``industry recognized open-licensed 
interoperability standard'' that is approved by the Department. The 
assessment content developed under the program must also be made freely 
available to any State, technology platform provider, or others that 
request it for purposes of administering assessments (consistent with 
test security and protection requirements). Moreover, the standards and 
technology for controlling sensitive data (assessment results and 
related information) must also maintain the privacy of any individually 
identifiable information while permitting secure interchange among 
authorized systems. The Department intends that these requirements, 
taken as a whole, give States the flexibility to switch from one 
technology platform to another, allowing multiple providers to compete 
for States' business and for States to make better decisions about cost 
and value. Use of technology standards that meet these requirements 
will help ensure that public investments in assessment instruments and 
related technology can be used in the education sector as broadly as 
possible and, at the same time, contribute to a competitive and 
innovative market place.
    Through this notice, the Department solicits advice, technical 
information, additional questions (that is, questions in addition to 
those put forward later in this notice), and other input as to how the 
Department can select the best available technology standard(s) for the 
RTTA program, as well as general information related to assessment 
technology standards and technology and policy.

3. Context for Responses

    3.1 The primary intent of this RFI is to explore existing, in-
process, or planned open technology standards, specifications, and 
technology products that support the management, delivery, and exchange 
of assessment content and the capture and exchange of assessment 
results. While the focus of this RFI is assessment technology 
standards, the Department recognizes that assessment generally occurs 
within the context of broader learning activities (whether online or 
offline) and, therefore, does not wish to restrict the range of 
responses to assessment-only approaches. The Department, therefore, 
also welcomes responses that address broader technology standards or 
approaches that are relevant to the handling of assessment management, 
delivery, or reporting. As mentioned earlier, the Department has 
required RTTA grantees to adopt a technical standard (or standards) 
that permit interoperability of the assessments and technology 
developed by that program. To help focus our consideration of the 
comments provided in the response to this RFI, we have developed 
several questions regarding the development of assessment technology 
standard(s) and their application to the RTTA program. Because these 
questions are only a guide to help us better understand the issues 
related to the development of interoperable technology standards for 
assessments, respondents do not have to respond to any specific 
question. Commenters responding to this RFI may provide comments in a 
format that is convenient to them.

3.2 Questions About Assessment Technology Standards

General and Market Questions
    3.2.1 Current Landscape. What are the dominant or significant 
assessment technology standards and platforms (including technologies 
and approaches for assessment management, delivery, reporting, or other 
assessment interoperability capabilities)? What is the approximate 
market penetration of the major, widely adopted solutions? To what 
degree is there significant regional, educational sub-sector, or 
international diversity or commonality regarding the adoption of 
various technology standards and capabilities, if any?
    3.2.2 Timelines. Approximately how long would it take for 
technology standards setting and adoption processes to obtain a 
technology standard that meets many or all of the features or 
requirements described in this RFI? What are the significant factors 
that would affect the length of that

[[Page 79356]]

timeline, and how can the impact of those factors be mitigated? More 
specifically, would the acquisition of existing intellectual property 
(IP), reduction or simplification of specific requirements, or other 
strategies reduce the time required to develop these technology 
standards and processes?
    3.2.3 Process. What process or processes are appropriate for the 
adoption, modification, or design of the most effective technology 
standard in a manner that would answer many or all of the questions in 
this RFI? We are interested in learning the extent to which the uses of 
one or another process would affect the timeline required to develop 
the technology standards.
    3.2.4 Intellectual Property. What are the potential benefits and 
costs to the Federal Government, States, and other end-users of 
different IP restrictions or permissions that could be applied to 
technology standards and specifications? Which types of licensed or 
open IP (e.g., all rights reserved, MIT Open License, or Gnu Public 
License) should be considered as a government technology standard? How 
should openness relating to the IP of technology standards be defined 
and categorized (e.g., Open Source Initiative-compatible license, free 
to use but not modify, non-commercial use only, or proprietary)
    3.2.4.1 Existing Intellectual Property. What are the IP licenses 
and policies of existing assessment technology standards, 
specifications, and development and maintenance policies? Are the 
documents, processes, and procedures related to these IP licenses and 
policies publicly available, and how could the Department obtain them?
    3.2.5 Customizing. Can assessment tools developed under existing 
technology standards be customized, adapted, or enhanced for the use of 
specific communities of learning without conflicting with the 
technology standard under which a particular assessment tool was 
developed? Which technology standards provide the greatest flexibility 
in permitting adaption or other enhancement to meet the needs of 
different educational communities? What specific provisions in existing 
technology standards would tend to limit flexibility to adapt or 
enhance assessment tools? How easy would it be to amend existing 
technology standards to offer more flexibility to adapt and enhance 
assessment tools to meet the needs of various communities? Do final 
technology standards publications include flexible IP rights that 
enable and permit such customizations? What are the risks and the 
benefits of permitting such customization within technology standards? 
When would it make sense to prevent or to enable customization?
    3.2.6 Conformance and Testing. Do existing technology standards or 
technologies include specifications or testing procedures that can be 
used to verify that a new product, such as an assessment tool, meets 
the technology standards under which it was developed? What 
specifications or testing procedures exist for this purpose, e.g., 
software testing suites, detailed specification descriptions, or other 
verification methods? Are these verification procedures included in the 
costs of the technology standards, or provided on a free or fee-basis, 
or provided on some combination of bases?
    3.2.7 Best Practices. What are best practices related to the design 
and use of assessment interoperability technology standards? Where have 
these best practices been adopted, and what are the general lessons 
learned from those adoptions? How might such best practices be 
effectively used in the future?
Technological Questions Regarding Assessment Technology Standards
    3.2.8 Interoperable Assessment Instruments. What techniques, such 
as educational markup or assessment markup languages (see also 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markup_language), exist to describe, 
package, exchange, and deliver interoperable assessments? How do technology 
standards include assessments in packaged or structured formats? How 
can technology standards enable interoperable use with resources for 
learning content? How can technology standards permit assessment 
instruments and items to be exchanged between and used by different 
assessment technology systems?
    3.2.9 Assessment Protection. For this RFI, ``Assessment 
Protection'' means keeping assessment instruments and items 
sufficiently controlled to ensure that their application yields valid 
results. (See also paragraph below, ``Results Validity.'') When 
assessment instruments or content are re-used or shared across 
organizations or publicly, are there capabilities or strategies in the 
technology standards to assist in item or instrument protection? What 
mechanisms or processes exist to ensure that assessment results are 
accurate and free from tampering? Do examples exist of public or semi-
public assessment repositories that can provide valid tests or 
assessments while still sharing assessment items broadly?
    3.2.10 Security and Access. In what ways do technology standards 
provide for core security issues, such as access logging, encryption, 
access levels, and inter-system single-sign-on capabilities (i.e., one 
login for systems managed by different organizations)?
    3.2.11 Results Validity. For this RFI, ``Results Validity'' means 
protecting the statistical validity and reliability of assessment 
instruments and items. How can interoperable instruments be managed to 
ensure they are administered in a way that ensures valid results? Are 
solutions regarding assurance or management of validity appropriate for 
inclusion in technology standards, or should they be addressed by the 
communities that would use the technology standards to develop specific 
assessments?
    3.2.12 Results Capture. How can technology standards accurately 
link individual learners, their assessment results, the systems where 
they take their assessments, and the systems where they view their 
results? How do technology standards accurately make these linkages 
when assessments, content, and other data reside across numerous, 
distinct learning and curriculum management systems, sometimes 
maintained by different organizations?
    3.2.13 Results Privacy. How do technology standards enable 
assessment results for individual learners to be kept private, 
especially as assessments results are transferred across numerous, 
distinct learning systems? How can such results best be shared securely 
over a distributed set of systems managed by independent organizations 
that are authorized to receive the data, while still maintaining 
privacy from unauthorized access?
    3.2.14 Anonymization. Do technology standards or technologies 
permit or enable anonymization of assessment results for research or 
data exchange and reporting? How do various technology standards 
accomplish these tasks? For example, where a number of students take a 
test, can their answers be anonymized (through aggregation or other 
techniques) and shared with researchers to examine factors related to 
the assessment (e.g., instructional inputs, curriculum, materials, 
validity of the instrument itself) without revealing the identity of 
the learners? Is this an area where technology standards can help?
    3.2.15 Scoring and Analysis of Results. How can technology 
standards be used for the scoring, capture, recording, analysis or 
evaluation of assessment results?

[[Page 79357]]

    3.2.15.1 Results Aggregation and Reporting. How can technology 
standards enable assessment results to be aggregated into statistical 
or other groupings? How can technology standards provide capabilities 
for results (aggregated or raw) to be reported across multiple 
technology systems? For example, if a learner takes an assessment in 
one system, but the results are to be displayed in another, how do 
technology standards address transferring results across those systems? 
How do technology standards address aggregation of results for a number 
of learners who are assessed in one system and whose results are 
displayed in yet another technology system? Can anonymization controls 
be included with aggregation and reporting solutions to ensure 
individual data privacy and protection (see also 3.2.14 above).
    3.2.16 Sequencing. How do technology standards enable assessment 
items stored within an assessment instrument to be sequenced for 
appropriate administration, when the assessment consists of more than a 
single linear sequence of items? For example, how do technology 
standards address computer-adaptive assessments? How are the logic 
rules that define such sequencing embedded within a technology 
standard?
    3.2.17 Computer-Driven scoring. How do technology standards permit, 
enable, or limit the ability to integrate computer-driven scoring 
systems, in particular those using ``artificial intelligence,'' 
Bayesian analysis, or other techniques beyond traditional bubble-fill 
scoring?
    3.2.18 Formative, Interim, and Summative Assessments. What 
technology and technology standards exist that support formative, 
interim, and summative assessments? What technology standards support 
non-traditional assessment methods, such as evidence, competency, and 
observation-based models?
    3.2.19 Learning and Training. What applications or technology 
standards exist that can apply assessment results to support learning 
and training? Are there technology standards or applications that 
support more than one of the following: Early learning, elementary/
secondary education, postsecondary education, job training, corporate 
training, and military training?
    3.2.20 Repositories. What technology standards-based assessment 
instruments, questions, or item banks (or repositories and learning 
management systems) are used to manage and deliver assessments?
    3.2.21 Content Lifecycle. How can technology standards be employed 
to support an assessment content lifecycle (creation, storage, edit, 
deletion, versioning, etc.)?
    3.2.22 Interfaces and Services. What interoperability 
specifications for application program interfaces (APIs) or Web 
services interfaces to assessment management, delivery and tracking 
systems have been developed? How are they organized? What are the best 
practices related to their design and usage? How broadly have they been 
adopted, and what are the lessons learned from those who have designed 
or implemented them?
    3.2.23 Internal Transparency and Ease of Use. Are there technology 
standards and communication protocol implementations that are ``human 
readable?'' What are the benefits and risks of ``human readable'' 
technology standards? Some technology standards are not comprehensible 
without tools to unpack, decode, or otherwise interpret the 
implementation data resulting from use of the technology standard. 
Other technology standards, such as HTML, RTF and XML, are largely 
readable by a reasonably sophisticated technical user. RESTful-designed 
Web services are often specifically intended to be readable by, and 
even intuitive to, such users as well. We ask commenters to consider 
the extent to which various technology standards possess native ``human 
readability'' and comprehensibility.
    3.2.24 Discovery and Search. How is the discovery of items or 
instruments (or other elements) handled within a technology standard or 
technology? For example, are there search APIs that are provided to 
permit a search? How are metadata exposed for discovery by search 
engines or others?
    3.2.25 Metadata. What kinds of metadata about assessments (i.e., 
information describing assessments) are permitted to be stored within 
technology standards or technologies? How do technology standards 
accommodate structured data (such as new State curriculum standards) 
that were not anticipated when the technology standard was designed? 
How are metadata describing unstructured (such as free-text input) and 
semi-structured data incorporated within assessment technology 
standards?
    3.2.26 Recommendation, Rating, and Review. Do technology standards 
or technologies permit rating, review, or recommendations to be 
incorporated within an item, instrument, or other element? If so, in 
what ways? How are conflicting ratings handled? Do technology standards 
or technologies permit ``reviews of reviews'' (e.g., ``thumbs up/down'' 
or ``Rate this review 1-5'')? Is the rating or review system 
centralized, or are multiple analyses of the rating data permitted by 
distributed participants?
    3.2.27 Content and Media Diversity. What types of diverse content 
types and forms of assessment content exist that extend beyond 
traditional paper-based assessments translated to an electronic 
delivery medium? We are interested in learning more about electronic 
delivery and interaction media, such as performance-based assessments, 
games, virtual worlds, mobile devices, and simulations.
    3.2.28 Accessibility. How do technology standards ensure that the 
platforms are accessible to all persons with disabilities? How can 
technology standards ensure the availability of accommodations based on 
the individual needs of persons with disabilities? What factors are 
important to consider so that accessibility capabilities can be 
included within an interoperable technology standard, both for end-
users, as well as operators, teachers, and other administrators? How 
are issues related to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) relevant to 
standards for accessible use? How can technology standards provide for, 
improve, or enhance Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act 
compliance for assessment technology?
    3.2.29 English Learners. How do technology standards ensure that 
assessment platforms support the assessment, reporting of results, and 
other capabilities related to the assessment of English learners?
    Questions about process and IP for technology standards development 
include:
    3.2.30 Transparency. How do the organizations that develop 
assessment technology standards approach development and maintenance 
activities? Is it common for such work to be performed in an 
unrestricted or open public forum? Are there examples of organizations 
conducting technology standards development through private (e.g., 
membership-driven) activities? Are the final work products produced 
through standards-development activities made publicly available in a 
timely manner? If not, when or for how long is it necessary to keep 
these products private? What circumstances require, justify, or benefit 
from protecting trade secrets or intellectual property?
    3.2.31 Participation. Does the development of assessment technology 
standards depend on membership fees from individuals and organizations 
who

[[Page 79358]]

wish to contribute to development and maintenance activities? Are there 
requirements for ``balance'' within membership across different 
constituencies? What are the cost and structure of such memberships? 
Are there viable alternative methods for generating revenue necessary 
to conduct the work? What are the most realistic and useful ways to 
generate participation, fund work, and ensure public access to a 
technology standards-setting process?
    3.2.32 Availability. What are the costs associated with final 
publication of technology standards, and with all supporting materials 
for those standards, and can these assessment products be made 
available at nominal or no cost to users? Do technology standards 
require restrictions for use or application, including limitations on 
derivation, resale, or other restrictions? Is it appropriate to obtain 
patent, copyright, or trademark protections for assessment technology 
standards? Are the publications for technology standards and materials 
provided in a machine-readable, well-defined form? Are there 
restrictions or limitations on any future application of the 
publications and materials after initial release? Are developer-
assistance materials (e.g., Document Type Definitions, test harnesses, 
code libraries, reference implementations) also made available free 
under an open-license? In what circumstances should technology 
standards-setting organizations retain rights or control, or impose 
restrictions on the use of publications, derivations, and resale or 
developer-assistance technologies, as opposed to open-licensing 
everything? When should materials be made freely available (that is, at 
no cost to the consumer) while still retaining most or all copyright 
license rights?
    3.2.33 Derivation. For technology standards, do copyright licenses 
for publications and all supporting materials and software licenses for 
software artifacts permit the unrestricted creation and dissemination 
of derivative works (a.k.a. ``open licensed'')? Do such open licenses 
contain restrictions that require publication and dissemination of such 
works in a manner consistent with the openness criteria described by, 
for example, a GNU Public License (a.k.a. ``viral licensed'') or an MIT 
Public License (a.k.a. ``academic licensed'')? Are there policies or 
license restrictions on derivative works intended to prevent re-
packaging, re-sale, or modifications without re-publication for 
assessment technology standards?
    3.2.34 Licensing Descriptions (for materials contained within the 
standard, not for the standard's licensing itself). How do technology 
standards address licensing terms for assessment resources described 
within the technology standard? Are there successful technology 
standards or approaches for describing a wide variety of license types, 
including traditional per-use licensing, Web-fulfillment, free (but 
licensed), open (but licensed, including commercial or non-commercial 
use permitted), and public domain status. Are there other resource 
licensing issues that should be addressed within a technology standard 
as a best practice?
    Accessible Format: Individuals with disabilities can obtain this 
document in an accessible format (e.g., Braille, large print, or 
audiotape) 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.


    Program Authority:  20 U.S.C. 6771.

    Dated: December 15, 2010.
James Shelton, III,
Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement.
[FR Doc. 2010-31881 Filed 12-17-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P