New State Tests Coming to Schools

 
Standardized tests, the focus of many teachers' complaints, are getting a makeover.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced Thursday that two groups of states had been awarded $330 million to work with experts to come up with better ways of assessing students' proficiency on the common math and English standards that about 40 states have already adopted. The goal, Duncan said, is to have new tests ready for states to adopt by the 2014-2015 school year, according to The New York Times .

The tests will be computerized and, unlike current testing regimes, will be administered throughout the year to give educators a better idea of a student's progress. The new standardized tests could do away with the patchwork of state tests currently in place.

The first group consists of 25 states and the District of Columbia. It will receive $170 million. The second group includes 31 states will receive $160 million. The idea is for the groups to engage in a "friendly competition" to write the best tests, according to The Times. A dozen states are in both groups.

Over the past decade, standardized tests have become increasingly prominent in schools. Since the No Child Left Behind act became law in 2002, states have had to use tests to measure the performance of students, schools and school districts. The law called for sanctions to be placed on schools that consistently perform poorly on the state tests. Education advocates have criticized the tests, saying they don't adequately measure how much children are learning.

Duncan's announcement has already stirred up political opposition in states with hotly-contested campaigns. In Massachusetts, Republican gubernatorial candidates have accused incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, of trying to dump the state's established academic tests and turning too much power over the state's schools to Washington, according to The Boston Globe .

"Massachusetts should not be handing over the keys to its education system to the federal government, and with Charlie Baker as governor, we won't," said a spokesman for Baker, a GOP candidate.

Independent candidate Timothy Cahill said: "The Patrick administration is making its friends in Washington a higher priority than the future of our children."

 
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