Race to the Top (RTT) is a $4.35 billion United States Department of Education contest for all 50 states and DC created to spur innovation and reforms in state and local district K-12 education.
Arne Duncan, previous CEO of Chicago schools who changes the school systems in Chicago and the current US Secretary of Education was the person behind the idea and implementation. His idea was to bring the students in US at par with other countries that have advanced Math programs like Korea, China, India, Japan etc. President Obama backed it under the ARRA act of 2009.
The idea was to award money to various states who submitted applications showcasing better curriculum, assessment methodology, performance-based standards, implementing common core curriculum, turning around the lowest-performing schools, and building data systems. Points were awarded for each of the criteria and the state getting maximum points of a possible 500 wins the money! As simple as that.
What the program did though was unify states and expedite the process to adopt the common core curriculum. Get more information 48 states adopted the common core by the August 2010 deadline.
12 states won the Race to the Top competition and were awarded the money with NY and FL getting the maximum $700 mn each.
Now the states won the money to implement better methodology, implementing common core curriculum, turning around schools, rewarding parents etc. Now, the next logical step was the assessment, how to ensure all the students across the country are tested at the same level and are tested with 21st century skills, real time application testing. So the federal government under the RTT awarded money to 2 consortiums.
PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) http://www.parcconline.org/ had 23 states – DC and Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. This consortium was awarded $170 million (Award Letter) would develop next generation assessment tests that would replace all existing assessments in these states and use the PARCC assessment. The PARCC assessment would be done twice a year – mid-year and end of the year assessment. They will start with a pilot of 1 million students in spring 2014 and have all the other 22 million students using PARCC by the academic year 2014-15. The tests would be governed either on computers or by print for the initial 2 years and then completely online.
SMARTER Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) http://www.smarterbalanced.org/ – was another consortium of 22 states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and they were awarded $160 mn (Award letter). They decided to take a different approach with a computer based adaptive test rather than just assessment to ensure the questions get difficult if the student is getting them right and vice-versa.
For both the assessments – A web-based Consortium platform will be developed to manage assessment data and provide sophisticated data reporting and analysis tools for customized reports.
So no matter what state or school you belong to – the coming school year – be prepared for computer based test which will test the students application/cognitive skills rather than having bubble based simple multiple choice questions. 21st century – here we come!