Press Release

AFT Statement On ‘Race to the Top’ Grants To Improve Student Assessments

For Release: 

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Tom Lansworth

The U.S, Department of Education today announced it has awarded grants to two consortia of states to develop a new generation of student assessments. The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers will receive $170 million, and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium will receive $160 million. Together the two groups include 44 states and the District of Columbia.

WASHINGTON—We applaud today’s announcement. These grants take a solid step toward developing better assessments of student achievement. This is a welcome move away from single high-stakes tests—a move that will better inform teaching and learning.

A high-quality public education system has many building blocks. One of those is quality assessments tied to common standards. Tests must be aligned with what kids need to know to succeed in the 21st century. Former AFT member Albert Einstein once wisely noted: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

A single test at the end of the year becomes an unhelpful single focus for teachers and students. Quality assessments given throughout the school year are tools that will help both teachers and students. The new approach funded today promises to develop multiple interim assessments—a change that should be embraced by educators, parents, students and the public. But it’s important to remember that even the best test is not enough to make an education; much more is required.

It will be crucial to involve teachers as these new assessment models are developed. The voice from the classroom must be included for this effort to succeed in our schools.

As we said in our recommendations to the Department of Education Race to the Top Assessments Program last December, “When used correctly, assessments provide useful feedback about student learning and can guide the system to ensure that schools, teachers and staff get the information they need to help all students meet academic expectations.”

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.