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States Can Apply for New Federal Funding to Support Innovative Assessments through the $17.6M Competitive Grants for State Assessments Program at USED

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Maria Worthen

Issue(s): State Policy, Fund Innovation

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) is inviting states to apply for fiscal year 2019 Competitive Grants for State Assessments, a federal program that can be used by states to support innovative systems of assessments under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Competitive Grants for State Assessments program replaced the Enhanced Assessment Grants program when Congress passed ESSA.

According to the Notice Inviting Applications (NIA), the goal of the program is, “to enhance the quality of assessment instruments and assessment systems used by States for measuring the academic achievement of elementary and secondary school students.”

This program is an incredible opportunity for states looking to develop and test plans and processes on how assessment could be improved to better support individual student learning and to be a better measure of depth of learning. High-quality, innovative systems of assessments require significant and important professional development to build educator capacity. They require building processes to ensure quality through comparability, as well as reliability. Human capital investments are essential during planning, getting started and throughout implementing new systems.

States trying to implement innovative systems of assessments may apply for funding under the grants program. According to the NIA, USED expects to make four to eight awards of $1 million to $4 million over a 48-month project period, with a total of $17,622,000 available. Eligible applicants for this competition are state educational agencies (SEAs).

SEAs submitting applications must meet one or more of the following six absolute priorities:

  • Absolute Priority 1: Developing or improving assessments for English learners, including assessments of English language proficiency as required under section 1111(b)(2)(G) of the ESEA and academic assessments in languages other than English to meet the State’s obligations under section 1111(b)(2)(F) of the ESEA.
  • Absolute Priority 2: Developing or improving models to measure and assess student progress or student growth on State assessments under section 1111(b)(2) of the ESEA and other assessments not required under section 1111(b)(2) of the ESEA.
  • Absolute Priority 3: Developing or improving assessments for children with disabilities, including alternate assessments aligned to alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities described in section 1111(b)(2)(D) of the ESEA, and using the principles of universal design for learning.
  • Absolute Priority 4: Allowing for collaboration with institutions of higher education, other research institutions, or other organizations to improve the quality, validity, and reliability of State academic assessments beyond the requirements for such assessments described in section 1111(b)(2) of the ESEA.
  • Absolute Priority 5: Measuring student academic achievement using multiple measures of student academic achievement from multiple sources.
  • Absolute Priority 6: Evaluating student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment instruments (such as performance and technology-based academic assessments, computer adaptive assessments, projects, or extended performance task assessments) that emphasize the mastery of standards and aligned competencies in a competency-based education model.

States may submit an optional, non-binding Notice of Intent To Apply by February 27, 2019. The final deadline to submit applications is March 29, 2019.

For more information and to apply, see the Federal Register Notice: Applications for New Awards; Competitive Grants for State Assessments Program.

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Maria Worthen is iNACOL’s Vice President for Federal and State Policy.