Federal Grants

ED Invites Applications from States to Support Innovation in Assessment Systems

$17.7M To Be Awarded; Deadline To Apply is April 18

The U.S. Department of Education has opened the application period for its Competitive Grants for State Assessments program designed to improve assessment systems to “better reflect the needs and experiences of our nation’s students and communities,” according to the ED website.

The program will award up to $17.7 million in grants to four to six state educational agencies, with estimated awards of up to $3 million per grantee, the department said; the funds are to be used over a period of up to four years. Applicants should illustrate planned enhancements to assessment systems based on multiple measures, competency-based education, and improved reporting of assessment results to parents and educators, explained ED’s Assessment Team Lead Donald Peasley in a recent blog post.

“The Department of Education is proud that in just one year, we have returned to pre-pandemic levels of schools being open. We are seeing students every day interacting with their teachers, peers, and school staff, receiving the academic and mental health supports they need to recover,” Peasley wrote. “And while this pandemic has underscored just how important it is for our students to be receiving in-person instruction to ensure all students are receiving high-quality, equitable education, it also has made clearer the gaps in our education system — and presented an opportunity for us to recover stronger than we were before.”

The State Assessments grant program is intended to help states quantify the pandemic’s impacts on students, identify learning gaps, and explore new ways to address those gaps. “The program will also allow the department to identify, lift up, and help scale innovative approaches to assessments that advance teaching and learning that can better meet the needs of our evolving education system,” ED’s website says.

State educational agencies (or a consortium of state educational agencies) are eligibly to apply.

Applications must include proposals that advance one or both of the following goals:

  1. Develop or implement assessment systems that use multiple measures of academic achievement
  2. Develop or implement comprehensive academic assessments that emphasize the mastery of standards and aligned competencies in a competency-based education model.

Eligible applicants awarded a grant under this program must propose activities that fit one or more of the following categories, according to the ED website:

  • Develop or improve assessments for English learners, including assessments of English language proficiency as required under ESEA section 1111(b)(2)(G) and academic assessments in languages other than English to meet the State’s obligations under ESEA section 1111(b)(2)(F).
  • Develop or improve models to measure and assess student progress or student growth on State assessments under ESEA section 1111(b)(2) and other assessments not required under ESEA section 1111(b)(2).
  • Develop or improve assessments for children with disabilities, including alternate assessments aligned to alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities described in ESEA section 1111(b)(2)(D), and using the principles of universal design for learning.
  • Allow 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 ESEA section 1111(b)(2).
  • Measure student academic achievement using multiple measures of student academic achievement from multiple sources.
  • Evaluate 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.

The program also includes a competitive priority for improving how assessment results are reported to parents and educators, so members of school communities can better support how instruction is designed to meet the academic needs of children, Peasley said.

Applications are due on April 18, 2022; awards will be made by September 2022.

Officials from the ED Office of Elementary and Secondary Education have posted on the grant website a webinar presentation to assist applicants, and additional tips for building a successful application are available on the program’s Resources page.

Learn more about the Competitive Grants for State Assessments program on the applicant information page.

About the Author

Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].