If statewide content standards are political sausage, and voluntary national standards are political foot-longs, then national tests are probably a political 250-foot “Monterrey monster dog.” As we and others have pointed out, standards are only as good as their accompanying assessments--and a bunch more that follows. That applies to the Common Core Standards Initiative, too. And with $350 million of Race to the Top money earmarked for the development of said tests, we might as well start with the basics: Will they replace the high-stakes statewide tests used for NCLB and statewide accountability? Will they provide diagnostic information for teachers to assess student learning throughout the course of a year? Or perhaps both? Should there be just one national test, or many? To this end, should the Department fund one project or several, intending the best to rise above the others? And most importantly, how will they synch up with the not-yet-finalized standards? Figuring how where and how to spend those 350 million smackeroos on this effort is going to take some careful thinking. We’re readying our 170-foot ketchup bottle for the hot-dog-eating contest. Expect mustard and relish soon.

Funding for Common Assessments Poses Challenges,” by Steven Sawchuk, Education Week, November 13, 2009 (subscription required)

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