State assessments grant incentivizes competency-based models

The U.S. Department of Education opened the application process for the Competitive Grants for State Assessments program, which this year will prioritize plans that use multiple measures of academic achievement and follow a competency-based model.

The CGSA program provides states an opportunity to enhance the quality of assessments and assessment systems used to measure the academic achievement of K-12 students. In choosing final grantees, the department will also be looking for state education agencies to rethink how they communicate results to parents and educators, officials said.

“The program will focus on assessment systems based on multiple measures, competency-based education, and improved reporting of assessment results to parents and educators … so members of school communities can better support how instruction is designed to meet the academic needs of children,” wrote Donald Peasley, assessment team lead in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education’s School Support & Accountability Department. “The program will allow for states to continue to use assessments to quantify the impacts the pandemic has had on our nation’s students, identify gaps which may have gotten worse, and explore ways to direct resources and funding to address those gaps and roadblocks to student achievement.”

Up to $17.7 million in grants will be awarded to between four and six state educational agencies, with estimated grant awards of up to $3 million per grantee to be used over a period of up to four years.

State educational agencies (or a consortium of state educational agencies) are invited to submit applications that develop or implement:

1) assessment systems that use multiple measures of academic achievement; or

2) comprehensive academic assessments that emphasize the mastery of standards and aligned competencies in a competency-based education model.

Additionally, proposed grant activities must fit into one or more of the following categories:

  1. Developing or improving assessments for English learners, including assessments of English language proficiency and academic assessments in languages other than English.
  2. Developing or improving models to measure and assess student progress or student growth on state assessments and other assessments not required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
  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, and using the principles of universal design for learning.
  4. Allowing for collaboration with institutions of higher education, 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.
  5. Measuring student academic achievement using multiple measures of student academic achievement from multiple sources.
  6. Evaluating student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment instruments that emphasize the mastery of standards and aligned competencies in a competency-based education model. These can include performance and technology-based academic assessments, computer adaptive assessments, projects or extended performance task assessments.

Grant applications are due April 18, with awards to be made by September 2022.

The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education will conduct a webinar for potential applicants in the coming weeks. Registration information for the webinar, the application for this grant program, and additional information about the Competitive Grants for State Assessments program is available here.