September 3, 2010

Consortium wins grant for testing

The group of 31 states led by Susan Gendron gets $160 million to remake standardized testing.

By MATTHEW STONE Kennebec Journal

A consortium of 31 states led by Susan Gendron, Maine's former education commissioner, has won a $160 million federal award to remake standardized testing, the U.S. Department of Education said Thursday.

The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, of which Maine is a member, won a portion of $350 million in federal funds allocated to bankroll the development of new standardized tests for students.

The award came as part of the federal Race to the Top education competition, which awarded $4 billion to states to support education reforms.

The SMARTER group was one of two to win Race to the Top testing awards. The other winning consortium, which claimed $170 million, has 26 member states including California, Florida and Massachusetts.

The Race to the Top testing competition drew three applicants. The losing application came from a 12-state consortium that proposed tests specific to the high school level. Maine was a member of that group, as well as the SMARTER Consortium, according to the Department of Education.

Both winning groups' tests are to be based on the new Common Core academic standards that more than 30 states have adopted. Maine has taken the first steps toward adopting Common Core, but state legislators will have the final say when they reconvene in the winter. The Department of Education says the new tests should be ready in time for the 2014-15 school year.

Gendron, a former Windham school superintendent, was commissioner of education under Gov. John Baldacci for seven years. She left the department in April.


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