Grant to connect student testing with 21st century skills

Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced a $1.1 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation that will support the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and the Commonwealth’s schools in an effort to align student testing with the skills and experience needed for success in the new Virginia economy.

virginiaThese performance-based assessments are an innovative measure that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge through hands-on experience while employing critical thinking and communication skills across one or more subject areas.

“Early in my administration, we eliminated 5 SOL tests for elementary and middle schools, giving educators the freedom to use alternative assessments with their students,” Governor McAuliffe said. “This grant supports that effort by providing technical assistance to teachers and administrators as they develop tools and resources to assess their student’s abilities to think critically and solve problems – skills that will ultimately help those students succeed in the new Virginia economy.”

Over the next two years, the grant will provide regional and statewide professional development opportunities for school division leaders, teachers and administrators. It will also support the development of research-backed tools and templates that school divisions can use to create their own performance assessments.

“Over the past three and a half years, we have been focused on ensuring public education is relevant for the 21stcentury,” Secretary of Education Dietra Trent said. “Through this grant, we will better align how we measure student knowledge and skills with the needs of higher education and businesses.”

“This grant represents an opportunity for Virginia to become a national leader in the creation of balancedassessments systems that include performance-based assessments,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Steven Staples said. “Performance assessments are another means to challenge students to think creatively, collaborate and solve problems as they acquire a deeper understanding of course content. These are skills that are important for successful transition to employment, the military or higher education.”

The initiative includes two private sector partners: Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit focused on broadening educational and economic opportunity; and the Stanford Center for Assessment, Language and Equity (SCALE), an affiliate of Stanford University that provides consulting services on the design and implementation of performance-based assessments.

“JFF is pleased to partner with the Virginia Department of Education and our partners at SCALE to grow the work we showcased last spring at the statewide summit on performance-based assessment,” said Rebecca E. Wolfe, senior director of Jobs for the Future’s Students at the Center initiative. “We admire the hard work and creativity of the Commonwealth’s teachers and administrators, and we look forward to partnering to ensure assessments support students and prepare them for college and the workplace.”

JFF is the grant recipient, and SCALE – in collaboration with VDOE – with develop the training, tools and templates.



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