DOE to spend millions of dollars on new local assessments, starting in preK?


The DOE released a new set of RFP’s to testing companies to develop yet another set of “local assessments” to be given starting next year. [Apparently the 408 assessments bid out in July did not result in any contracts.] The bids are due April 23.  The announcement says that 24 contracts could result, for God knows how many millions of dollars.   
It is unclear how many local assessments will result from all these new contracts, but probably hundreds over three years. There are 23 testing “components” in all; with each component involving a "grade span" and a content area, and 40 items in each test, probably to be taken on computers, which will involve yet more millions to buy.    
The DOE is pitching this new set of RFP’s to provide new sets of  “diagnostic” and “interim” assessments, but the only required part of the RFP is “end of course” exams, which is very difficult to argue is “diagnostic” since there will be varying amounts of summer learning loss for different students.  “Diagnostic” for what?  Next year’s exams?
In all, the RFP’s arouse suspicion that the DOE’s intention is to use them as more high-stakes tests, most probably as the “locally developed” portion of the new statewide teacher evaluation system, though the UFT has not agreed to this.  They can certainly be used for high-stakes decision-making as regards school closures and progress reports.  And there is little doubt that they will take hours more away from instruction, real learning, and important subjects like art, music etc.
The RFPs ask for ”end of course” tests, to be taken in all grades 3-12  in literacy and math, as well as science in grades 6-8.  Mandatory “task assessments” will be required for literacy and math in these same grades, plus preK-2ndgrade as well.  We have never had standardized tests before in grades preK to 2nd grade, as far as I know.
 
“Optional” services to be bid out include end-of-course tests in literacy and math in 2nd grade; should include social studies and science texts as well, and the RFP docs also report that the DOE intends to implement separate assessments in social studies, starting in middle school and perhaps in other grades as well.
The DOE adds that “End of Course Diagnostic assessments are machine scorable [sic] assessments that align with the PARCC end of course assessments in content, design and structure. These assessments, given once a year, are intended to provide students and teachers with formative, CCLS-aligned data in advance of the PARCC assessments they are aligned to.”  
PARCC is the multi-state consortium, including New York state, currently devising new exams to be aligned with the Common Core and implemented over the next few years.  The makers of these PARCC tests are developing at least nine new tests per year per grade.
If you have time, take a look at the RFP docs, which I have posted, and let us know what else you see there.  In any case, please leave your comments below if you think that millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars and education funds should be spent on even more tests, when our classrooms are being starved of resources, class sizes in the early grades are the largest in over a decade, and many schools are spending months on tests and test prep as it is. 

AppendixE2-Program-Plan-Narrative RFP R0911 [doc]
AppendixE1-Proposal RFP R0911 [doc]
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