URI education professor to help develop English assessment for nation as part of ‘Race to Top’ grant

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 9, 2011 — Diane Kern, assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Rhode Island, has been named the state’s higher education representative to help guide the development of the national English language arts assessment system.

Kern’s work is part of two U.S. Department of Education “Race to the Top” assessment systems.

Twenty-four states are participating in the project, including Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Kern said the work is a collaboration of the state Department of Education, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education and high school teachers. Kern said that because of Rhode Island’s critical role in the process, a pilot of the assessment will be tested in the state a year from now.

In her role as the higher education English language arts representative from Rhode Island, Kern will work with university and college faculty and high school English teachers from across the country to discuss core competencies in the Common Core State Standards that are critical for students if they are to be ready for college and careers.

Funding for the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is targeted to the development of a kindergarten through grade 12 assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics. The goal of the effort is to help states dramatically increase the number of students who graduate from high school ready for college and careers.

Kern was selected based on her active engagement with the kindergarten through grade 12 reading standards here in Rhode Island as well as her work regionally and nationally with the International Reading Association. Kern was a lead author of the association’s Standards for Reading Professionals-Revised 2010.

David Byrd, director of the School of Education at URI, stated how appreciative he is to Kern for her leadership on this important national initiative on student assessment.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for states to work together to use federal funding to develop a state-of-the-art assessment program that meets the needs of students today,” said Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester, who will chair the governing board of the new consortium. “By joining forces, our states will be able to learn from one another and develop next generation assessments that monitor student achievement of the knowledge and skills necessary for success after high school.”

“I feel enormous responsibility as we undertake this three-year effort to develop an assessment system that fairly and equitably provides information to students about their college and career readiness,” said Kern, a resident of South Kingstown and native of Tiverton.

Kern, who earned all three of her degrees from URI, said the new assessment is also expected to help teachers.

“It’s very important that teachers know we are trying to reduce redundancy in testing,” Kern said. “With better data, teachers will be able to better support student achievement. We hope this helps preserve instructional time. We want our teachers teaching and using the best data available.”

The goal of the partnership is to create an assessment system that will ensure students graduate from high school ready for college or work.

The proposed assessment system will be computer-based and will measure student progress at key times during the school year, rather than on one test at the end, to allow for instructional adjustment and extra support to students who need it. To ensure college and career alignment, higher education systems and institutions in all partnership states, nearly 200 in all have signed up to help develop the new high school tests. The goal will be for those institutions and the nearly 1,000 campuses they represent to honor the results of the new assessments as an indicator of students’ readiness to take first-year, credit-bearing courses.

For more information about the partnership: http://www.achieve.org/PARCC

For more information about the IRA Standards for Reading Professionals—Revised 2010 http://www.reading.org.

South Kingstown resident Diane Kern, assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Rhode Island, reviews textbooks in URI’s Curriculum Materials Library. URI Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.