Education

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announces state part of pilot program to assess achievement, pushes ‘Freedom Scholarships’

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest host a roundtable discussion about DeVos’ “Education Freedom Scholarship” proposal.

Just ahead of her visit to Raleigh to promote her plan to establish a federal tax credit to expand school choice, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that North Carolina is one of two states chosen to take part in a pilot program to assess student achievement during the coming school year.

Georgia is the other state selected to participate in the assessment.

North Carolina and Georgia now join Louisiana and New Hampshire, which have already successfully applied to participate in the pilot.

According to a news release, North Carolina’s new innovative assessment will rely on the use of a customized, end-of-year assessment called a “route.”

The “route” will be developed in response to a student’s performance on two formative assessments taken during the school year. Each route represents a cluster of test questions designed to measure a student’s achievement accurately and efficiently.

North Carolina’s 235-page application to participate in The Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) program can be viewed here. 

Meanwhile, Georgia will pilot two different assessments. One will be based on the use of adaptive interim assessments and the other based on the use of on-demand assessments designed to provide real-time data on student performance.

Both will use technology to provide educators with data that can be used to target support during the school year.

“I’m pleased that Georgia and North Carolina are rethinking how to assess student achievement in ways that are more relevant and connected to the classroom,” DeVos said in a statement. “This pilot program gives states that are willing to try a new approach an opportunity to assess student achievement without sacrificing rigor or skirting accountability.  I look forward to seeing the impact this study will have on student outcomes.”

While in North Carolina on Wednesday, DeVos participated in a roundtable discussion co-hosted by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

DeVos said her Education Freedom Scholarship proposal would help hundreds of thousands of children attend better schools.

And during a radio interview with former governor Pat McCrory, she said the federal tax credit would give states such as North Carolina the flexibility to enhance existing school choice programs or to create new ones.

“It would provide North Carolina the opportunity to enhance some of the choice programs and some of the opportunities North Carolina has already undertaken or it could help create new programs that may help students that want to have apprenticeship opportunities or dual-enrollment opportunities, career and technical opportunities.”

Under DeVos’ plan, individuals and companies could receive a federal tax credit for awarding scholarships to students to attend private schools.

The so-called program would provide a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs.

North Carolina’s “Opportunity Scholarship” program provides vouchers of up to $4,200 for students to attend private schools.

In May, the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority, the agency which oversees the voucher program, reported that $37.7 million in vouchers had been issued this year to 9,640 recipients.

Critics of such programs contend they can lead to school segregation.

“It has the very strong possibility that by expanding the private school sector, you increase the separation between lower income students and upper income students, or it could be increase the separation between white, black and white, Hispanic students,” said Charles Clotfelter, a Duke University professor of public policy, economics and law who specializes in school desegregation, accountability, achievement, education finance and lotteries.

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