This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on March 5, 2015.
This week the U.S. Department of Education made a groundbreaking decision to allow four school systems in New Hampshire to pilot a new accountability regime based on a mix of local and state assessments. This first-of-its-kind policy marks an important policy development for competency-based systems and signals a move in the right direction for federal accountability.
New Hampshire’s Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) pilot will allow locally managed assessments to count toward federal accountability requirements. New Hampshire’s PACE project began in 2012 as an opt-in effort for districts to coordinate local approaches to performance assessment. Starting this year, the four PACE implementing districts—Sanborn Regional, Rochester, Epping, and Souhegan—will administer the Smarter Balanced assessment once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school (in three grades instead of seven). In all other years when students aren’t taking Smarter Balanced assessments, the PACE districts will administer carefully designed common and locally managed “performance assessments” that were developed by the districts themselves and validated at the state level.
Although there is a range of definitions of what constitutes a performance assessment, according to the New Hampshire DOE, “[p]erformance assessments are complex, multi-part tasks that ask students to apply what they have learned in sophisticated ways.” The state emphasizes that different mediums may qualify as evidence of mastery. The Department explained that these assessments vary by context and subject, and sometimes by a student’s particular interests: (more…)