Over the past month, New Hampshire has been getting nationwide recognition for a first-in-the-nation pilot program that moves beyond the annual standardized assessment schools have been giving for years. It’s called the Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) pilot project. PACE was featured in the Christian Science Monitor as a solution to fears of overtesting, as the program reduces the number of statewide standardized tests administered in elementary and middle school and replaces some of them with locally designed assessments:
“It fits into a much bigger conversation about … how we can create a humane assessment system that’s useful to teachers but also useful to states and the federal government for holding schools accountable,” says Julia Freeland, a research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, based in San Mateo, Calif.
With this hybrid model, the occasional state testing becomes more of an “audit, which is a really appropriate role of a state assessment system,” says Scott Marion, associate director of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment in Dover, N.H. This way, teachers can get information that improves their teaching, and the state verifies that they aren’t wildly off base when they say their assessments show student proficiency.
Not only does the PACE pilot “reduce the level of testing, which has reached a level of insanity,” says Mr. Schaeffer [of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing], but it shifts toward “better measures of what students know and can do.” It “is a potentially significant crack in the wall of government-mandated standardized testing, not just for New Hampshire, but nationally,” he says.
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