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Aurora Institute

New Resource for Guiding Assessment Innovation

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Aurora Institute

Issue(s): Federal Policy, State Policy

young student looking at a tulip through a magnifying glass
Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages

Current systems of assessment must change to allow for true student-centered learning experiences grounded in competency-based systems. Competency-based education moves us from age-based and grade-based progression to progression based on demonstrations of mastery of learning. Assessment systems, therefore, must reflect this shift in how we think about how students progress through their learning experiences. To that end, systems of assessments should align with current research on how students learn best, support durable learning, and provide evidence of deeper learning. 

State leaders need a clear path forward for assessment innovation, with adequate resources to support them. Though disparate programs exist at the federal level, there is not a coherent strategy to support scaling new approaches to assessment. In partnership with other national organizations committed to personalized learning and competency-based education systems, we are releasing a new resource, Clearing the Path for Assessment Innovation: The Role of Federal Policy. The paper highlights some of the innovative work states are pursuing using current federally created opportunities and identifies the barriers that hobble their plans to scale and sustain their work. We aim to share the promise of states’ visions for innovative assessment with high-level themes and dive into work being done in Hawaii, Louisiana and Massachusetts to develop and scale new approaches to assessment and comprehensive assessment systems. The paper concludes with recommendations for how policymakers can build on this groundwork to foster innovation and opportunity in assessment across the nation.

In the short-term, we recommend:

  • Create greater alignment in federal programs.
  • Improve IADA as a viable pathway.
  • Revamp the USED assessment peer-review process.
  • Increase funding for innovative assessment work.

Longer term, we recommend:

  • Provide opportunities for innovative accountability.
  • Continue to foster partnerships between states and USED.

Secretary Cardona’s recent letter to Chief State School Officers highlighting improvements to the US Department of Education’s implementation of Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority signals an openness to the types of recommendations made in this paper. There is much more work to be done, and flexibility needed, to move to systems of assessment designed for competency-based education. We will continue to support educators working to change assessment within the current federal landscape, learn from those experiences, and use that to inform our longer-term recommendations. We hope that the innovations of today will be the common practices of tomorrow.

Related Resource – Clearing the Path for Assessment: The Role of Federal Policy