Skip to content
Aurora Institute

U.S. Department of Education Invites State Applications for a New Pilot on Innovative Systems of Assessments

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Maria Worthen, Natalie Truong

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Harness Opportunities in ESSA, State Policy, Create Pilots and Innovation Zones

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) created an Innovative Assessment Pilot and the much anticipated application was released last week by the United States Department of Education (USED). States can now apply for new flexibility they’ve been seeking to create innovative, next generation models of accountability and systems of assessments (with a smaller subset of districts in the state) since the passage of ESSA in 2015.

Innovative Assessment Pilot (ESSA Section 1204)

On January 3, the U.S. Department of Education released a Federal Register official notice inviting applications from states for the Innovative Accountability and Assessment Demonstration Authority. This is the “Innovative Assessment Pilot” and it is also a new opportunity in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for states to pilot new types of assessments.

The Department is trying to get a sense of which states are interested in applying to the pilot. As such, states are encouraged to submit an optional “intent to apply” by February 2, 2018. States can still apply to the pilot without providing this notification.

Final applications will be due to the Department of Education by April 2, 2018.

The intent behind this demonstration authority was to provide a clear, objective and viable path forward for states to pilot new types of assessments for accountability under ESSA to support personalized, competency-based education.

The Innovative Assessment Pilot in ESSA specifically provides states with the opportunity to pilot innovative systems of assessments with a subset of districts. The state must collaborate with districts in the development of the assessment system.

What does the fine print of the notice say? Check it out, but here are some highlights from our analysis:

  • Up to seven states could be approved to participate in this pilot within the first three years of the initial demonstration period.
  • Approved states would have five years to pilot the program.
  • There is a high bar of quality for these systems of assessments, for comparable determinations of performance to the statewide assessment, and to meet the same level of technical quality.
  • States can pilot new types of assessments with a subset of districts before scaling them statewide for accountability.

To apply for the Innovative Assessment Pilot, states must meet the program requirements and selection criteria outlined in the notice, including evidence that they have developed an innovative assessment system in collaboration with state and local stakeholders.

Further information, including the application and selection criteria, is available on the Federal Register website here.

ESSA presents states with a historic opportunity to redesign K-12 education around new definitions of student success. States can create space and support for personalized, competency-based learning with next generation accountability systems, balanced systems of assessments that align to student-centered learning, and modernized educator preparation and development systems.

Want to learn more? Contact us or our partnering organizations. States can learn more about the new flexibility in ESSA and action steps states can take to develop new assessments through the following resources:

Learn more:
For more help, contact:

Maria Worthen, Vice President, Federal and State Policy
[email protected]

Dale Frost, State Policy Director
[email protected]

Natalie Truong, Policy Director
[email protected]