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Four States Want In on Second Round of ESSA’s Innovative Assessment Pilot

By Alyson Klein — October 18, 2018 2 min read
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Four states have raised their hands for the second round of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s Innovative Assessment pilot: Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, and South Carolina.

That list isn’t necessarily the final word. The department asked states to signal their interest by Oct. 17. But formal applications aren’t due until December 17. Additional states could jump in, or any of the four could change its mind.

But if these states do apply and are approved, they would join Louisiana and New Hampshire in trying out new kinds of tests in a handful of districts, with the goal of eventually taking them statewide.

The U.S. Department of Education can allow up to seven states or groups of states to participate in the pilot, which was one of the most talked-about pieces of ESSA. It has yet to attract a ton of applicants, though, in part because there are a lot of tough technical requirements and no extra federal money attached.

New Hampshire is using the pilot to build a system of performance-based assessments, while Louisiana is combining social studies and language arts tests into a single assessment that includes passages from books students read in class, not brand-new material.

Georgia ultimately wants to allow districts to have a choice of one of three formative assessment systems, instead of the state test, Georgia Milestones. Three consortia of districts are working on those testing systems now.

Meanwhile, states around the country are continuing to move forward on new forms of testing, with our without the help of the innovative pilot. For instance, districts in Colorado, Kentucky, and Michigan are in the early stages of working on performance assessments, which evaluate students on tasks they perform, or projects they do, rather than on their answers to a multiple-choice test.

“There’s been a tremendous surge in interest in performance assessments at both the local, regional, and state levels,” said Paul Leather, who helped get New Hampshire’s system started as a top state official there and is now the director of the 4 State Assessment Project at the National Center for Innovation in Education at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

But so far, the tests aren’t necessarily being used for state and federal accountability, in part because, “state capacity is still standardized-based systems,” he said.

Want to learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act? Here’s some useful information:


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