ED Signs Off on Innovative Assessment Pilots for GA and NC

Georgia and North Carolina have become the latest states to test new ways for assessing student achievement. Both states have received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to take part in the innovative assessments pilot program, starting with the new school year.

The latest rendition of ESSA granted the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) the right to allow seven educational agencies to try out innovative assessment systems. The idea is to give local agencies more influence in how student testing is handled by letting them pilot new assessments on a small scale without also requiring those same students to participate in the state exams and then scaling up the innovations statewide over time.

Georgia will try innovations developed by three district consortia. Combined, they'll implement the three assessment systems in 22 districts (out of a total of 181 in the state), serving 329 schools and about 287,582 students.

One path will use adaptive interim assessments. The Georgia MAP Assessment Partnership is trying a system created by NWEA that uses adaptive interim assessments to provide "timely insights" on students' understanding of grade-level standards, measure academic growth, provide test results and produce summative proficiency scores.

The Putnam Consortium, consisting of 10 districts, is trying out Navvy, a diagnostic assessment system created by Navvy Education, which produces data for use by teachers to customize learning opportunities for their students.

The third will try "on-demand" assessments, which are designed to provide teachers with real-time data on student performance. Developed by the Cobb County School District, the Cobb Teaching and Learning System Assess platform (CTLS-Assess) uses tests given throughout the year that indicate a student's mastery of each standard in a course. The testing is delivered through an online platform that reports on students' progress to teachers in real time.

As the state noted in its application, "The assessment systems...are being designed to maximize instructional time and provide immediate feedback to inform instruction, and prepare students for the next grade, course, college or career."

North Carolina's new assessment will rely on the use of a customized, end-of-year assessment (called a "route") for each student, developed in response to a student's performance on two formative assessments — in math and English language arts — taken during the school year. Each route represents a cluster of test questions designed to measure a student's achievement accurately and efficiently. The state said the sampling for the new assessments would cover at least 15 percent of the student population.

To participate in the innovation program, states need to show in their applications how their assessments are developed in collaboration with local stakeholders, aligned to "challenging state academic standards" and accessible to all students through use of principles of universal design for learning, among other requirements.

Georgia and North Carolina have joined two other pilot states, Louisiana and New Hampshire, which were granted flexibility as part of the IADA in 2018.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.