As PACE program grows, teachers and administrators "thrilled" with progress

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Senior staff of the Council of Chief State School Officers visited several of New Hampshire’s widely-watched PACE districts recently to get an idea of how schools are implementing the pilot project. EdWeek wrote a great story about what they learned, under the headline, “This Is Not a Test: One State’s Assessment Pilot Seeks to Grow Up and Out.”  It was all about how eight districts – Sanborn, Epping, Rochester, Souhegan, and now Concord, Pittsfield, Seacoast Charter and Manchester’s Parker Varney school – are working together and with the New Hampshire Department of Education to develop performance-based assessments.  Performance-based assessments, as the EdWeek piece explains, are locally managed assessments integrated with day-to-day classwork instead of given as a big one-time test at the end of the year. 

The process, according to some of the participating teachers, is longer than expected and takes a lot of collaboration and patience but has big payoffs:

The goals here are to get more in-depth and current information on what students know and can do than the schools would with traditional summative exams, help students tackle material in more meaningful ways, and also have the assessments inform and shape instruction.

…What do Prescott and Sheedy [participating teachers from Spaulding High School] say that they got out of the entire experience? Sheedy says that last year he adjusted his curriculum to match the timing of the performance task, and liked it so much that he’s kept the adjustment in place this year. Sheedy said that students had a better understanding of their learning trajectory and how they would be judged.

And perhaps mostly importantly, according to Sheedy, “In all the years I’ve taught, I’ve never seen the students so engaged as when they engaged with these performance tasks.”

“It definitely made you stretch your mind,” said Emily Benson, a junior at Spaulding High School who took a performance assessment in science as a sophomore.

Teachers said that supportive superintendents, principals, and administrators have been critical to the program’s implementation. By allowing teachers room for experimentation and opportunities to meet with their colleagues to coordinate and share ideas, the program has so far shown signs of success and has generated lots of excitement among educators and administrators.

Read the full article here.  It’s well worthwhile.