Souhegan HS Teacher Jenny Deenik on PACE: Performance Assessment is a way for students to gain back some precious learning time

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Jenny Deenik, a biology teacher at Souhegan High School, reflects on her work with New Hampshire’s pilot Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) program in an interview with Ed Week–and how integrated assessments have helped students feel more engaged, while providing teachers with real-time feedback on student performance. The assessments, she says, give students more learning time because they are also a learning tool in themselves:

It is so important that we regain some balance in students’ lives between teaching and learning and assessing. When I think of a child’s life in school between grade 3 and 12 and how much time is spent testing, and how little of that investment pays off in directly helping them become better learners, I see performance assessment as a way for students to gain back some precious learning time. When students work on a performance assessment, the learning doesn’t stop. They are learning through the task. Assessment shouldn’t stop the learning process; it should be part of it.

Students also value performance based assessments over standardized testing:

When classroom learning is authentic and rich and engaging, kids do their best work. We all know that standardized testing is a hard sell. Students prefer performance-based assessment over standardized testing because they are richer, more engaging, and more informative. The students prefer the performance-based assessments even though they realize that they take more time and are more challenging. The fact that our educational and accountability system is catching up and supporting the everyday work of students and teachers, means that students are being measured in a personalized setting and based on work they care about.

When asked what teachers and administrators can do to move toward competency-based assessments, she said this:

It is a big shift to go from pencil-and-paper multiple-choice tests at the end of every unit to a valid performance task that asks students to demonstrate important skills and concepts in complex and authentic ways. It requires a commitment both from teachers and administrators. Teachers need to commit to collaborate on sharing curriculum, developing assessments, and scoring and analyzing student work together. But districts and administrators need to provide the structures that allow teachers time to collaborate, and the training and support for teachers to lead the work themselves and see the successes.

Read the entire interview here.