Sanborn Regional High School principal Brian Stack wrote about New Hampshire’s performance assessments in the industry publication Multi Briefs. Here’s an excerpt:
With the Performance Assessment of Competency Education program (PACE), teachers in NH schools collaborate to design, implement, assess and refine the performance tasks that are used at various grade levels in math, science and ELA…
Performance assessments are not new in New Hampshire. In fact, they have provided a backbone for a statewide effort to move schools to a competency-based learning model for over a decade.
According to the Center for Collaborative Education (CCE), in their publication “Quality Performance Assessment: A Guide for Schools and Districts,” performance assessments are “multistep assignments with clear criteria, expectations and processes that measure how well a student transfers knowledge and applies complex skills to create or refine an original product.” CCE has been partnering with the New Hampshire Department of Education and several PACE schools for years to develop and refine performance tasks that have been implemented in classrooms around the state.
In April of 2017, Pam Wicks — a Concord, NH, school board member and mother of three children — spoke in strong support of the PACE program to the NH State Board of Education. Wicks’ comments were captured in this recent Reaching Higher NH blog article. She spoke passionately about her fourth-grade son, David, was excited to be working on a solar cooker project at school.
“Mom!” he said. “I need a pizza box, duct tape and some aluminum foil, it’s for my science test, we’re going to be building a solar cooker and I want to practice.” It took Wicks a few minutes to realize David wasn’t working on just any ordinary project, he was doing his PACE assessment for fourth-grade science, an alternative to a more traditional multiple choice standardized test.
“The fact that he didn’t even realize the solar cooker was a statewide assessment is not only a testament to the school, for not making a big deal about the testing, but a testament to PACE itself,” she explained to the board. “He wasn’t just sitting in front of a computer for two hours plugging in answers to mundane questions. He was going to have to build something using and applying what he had learned in his unit on energy.
“It was fun and hands on — certainly more engaging than answering questions on a piece of paper. With PACE there is an appreciation for what they are learning and the process of showing it.”
There is no doubt that performance tasks provide students with better, more enriching learning experiences. Through such efforts, tests become the teaching, and the teaching becomes the tests. Students are able to engage in deeper learning, which strengthens their ability to apply and extend their learning to new situations and ideas.