In 2014, New Hampshire was the first state to be granted an innovative assessment waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, and in 2018 was the second state-approved to participate in the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) pilot program under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Districts participating in New Hampshire’s Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) are free of federal requirements that the same summative assessments be administered in math and English Language Arts (ELA) in grades 3-8 and that all students in the state, with some exceptions,1 participate in the same statewide assessment.
New Hampshire’s expressed goal for PACE is to “structure learning and assessment opportunities that allow students to gain and demonstrate their knowledge and skills at a depth of understanding that will transfer beyond K-12 education to success in careers and college.”
The PACE system has a lot of moving parts including performance tasks in ELA, math, and science intended to assess the full depth and breadth of the state’s academic standards. The assessment system for the 11 districts participating has the following components:
• PACE. Innovative assessment system that determines student proficiency by combining scores from:
• Locally Administered Performance Tasks. Districts develop their own standards-aligned tasks to determine student mastery;
• Common Performance Tasks. Students complete a PACE Common Performance Task, which calibrates scoring and is intended to provide some degree of comparability across districts.
• New Hampshire Statewide Assessment System. In grades 3-8, students participate in New Hampshire’s traditional Statewide Assessment System (NH SAS) in a single subject (math, ELA, or science) each year;2
• SAT. All high school juniors also take the SAT in lieu of statewide summative assessments in math and ELA.
Unlike many other assessment innovations that tinker around the edges, PACE departs radically from systems that rely on standardized, statewide annual assessments. This poses a number of opportunities to improve instruction and boost outcomes, as well as some significant risks including a lack of comparability of results between participating districts.
Regardless of how successfully NH implements PACE across the state, we caution against it being a model for other states considering joining IADA. New Hampshire is relatively unique compared to states across the country: it is less demographically diverse, small in size, has few students, and has no large districts. As a result, a complex system such as PACE will likely face additional hurdles if adopted in other states.
Stay tuned as we continue to analyze state approaches to the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA) pilot program.