For those wondering what ESSA’s Innovative Testing Pilot might bring, look no further than New Hampshire. The Obama administration granted New Hampshire a first-of-its-kind waiver in 2015, allowing a subset of school districts to try out new exams made up of “complex, multi-part tasks that ask students to apply what they have learned in sophisticated ways,” the state Department of Education said at the time. “For example, in English, middle school students might submit research papers showing they know how to analyze and present information from many sources. In math, fourth-graders might design and cost out a new park and write a letter to their board of selectmen arguing their perspective based on their calculations and other evidence.”
The effort appears promising so far, according to a recent progress report sent to federal education officials. New Hampshire officials caution that it’s too early to assign much significance to how well students are performing on the new tests, known as the PACE assessments. But the state appears on track to satisfying one of the federal government’s biggest priorities: making sure results on the new tests are comparable to those produced by more traditional exams. In New Hampshire, the more traditional test is the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balance exam.
That being said, early results indicate that PACE students outperform their Smarter Balanced peers in third-grade reading, fourth-grade math and eighth-grade math, according to the progress report. New Hampshire also notes in the report that the quality of the “performance tasks” that students are tackling and teacher training rates continue to improve.
New Hampshire is still operating under a federal waiver. But officials hope they can continue the work under the pilot program created by the Every Student Succeeds Act, eventually scaling the innovative assessments statewide and using the results for federal accountability purposes.