A New Year’s Launch of the Innovative Assessment Pilot

Topics: Education Policy, ESSA

After two years of writing and advocating for launch of the Innovative Assessment Pilot in ESSA, January kicks off with release of the official application. 2018 is off to a strong start! After two years of writing and advocating for launch of the Innovative Assessment Pilot in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), January kicks off with release of the official application. For those still working their way through post-holiday fog, the pilot program was authorized by ESSA to give states the opportunity to design next generation assessment systems that transcend traditional multiple-choice tests. With the U.S. Department of Education’s release of the application today, interested states and districts now have the flexibility to partner on balanced assessment systems that tell us what we need to know about whether students are truly ready to succeed in college and career.

The application gives states until April 2nd to submit a plan to implement an innovative assessment system that meets the requirements of ESSA. Those include a defensible theory of action for the development of high quality assessments that are comparable to the statewide assessment and that can be scaled statewide by the end of the demonstration authority. In exchange, participating districts do not have to take the statewide assessment – a significant perk for districts that no longer see value in the large-scale multiple-choice assessments.

So which states will apply? That’s anyone’s guess at this point. As I shared with EDWeek yesterday and Politico today, a few states – New Hampshire, Hawaii, Georgia and New York – indicated in their ESSA plans their intention to apply. Colorado is also legally bound to apply thanks to legislation enacted in the state several years ago. Ultimately, only seven states can gain approval within the first three years of the pilot. It’s important to note that we likely won’t see a big rush for those seven spots. This is hard work that requires a strong vision and significant capacity-building statewide. Fortunately, the Secretary can lift the state cap after year three, making this opportunity a reality for any state willing to put in the time and dedication to design better assessments.

As this unfolds, here are the important dates to remember:

  • Intent to Apply Due Date – February 2nd (though not binding)
  • Application Due Date – April 2nd
  • Implementation Date – Approved states would launch new assessments in the 2018-2019 school year

In the meantime, don’t forget to check out the innovative assessment resources we created in partnership with the Center for Assessment to help states prepare a strong application. These resources will help with the visioning process as well as deep dives on each of the selection criterion outlined in the application. We know how challenging this work can be and we are here to help any state that wants to create assessments for and of learning.