Apr 15 2019

Newsletter: April 2019

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) is partnering with EducationCounsel and Education First in a national effort to support the use of k-12 performance assessments, such as student portfolios and capstone projects, in higher education admissions, placement, and advising decisions. This initiative brings together a diverse group of k-12 and higher education policy and practice leaders around the idea that both systems can benefit from authentic and holistic ways of assessing students’ competencies and mastery of skills needed for college, work, and life in the 21st century. 

This newsletter will provide periodic updates on the work of the initiative and feature promising work in the field.

Jump to: Welcome to New Partners  |  RCA Launches Blue Ribbon Panel on Developing Criteria for Systems of Performance Assessment  |  Education Week Features RCA  |  Promising Performance Assessment Practices in California Districts  |  Third Annual RCA Convening

 Welcome to New Partners

Education First has just joined RCA as a new managing partner, working alongside Learning Policy Institute and EducationCounsel. We are excited to have Peter Ross, Carl Christopher, Adam Brumer, and Meg Ramey bring their expertise and skills to our efforts to advance RCA’s mission and vision. 

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 RCA Launches Blue Ribbon Panel on Developing Criteria for Systems of Performance Assessment

One of the key recommendations from the second annual RCA convening was to develop a set of research-based criteria to describe the system-level quality and rigor of k-12 performance assessments. To that end, RCA has launched the RCA Blue Ribbon Panel on Developing Criteria for Systems of Performance Assessment. Building on the perspective and wisdom of our recognition task force, this newly formed group of experts is working to design, codify, and establish goals and a dissemination strategy for a set of quality criteria for systems of performance assessment used by individual k-12 schools, consortia of schools, and/or state/local k-12 school systems.

Blue Ribbon Panel members are:

  • Roneeta Guha, Vice President of Strategy & Impact, Linked Learning Alliance
  • Joan Herman, Director Emerita of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • P. David Pearson, Evelyn Lois Corey Professor Emeritus in Instructional Science, University of California, Berkeley
  • Ray Pecheone, Executive Director, Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) and Professor of Practice, Stanford University
  • James Pellegrino, Co-Director, Learning Sciences Research Institute and Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Lee Shulman, President Emeritus, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University
  • Tine Sloan, Associate Teaching Professor of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Claire Sylvan, Senior Strategic Advisor, Internationals Network and Co-Director, Deeper Learning Equity Fellows
  • Ruth Chung Wei, Senior Research Scientist at the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, & Equity (SCALE) and Director of Research and Innovation, Envision Learning Partners

We are grateful to them for lending their time and expertise to this important work. They will be working to codify the criteria, to disseminate them as widely as possible, to encourage new and existing k-12 performance assessment systems to adopt the criteria, and to increase higher education institutions’ confidence that performance assessment information submitted by students from those systems is valuable for making admissions, placement, and advising decisions.

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 Education Week Features RCA

On February 19, Education Week hosted Testing for Real-World Performance, an online summit about performance assessments. The two-hour event included multiple discussions on a range of topics related to the current state of performance assessments and highlighted several best practices across states and districts. Peter Ross, Principal at Education First and an RCA leader, was a featured guest speaker in the “Performance Assessment and College Admissions” session. A PDF of the key takeaways from all discussions, including Peter’s session, can be accessed here.

RCA was also featured in a recent Education Week article, Colleges Crack open the Admissions Door to Consider Students’ Skills. The article highlights the promise of performance assessments for use in college admissions, as well as the challenges sometimes faced by college admissions officers who often lack the time to read through narratives about student performance. As David Hawkins, policy director at the National Association for College Admission Counseling and RCA National Advisory Board member, points out, "Performance-based assessments can generate a wealth of information for colleges about what could make a student successful there...But in admissions, it's like trying to cram an enormous square peg into a small round hole.” The article also highlights several other initiatives aimed at overcoming barriers to the use of performance-based assessments, including the New York Performance Standards Consortium, and the Great Schools Partnership.

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 Promising Performance Assessment Practices in California Districts

The California Performance Assessment Collaborative (CPAC), a professional learning community dedicated to advancing meaningful assessments for California students, recently released overviews of three districts that are implementing high-quality performance assessments. The overviews of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD), and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) feature rich descriptions of students’ presentations and defenses of their work.

Students in these and other CPAC districts, draw upon artifacts of their work they collected throughout high school or original research they conducted, as well as their own lived experiences to put together their presentations. In the OUSD district overview, a student describes her positive learning experience and growth as a learner. At the end of her capstone presentation, which focused on how tobacco companies use manipulative marketing toward teens, she reflected on the scope of her work with pride, saying, “At the beginning of the year, I thought it would be impossible because my first language is not English. At the start, I was scared, and afraid of how it would be, and of asking for help. Now I’m here. Two of the skills I have improved through this process [are] my public speaking skills and my writing skills.” 

These district profiles provide insight not only into a student’s experience in a school using high-quality performance assessments, but also into the district and school conditions that have enabled these assessments to succeed. One key condition is establishing a district vision for performance assessments. For example, in alignment with PUSD’s broader commitment to advancing college and career-readiness in the district, the district’s school board passed a policy requiring all graduating high school students to complete a portfolio/defense, starting with the class of 2019. By doing so, they have signaled their commitment to ensuring equitable access to high-quality instruction for all students within the district.

As RCA continues working toward the development of quality criteria for systems of performance assessment, the progress these districts have made provide a strong example to draw upon. 

The full overviews of LAUSD, PUSD, and OUSD can be found on the CPAC website, as can overviews of several CPAC member schools.

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 Third Annual RCA Convening

RCA is looking forward to our third annual convening on May 2! Like the first two convenings, it will bring together policy and practice leaders in k-12 and higher education—along with leaders from our pilot regions—to foster cross-sector conversations and inform next steps for the initiative. This invitation-only convening will inform the next phase of the initiative.

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