Dec 11 2018

Newsletter: December 2018

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) is partnering with EducationCounsel 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: RCA Project Update  |  RCA Convenes National Advisory Board  |  NACAC School Profile Examples  |  RCA at NACAC 74th Annual Convening

 RCA Project Update

The Reimagining College Access (RCA) initiative is grounded in the belief that performance assessments can act as drivers of improved teaching and learning in k–12 education systems; provide critical information to increase access and diversity in higher education admissions, placement, and success; and advance deeper learning knowledge and skills in both settings.

In RCA’s first phase, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) and EducationCounsel explored the interest in and value of performance assessment in both k–12 and higher education, primarily via an initial national convening (June 2017) and the publication of a “call to arms” report, The Promise of Performance Assessments: Innovations in High School Learning and Higher Education Admissions. Convening participants strongly agreed with our emerging vision of leveraging performance assessments to help bridge k–12 and postsecondary education expectations for college readiness through increased rigor in high school and new means of assessing student potential in higher education admissions, placement, and advising processes.

Building from that initial validation, RCA’s second phase, from fall 2017 to spring 2018, focused on coordinating an ongoing group of interested, leading players to advance this effort, including the Recognition Task Force, the Technology Tool Task Force, and the Innovators Network Task Force. (Click here for more details about these three efforts.) From the thoughtful contributions of the task forces, we distilled a number of specific recommendations for how to make progress toward the RCA vision. At a second national convening (May 2018) with more than 80 participants, we tested, refined, and strengthened those recommendations.

We have now launched RCA’s third phase to pivot from theory to action. After reflecting on the robust feedback from the convening, we prioritized and have begun implementing the following specific initiatives:

  • Develop a set of research-based criteria to assess the system-level quality and rigor of performance assessments (e.g., quality of the processes used for task creation, rubric development, and calibration of scoring) used by individual k–12 schools, consortia of schools, and/or state and local k–12 school systems.
  • Adapt and leverage existing platforms to facilitate the “handoff” of performance assessment information from k–12 to institutions of higher education (IHEs), including k–12 school profiles, high school transcripts, and admissions applications.
  • Launch local and regional partnerships to pilot the use of performance assessment information in higher education admissions, placement, and success. We are conducting initial conversations with leaders in a variety of states and regions that are poised to engage in this work.
  • Develop and pursue a research agenda on the use of performance assessments in admissions, placement, and success.
  • Develop a communications plan to share these learnings within and beyond the RCA community of practitioners, policymakers, and institutions.

We are excited about the early progress we are making on each of these initiatives in partnership with many RCA community members, and at the same time we remain humble about the hard work ahead. We will continue to provide updates on each of these initiatives in future editions of this newsletter.

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 RCA Convenes National Advisory Board

RCA benefited greatly over the past year from the expertise, perspective, wisdom, and “push” that we received from our task force members and co-chairs. For this next phase of action-oriented work, we have convened the RCA National Advisory Board to help advise on the overall RCA initiative, give feedback and strategic counsel on specific decisions and challenges, and serve as validators for the work within and beyond the RCA community. Initial members of the advisory board include:

  • Jared Anthony, Assessment Principal Consultant, Colorado Department of Education
  • Derrick Chau, Senior Executive Director of Instruction, Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, Vice Provost of Enrollment Management, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • David Hawkins, Executive Director for Educational Content and Policy, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
  • Paul Leather, Director for State and Local Partnerships, Center for Innovation in Education
  • Michael Reilly, Executive Director, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO)
  • David Ruff, Executive Director, Great Schools Partnership

We are so grateful to these leaders for their ongoing commitment to our shared vision, and we look forward to working closely with each of them as we turn theory into action.

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 NACAC School Profile Examples

Admissions officers use school profiles to better understand an applicant’s secondary school context. As such, the school profile is a key place for schools to describe rigorous learning opportunities and unique grading models, such as those in schools that embrace performance-based assessmentsBauth, E., & Hadjian, S. (2016). How selective colleges and universities evaluate proficiency-based high school transcripts: Insights for students and schools. Boston, MA: New England Board of Higher Education.. To shed light on how schools are presenting their learning environments to IHEs, NACAC has created a new, publicly available resource on its website featuring school profiles from schools both within and outside the United States. NACAC has compiled more than 1,200 school profiles from some of its member schools and plans to work with its member-leaders to identify school profile practices that are particularly useful to IHE admissions officers who may be unfamiliar with an applicant’s secondary school. RCA is excited to be working with NACAC in our effort to leverage existing platforms to facilitate the handoff of performance-based assessment information from k–12 to IHEs. By helping to identify examples of school profiles that already clearly describe how a school uses performance-based assessments, we can inform recommendations for how other k–12 schools can communicate performance-based assessment information effectively to IHEs. To view the school profiles that NACAC collected from its member schools, visit

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 RCA at NACAC 74th Annual Convening

In late September, David Hawkins, Executive Director for Educational Content and Policy at NACAC, chaired a session on RCA at NACAC’s 74th Annual Convening in Salt Lake City. David opened the session by expressing NACAC’s excitement about and commitment to RCA. LPI’s Peter Ross provided an overview of the initiative and an update on progress to date. David then led a discussion with panelists Seth Allen of Pomona College and Mike Flanagan of the Mastery Transcript Consortium about the higher education and k–12 perspectives on RCA, followed by a robust discussion with the audience. The full presentation can be downloaded using the conference app, available at

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