Jan 19 2018

Newsletter: January 2018

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) is partnering with EducationCounsel in a national effort to support the use of k-12 graduation performance assessments, such as student portfolios, capstone projects, and senior defenses, 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’s three task forces and features on promising work in the field.

Jump to: Recognition Task Force  |  Technology Tool Task Force  |  Leading Places Network Task Force  |  Feature: Big Picture Education Australia

 Recognition Task Force

The Recognition Task Force has officially launched! The task force is being co-chaired by Michael V. Reilly and Paul Leather. Since 2012, Reilly has served as the Executive Director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), a nonprofit voluntary association of more than 11,000 higher education professionals from approximately 2,600 higher education institutions around the world. He brings a wealth of experience and expertise in higher education, including 20 years in university admissions and enrollment management, and has served on numerous higher education boards and advisory councils. His co-chair is Leather, who recently joined the National Center for Innovation in Education at the University of Kentucky as the Director of the 4 State Performance Assessment Project. Leather previously served as the Deputy Commissioner of Education for the New Hampshire Department of Education, where he led the Department’s groundbreaking assessment and accountability initiative, the New Hampshire Performance Assessment of Competency Education.

The Recognition Task Force (originally known as the “Accreditation” Task Force) held its first virtual meeting on November 9, 2017. In addition to Learning Policy Institute (LPI) and EdCounsel staff, the meeting was well attended by a diverse group of members representing k–12, higher education institutions, research organizations, and foundations. At the first meeting, task force members engaged in a lively discussion about the purpose, objectives, and name of the task force. Participants also had an opportunity to learn about existing efforts to align k–12 and higher education around performance assessments, to weigh in on ideas and themes for a landscape analysis, and to hear about the work of the other two task forces (Technology Tool and Leading Places). 

After the meeting, LPI staff worked with the co-chairs to refine the task force purposes and objectives based on the feedback from members. The purpose of the Recognition Task Force is to:

Focus on identifying and creating a process, standards, and/or body to “recognize” high-quality k–12 performance assessment systems at the national and/or state level, including for use by higher education. The purpose of this recognition would be to facilitate higher education institutions’ consideration of performance assessments in admissions, placement, and advising; support better quality programing and experience of performance assessments; and ensure the validity and value of the performance assessments.

The short-term objectives of this task force are to:

  • Discuss and create a draft of necessary characteristics for a performance assessment recognition system that can be used at both the k–12 level and for college admissions, placement, and advising.
  • Conduct a landscape analysis of current national and international efforts to ensure quality, reliability, and validity in k–12 performance assessment systems, including examples of efforts to bridge these k–12 performance assessment systems with college admissions, placement, and advising.
  • Develop a position paper that outlines the necessary characteristics of a recognition system, the landscape of existing recognition systems, and one to three suggested approaches (by June 2018).

The LPI team is beginning to draft the landscape analysis and will share initial findings at the next Recognition Task Force meeting, which will take place virtually on January 22, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. PT/1 p.m. to 2 p.m. ET. Please contact Roneeta Guha, Senior Researcher at LPI, at [email protected] if you have questions about the task force.*

*Task force membership is by invitation only.

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 Technology Tool Task Force

Working closely with the Recognition Task Force, the Technology Tool Task Force launched in December 2017 and will focus on designing or evolving a technology-based tool or platform to capture student performance, assessment information, and portfolio of work more efficiently and effectively for use in admissions, placement, and advising. While various platforms currently exist, the task force will explore how those platforms could be improved and/or consider designing a new platform that more adequately meets the needs of both k–12 and higher education.

The Technology Tool Task Force is co-chaired by David Hawkins, Executive Director for Educational Content and Policy, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and David Ruff, Executive Director, Great Schools Partnership (GSP). Hawkins has been with NACAC since 2000 and brings a wealth of experience in higher education admissions, including as the creator and editor of NACAC’s State of College Admissions report. Ruff brings depth from k–12, and in addition to leading GSP, he is a founding member and Director of the New England Secondary School Consortium, a five-state partnership working to promote forward-thinking innovations in secondary education. Task force members represent a diverse set of k–12 and higher education leaders.

At our opening meeting, members aligned on a set of task force objectives: 

  • Discuss and create a draft of necessary characteristics for a technology platform that collects and displays k–12 student data in general and specifically focuses on performance assessments for use at both the k–12 level and for college admissions, placement, and advising.
  • Conduct a landscape analysis of the technology components of current national and international software platforms that would address these concerns.
  • Refine the necessary components based on the landscape analysis.
  • Conduct a cross-walk between the identified needs and currently available technology platforms. Determine one to three approaches for next steps, through modification of current systems and/or the creation of new technology platforms.
  • Develop a position paper that outlines the needs, the landscape of current platforms, and one to three suggested approaches (by June 2018).

LPI is busy at work on the landscape analysis and will share initial findings at the next Technology Tool Task Force meeting, which will take place virtually on February 2, 2018, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. PT/3 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET. Please contact Peter Ross, Director, Strategic Initiatives at LPI, at [email protected] if you have questions about the task force.*

*Task force membership is by invitation only.

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 Leading Places Network Task Force

Planning for the Leading Places Network Task Force will begin in early January by convening a small “brain trust” of k–12 and higher education leaders to help design the network. The ultimate vision for the Leading Places Network Task Force is to bring together leading school districts, state education agencies, and higher education institutions with strong performance assessment systems and/or readiness for such systems to engage collaboratively and strategically to strengthen those systems and their use in higher education admissions, placement, and advising, with a focus on promoting deeper learning and equity for all students. The network will provide members with a community of peers and experts with whom to learn and problem solve as they work to improve or establish their systems. The network will also act as a source of best practices, lessons learned, resources, and guidance for other interested states.

To ensure the network is best positioned to provide meaningful support to its members, EducationCounsel (EdCounsel) and LPI have asked a small group of local, state, and national leaders to participate in the brain trust to inform the network’s design and membership. This group will meet over the next several months to share their insights, as well as lessons learned from their own efforts to promote high-quality performance assessment systems at various levels of the educational system.  

These leaders are: Jared Anthony, Assessment Principal Consultant at the Colorado Department of Education; Amy Cashwell, Chief Academic Officer for Teaching and Learning at Virginia Beach City Public Schools; Derrick Chau, Senior Executive Director of Instruction at Los Angeles Unified School District; Zina Evans, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Associate Provost at the University of Florida; Christina Jean, Independent Consultant at ThinkTank Education, LLC, and former Director of Next Generation Learning at the Colorado Education Initiative; Jerry Lucido, Executive Director of the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice at the University of Southern California; and Steven Mintz, Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin.

The objectives of the brain trust are to:

  • Develop a plan for the network, including the network’s goals and structure, as well as the resources and supports that will be provided to members.
  • Determine criteria for selecting network members.
  • Identify potential members aligned to the selected criteria.
  • Provide thought leadership as the network progresses.

The brain trust will have its first virtual meeting in February 2018 to do some initial thinking about the network’s goals and design. As the work progresses, a landscape analysis and strategic plan will be developed to guide the network. Please contact Dan Gordon, Senior Legal and Policy Advisor at EdCounsel, at [email protected], and Jessica Cardichon, Director of Federal Policy and Director of the Washington, DC, Office of LPI, at [email protected], if you have questions about the brain trust or the Leading Places Network Task Force.*

*Task force membership is by invitation only.

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Feature: Big Picture Education Australia

Through a partnership with a growing number of universities, Big Picture Education Australia (BPEA) has developed a pathway for secondary school students to use their Graduation Portfolio to satisfy university entrance requirements. In a recent conversation with Viv White, co-founder and Managing Director of BPEA, our team learned about the work BPEA is doing to create a more equitable pathway to higher education and beyond, and how they have seized opportunities to make meaningful change within their education system. According to White, when BPEA launched in 2006, they were not sure they could create a portfolio pathway option for university admissions. Twelve years later, they are an example of how performance assessments can successfully be used from k–12 through higher education.

The Graduation Portfolio

The Big Picture model is designed to be personalized and student-centered, emphasizing the importance of real-world learning through internships. As part of this vision for student learning, all students in BPEA schools experience portfolios throughout their education as a form of assessment. The Graduation Portfolio is a collection of artifacts from years 9 through 12 that demonstrate a student’s robust, real-world, inquiry-based learning experiences, including reflections on their growth as a learner, a series of future learning goals, and a senior thesis that consists of an in-depth original research project on a topic of interest. Students take ownership over their learning throughout their senior thesis and internship experience, and they regularly present to a panel, receive feedback from their advisory teachers and expert mentors, and continuously revise their portfolio until their Final University Exhibition.

Higher Education Admission

The Final University Exhibition is the last step in the pathway to portfolio entry for students looking to pursue higher education. Students have the opportunity to showcase their learning and demonstrate their readiness for college-level study in front of an authentic audience of educators and professionals, including university admissions representatives from the institutions to which they are applying. This process is a negotiated agreement between participating universities and BPEA schools. Students can therefore choose what to include in their Graduation Portfolio to specifically meet the entry requirements of individual universities, and use their exhibition in lieu of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), the Australian equivalent to our SAT. The Final University Exhibition is meant to illustrate a more comprehensive set of skills than what can be measured on the ATAR, including evidence of noncognitive competencies, such as self-development, leadership, and commitment to community.

Ensuring Quality

The BPEA Graduation Portfolio is a standards-based process that uses the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF), a national set of agreed upon “core skills,” to measure learning, reading, writing, oral communication, and numeracy. Students applying to university through the portfolio pathway are expected to meet Level 5, the highest level on the ACSF, meaning that they have “specialized knowledge and skills for skilled/paraprofessional work and/or further learning.” BPEA is also constructing a national moderating committee, with representation from students, higher education institutions, and policymakers, to further ensure the quality, rigor, and validity of this pathway.

Looking Ahead

The pathway to portfolio entry began as a pilot program in 2016 with a group of five students and three universities. Born out of a need for a more equitable framework for higher education admissions, BPEA was able to recognize the needs of both universities and students, testing a pilot that benefits both. Due to the success of the pilot, BPEA is now working with 12 of Australia’s 37 universities, with others showing interest and engaging in initial conversations with the network.

BPEA is a partner of Big Picture Learning (BPL), one of 10 Deeper Learning Networks here in the United States. Viv White and Elliot Washor, the co-founder of BPL, co-lead the Big Picture International Network, bringing the Big Picture model to schools across the globe. For more information on Big Picture Education Australia and to view student stories, please visit https://www.bigpicture.org.au.

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