RCA 2019 Pilot

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Beginning in August 2019, high school seniors will see a new option on The Common Application (Common App) if they apply to certain colleges and universities. That option is being piloted by a group of New England colleges and universities committed to expanding their admissions criteria to better enable students to demonstrate progress toward mastery of 21st century skills. This pilot is part of Reimagining College Access—a national initiative designed to support the use of deeper learning instruction. Students who have been engaged in deeper learning in their high schools will be able to submit performance assessments (such as artifacts from portfolios of work or capstone projects) to participating institutions.

To stay up to date on our pilot work, see resources and opportunities for involvement below.

Expanding Admissions Systems for Equity and Success in Higher Education

What Is a Performance Assessment?

Performance assessments are demonstrations of student learning, often used alongside more traditional tests. Performance assessments measure how well students apply knowledge, skills, and abilities to authentic problems. A key feature of these assessments is that they require students to produce an artifact—a report, experiment, or performance, presentation, video, or other product.

Because they take place over a long period of time and undergo a process of review and revision, performance assessments also continue the learning process, enabling students to improve their skills and understand course content as they work through the performance assessment process.

These assessments provide robust information about students’ achievements and potential for postsecondary success.

Increasingly, k-12 schools are focusing more intentionally on developing students’ deeper learning and higher-order skills such as collaboration, communication, problem solving, and critical thinking that are associated with college, career, and civic readiness. As schools are developing ways to measure student development of these skills using performance assessments, colleges and universities are acknowledging their importance.

2019 Reimagining College Access Pilot

Building on the progress of other efforts, the Reimagining College Access Initiative (RCA) supports colleges and universities that are considering performance assessment artifacts in their admissions, placement, and advising processes through a community that is sharing high quality research and promising practices in the field. Each institution of higher education (IHE) will consider performance assessments in its own way but all will use them to inform decision making processes.

The pilot was developed to create opportunities for students to demonstrate evidence of their deeper learning and higher-order skills—skills that are not typically revealed through other materials submitted to colleges and universities. By integrating performance-based assessment artifacts into decision making, colleges and universities can more deeply inform not only admissions decisions but also decisions around student placement and the kinds of supports a student may need once on campus. Such approaches are known to advance equity by considering a broad range of information about student readiness and capacity, especially for students of color and students from low-income communities who have historically had less access to higher education. The use of performance assessments by IHEs can also incentivize the use of deeper learning approaches at the k-12 level.

Participating Institutions of Higher Education

Starting August 2019, students applying to Castleton University, Clark University, Pine Manor College, Southern New Hampshire University, and Wheaton College through the Common App, in partnership with SlideRoom, will see a new option to submit performance assessment artifacts. These pioneering colleges and universities are part of the growing Reimagining College Access learning community, which includes other organizations and institutions of higher education, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as supporters of this work. This pilot group has committed to sharing their experiences with the RCA community so that others can learn from their processes.

How the Pilot Works

Students from schools, districts, and networks of schools that use performance assessments can submit artifacts from those assessments on select college applications. Participating colleges and universities will then review those artifacts when selecting the incoming freshman class.

What Can Students Submit?

Possible performance assessment submissions include, but are not limited to, written samples from original research, digital media portfolios, and/or photographs of completed student work. Colleges and universities participating in the RCA pilot will provide additional guidelines for submission of performance assessment items.

How Will Colleges and Universities Use Performance Assessment Submissions?

The RCA Pilot is made up of a diverse group of New England institutions of higher education—small and large, public and private, selective and nonselective. Each participating college and university will use the additional performance assessment submissions in accordance with their needs and guidelines alongside other information as part of the general admission decision. They may also use this information once students are accepted to inform placement and advising decisions. In this pilot, all admitted students will be full admits (not special program/status admits).

Opportunities to Submit Performance Assessment Artifacts

A growing number of colleges and universities are interested in using performance assessment materials to inform their decision making. The RCA pilot is one of many opportunities for students to include authentic work samples on their college applications. Students who have had deeper learning experiences can see if a college they’d like to apply to accepts performance assessment artifacts by looking for institution-specific application options such as, “creative portfolios.” They can also submit performance assessments through other initiatives, such as the Coalition for College.


Stay Involved

If you would like to receive updates about the RCA initiative and pilot, please subscribe to our email list.