School district explores new testing format

PACE program is a competency-based assessment model

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 7:5PM

The ConVal School District is exploring what it might look like to transition to a competency-based assessment model of education, one that relies less on standardized testing.

The Education Committee gave the go-ahead to a group working on this, headed by Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Saunders. It involves moving toward a personalized learning framework and applying to the N.H. Department of Education to become a PACE, or Performance Assessment for Competency Education, school district.

“I’m looking for students to become the architects of their own learning,” said Saunders. “There’s a long road to get there.”

PACE was piloted in the 2014-2015 school year by four New Hampshire school districts. Four more districts joined this school year.

“PACE was started by a concerned group of local leaders and teachers in four school districts in New Hampshire: Sanborn Regional in Kingston; Rochester, Epping, and Souhegan High School in Amherst,” said Paul K. Leather, deputy commissioner of the DOE. “These educators worked with the N.H. Department of Education and some contracted advisors, including the National Center for Assessment housed in Dover.”

The U.S. Department of Education OK’d the model, the first of its kind in the nation in 15 years, according to Leather.

Locally developed tests

PACE allows for locally developed performance assessments paired with just three scheduled Smarter Balanced tests for students K-12, rather than seven. “It’s a different form of accountability,” Saunders said of PACE.

Education Committee member Bernd Foecking, the Dublin representative to the ConVal School Board, said at the meeting Tuesday, “I think it’s a very exciting prospect.”

Peterborough representative Janine Lesser said, “It seems like it will change everything.”

Foecking said instruction would have to be more individualized to address individual competency issues.

Saunders agreed, saying PACE supports a personalized learning approach. “There are a series of questions that we’ll need to answer as we move toward [this model],” she said.

Exploring PACE is in the district’s strategic plan.