Congressional Briefing on Performance Assessment: An Opportunity to Advance Educational Equity and Transform Teaching and Learning

I have been invited to this congressional briefing this Thursday and want to share the details with you!

Congressional Briefing

Remarks by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
Thursday, April 12, 2018
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (ET)
216 Hart Senate Building, Washington, DC
Sponsored by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

Measuring Higher Order Thinking

As states, districts, and schools are expanding instruction to include the competencies associated with college, career, and civic readiness, they are also developing ways to measure mastery of higher-order thinking skills. These measures include performance assessments that show what students know and can do through demonstrations of their thinking, writing, research, and products (Learning Policy Institute).

Performance Assessment Systems

During this briefing, speakers will share information on the following:

  • What are performance assessments and how can they inform teaching and learning?
  • What is the role of performance assessment in advancing equity in educational opportunity in k-12 and higher education? Specifically, how can performance assessments drive deeper teaching and learning in k-12 and how can they be used to inform the postsecondary admission, placement, and advisement process in ways that increase access?
  • What is the current state of play in k-12 and higher education—who is using performance assessments and how are they being used?
  • What systems need to be in place to support the use of high-quality performance assessments for all students? (Learning Policy Institute).


  • Linda Darling-Hammond, President & CEO, Learning Policy Institute
  • Lindsay E. Jones, Vice President, Chief Policy & Advocacy Officer, National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • Ellen Hume-Howard, Executive Director, New Hampshire Learning Initiative
  • David Hawkins, Executive Director for Educational Content and Policy, National Association for College Admission Counseling
  • Nicole Dooley, Policy Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund (Learning Policy Institute).

New Hampshire Innovation

One of the reasons why Maggie Hassan is sponsoring this briefing is that her state is part of some exciting new innovations in performance assessment. As speaker Ellen Hume-Howard says in her blog:

The impetus for this deeper dive into these competencies came about from the first year of New Hampshire’s PACE (Performance Assessment of Competency Education) effort. Recognizing that these non-academic competencies were critical to success in a competency-based system, it was included as part of the PACE process.  But the four original participating schools soon found out just how varied their approaches were, and how limited our understanding in this arena was.

The Center for Innovation in Education, with then Deputy Commissioner Paul Leather and Mariane Gfroerer, from the Department of Education, enlisted me to facilitate a small cohort of educators across PACE  schools to begin to explore what it might look like to integrate our Work Study Practices into curriculum, instruction, and assessment within teachers’ classrooms.

Deeper Learning Competencies, Ellen Hume-Howard

New Hampshire Law

New Hampshire Work-Study Practices Rationale for Work-Study Practices – June 2014 In June 2013, the New Hampshire State Legislature passed Chapter 263, or Senate Bill 48, An Act Relative to School Performance and Accountability, which amended the existing statute on school performance and accountability. In this bill, the legislature declared the intent to build a state accountability model that will “best support schools and educators…to enable all students to progress toward college and career readiness with clearly defined learning outcomes.” The legislation underscored the state’s commitment to build a competency based system in which students are provided with personalized learning that provides “flexibility in the way that credit can be earned and awarded,” and that allows them to “advance when they demonstrate the desired level of mastery.” As part of this competency-based system, the legislation declared that “New Hampshire’s system of educator support should promote the capacity of educators to deeply engage students in learning rigorous and meaningful knowledge, skills, and Work-Study Practices [emphasis added] for success in college, career, and citizenship.”

The bill goes on to define Work-Study Practices (WSP) as “those behaviors that enhance learning achievement and promote a positive work ethic such as, but not limited to, listening and following directions, accepting responsibility, staying on task, completing work accurately, managing time wisely, showing initiative, and being cooperative.” New research highlights the importance of developing and supporting students’ Work-Study Practices. For example, a 2013 United States Department of Education study, Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century, found that non-cognitive abilities (NCAs, their term for WorkStudy Practices) “are essential to an individual’s capacity to strive for and succeed at long-term and higher-order goals, and to persist in the face of the array of challenges and obstacles encountered throughout schooling and life.” Hess and Gong, in their paper, “Ready for College and Career?” found that “college professors and employers prioritize aptitudes that go beyond typical academic standards, such as communication, collaboration, and creativity” (Hess & Gong, 2014).

Angela Duckworth concludes that “grit” or persistence is a better determinant of future success than traditional measures such as a person’s IQ, SAT, and ACT scores (Duckworth & Peterson, 2007). Importantly, research identifies six strategies that can promote New Hampshire’s WorkStudy Practices in schools (US ED, 2013: Hess & Gong 2014), alongside the state’s commitment to competencybased education, and that will help lead all students to graduate college and career ready: 1. Focus learning on competencies representing key concepts, skills, and WSPs; 2. Embed WSPs across the curriculum to promote cognitive rigor and deep learning; 3. Provide opportunities for students to take on challenging learning goals that are intrinsically meaningful to them through student-centered learning approaches; 4. Use performance assessments that require demonstration of content, skills, and WSPs; 5. Provide a supportive environment that conveys high expectations and effort over ability; 6. Explicitly teach students how to apply WSPs to their learning, e.g., teaching students
Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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