Competency-based testing the next generation of testing!

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With the passage and implementation of the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), a clause in the legislation allows states to apply for a waiver from testing regulation if the state is looking into developing what is being called “Next Generation Assessments.” The latest state to get approval for this is New Hampshire. New Hampshire currently uses the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment) to comply with federal laws. That law states that all students in the state must take the same assessment.

What does this waiver mean for schools in New Hampshire? It means that the State Board of Education can select districts to take a different assessment, a “Next Generation Assessment” for ELA, Math, and Science. New Hampshire has chosen to try a new competency-based assessment this year for those identified districts.


What is a competency-based assessment you might ask? In short, competency- based can be defined as what students need to know, and what they’ll learn. A competency-based assessment would be similar to that of the Smarter Balanced test currently being administered in the state. The Smarter Balanced Assessment offers Computer Adaptive Testing which adapts in real-time to how the student is performing on the test. If the student is getting the correct answers, the test will get progressively harder. If the student is struggling and missing answers then the test will get easier based on real-time answers, the student is giving during the test.

Computer-adaptive assessments were, at one time, considered to be a next generation type of assessment, but no longer. New Hampshire will have the opportunity to explore other avenues in the assessment realm in addition to this type of assessment. The possibilities are endless. Some assessment types being reviewed by not just New Hampshire, but by other states as well are competency-based assessments and even portfolios of students’ work. The task becomes developing and validating assessments, pilot though while also determining mastery. These can be applied to current assessments or newly designed ones.

President Obama applauds the efforts by states to continue to develop these next generation type assessments and hopes they continue to do so in the future. The Every Student Succeed allows seven states to pilot these next generation type assessment pilots. New York has expressed pilot though they have not got approval as of yet.

The educational scene changes yearly depending on the region and state. Until these next generation assessments are developed and validated, the assessment scene in the United States will continue to evolve. To remain on the cutting-edge school districts must keep abreast of new research. I believe the next generation assessment development is a step in the right direction. However, national and local educational entities must ensure implementation is done in an informative and timely manner to alleviate stress and confusion for the entire education community.

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Jeremy Brunton