A Hybrid Approach for Assessment

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by Kevin J. Gray, Managing Director

Student taking testWhile the assessment debate has long pitted summative year-end tests against formative in-course ones, some states are looking to a hybrid approach to gauge student performance. As outlined in this article from EdSurge, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and New Hampshire are looking to recast their assessment molds, relying more heavily on check-ins throughout the year to guide and shape instruction, a result that may lead to better performance for students overall. The driver? Participation in Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority (IADA), which grants up to seven states or educational entities flexibility to pilot new assessment models.

This novel concept is promising. A blend of assessment throughout the year would, in theory, provide more actionable data to educators, empowering them to differentiate instruction in a more timely manner. It may also allow teachers to craft assessments to the needs of students while eliminating the fatigue of long testing days at the end of the year. And in at least two instances, states are examining how to aggregate these formative assessments into a cumulative score that would presumably allow these states to tap into existing summative assessment infrastructure to track year over year progress.

It’s obviously too early to tell how this approach will play out—as the article notes, PARCC and Smarter Balanced tried similar approaches a decade ago. But in the past decade, the acceptance of formative assessment has grown, as has our overall digital infrastructure—two key catalysts that may help drive success in these transformative models. It will also be interesting to watch as other states apply for IADA acceptance.

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