Current Initiatives

Center staff members are poised to apply our deep expertise to critical and rapidly emerging policy and technical assessment and accountability issues. The initiatives featured here will shift over time, depending on the current policy environment:


ESSA Accountability

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in December 2015, is the most recent reauthorization of the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act. ESSA continues many of the assessment provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, but allows states to exercise considerably more choice and control over their school accountability systems. States face numerous challenges designing fair, valid, and effective accountability systems. Center for Assessment professionals are supporting multiple states—Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wyoming, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands—with accountability design solutions and other direct technical support. . Our reach extends to all states through our many papers and tools including (all found on the Center’s website except where noted):


Innovative Assessment and Accountability Systems

The Center for Assessment has a long history of leadership in developing rich and innovative assessment systems to support instructional reforms for enhancing student learning. Rich Hill and Brian Gong led the Kentucky assessment reforms immediately prior to starting the Center in 1998 and together with Scott Marion, while he was the assessment leader in Wyoming; the Center was instrumental in Wyoming’s renowned Body of Evidence Assessment System. Center staff members push the boundaries of assessment innovation with work on incorporating performance-based and new forms of writing assessment on state assessments. , Much of this work was under the radar during the No Child Left Behind era but there has been a renewed spark among state and district leaders to pursue both richer assessments and intentionally coherent assessment systems. The Center for Assessment has been on the front lines to support such work. Most noteworthy, as the lead technical partner and key policy advisor for New Hampshire’s innovative assessment and accountability pilot, Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE), the Center is ensuring the quality and rigor of PACE performance assessments and designing methods for evaluating the comparability of student results across districts. PACE served as a model for creation of the Innovative Assessment and Accountability Demonstration in the recently-passed ESSA, which opens the door for seven states to pursue the type of innovation experienced in New Hampshire. Our work in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are further examples of partnerships with school districts interested in the design and development of innovative, balanced assessment systems.

Along with partners at KnowledgeWorks and with support from the Nellie Mae Foundation, the Center has produced a series of technical and policy briefs intended to help state leaders grapple with meeting the requirements of the Demonstration Authority. These are in addition to a wealth of resources related to the specific requirements of the Demonstration Authority, as well as in support competency-based education and assessment systems in general. A recent list follows (all found on the Center’s website except where noted):



Comparability is at the core of educational assessment and accountability. When we want to measure changes in a student’s performance from one year to the next, we require evidence that the two assessment scores justifiably can be compared. Similarly, if policymakers want to evaluate the extent to which certain policies are having the intended effects, they must be able to compare apples to apples. Key approaches for ensuring and evaluating comparability of educational assessments; e.g., state test results over time, falls under the umbrella of score linking. The Center for Assessment has nearly two decades of experience working with states and other educational agencies to design and implement effective assessment policies and processes that help promote high-quality linking practices.

The shift to the Common Core State Standards and consortium-based assessments (e.g., PARCC and Smarter Balanced) has increased the focus on comparability and, importantly, on the threats to comparability including, but not limited to: different modes of test administration (computer vs. paper), different types of devices (e.g., tablets, desktop computers), and different administration vendors. Center staff have recently led and/or participated in psychometric and research work for the PARCC consortium and states using PARCC content (i.e., Louisiana, Massachusetts) such as conducting analyses and advising on issues related to comparability of test scores across test forms with varying proportions of PARCC content, different administration modes, and other conditions that may impact the comparability claims that can be made about the test scores.

Having deep expertise and familiarity with approaches from other jurisdictions allows Center professionals to respond to novel or otherwise challenging contexts. This is the case for evaluating comparability claims within the assessment consortium contexts, and for designing comparability evaluations for innovative assessment systems.

Some recent comparability publications include: