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Georgia Wants In on the ESSA Innovative Assessment Pilot


Georgia has said it wants to apply for the Every Student Succeeds Act's Innovative Assessment pilot. Applications aren't technically due until December for the next round of the pilot, but the Peach State has flagged its interest early.

If approved, Georgia would join Louisiana and New Hampshire in trying out new kinds of tests in a handful of districts, with the goal of eventually taking them statewide. The U.S. Department of Education can allow up to seven states or groups of states to participate in the pilot, which was one of the most talked about pieces of ESSA. It has yet to attract a ton of applicants, though, in part because there are a lot of tough technical requirements andno extra federal money attached.

New Hampshire is using the pilot to build a system of performance-based assessments, while Louisiana is combining social studies and language arts tests into a single assessment that includes passages from books students read in class, not brand-new material.

But Georgia's plan is a little different from those approaches. The Peach State ran its own miniature innovative assessment competition, and ended up giving three consortia of districts the greenlight to work on new "formative" assessments. These assessments help teachers gauge where students are and adjust instruction. 

For all three consortia the formative assessments would be rolled into a "summative" score for the year.  For instance, one of the consortia is working with the NWEA, a national non-profit that deals with assessment, to adapt NWEA's MAP Growth test for Georgia.

The overall goal is to give teachers a better picture of how their students are doing in real time. The state is hoping these locally created assessments will be a better fit for districts than the state test, called Georgia Milestones.

"The intent with these locally developed assessment systems is that they have the opportunity to do something a little more innovative that better meets their individual needs in a way that we couldn't do at the state level," said Allison Timberlake, Georgia's deputy superintendent for assessment and accountability.

Eventually, Peach State officials are hoping that all Georgia districts will have a choice of any of the three formative assessment systems. That's the thinking behind a recent state law that directed the state department to create the new testing system.

ESSA requires that the eventually lead to every school in the state using the same, innovative test. Matt Jones, the chief of staff for the Georgia department, thinks Georgia's pitch will fit the bill.

"Districts at the end of this would have a choice of assessments, as long as they are of a high-technical quality and are aligned to our standards and we've established comparability," he said.

Want to learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act? Here's some useful information:

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