New assessment model will allow teachers to modify instruction as students learn

LAWRENCE — Accessible Teaching, Learning, and Assessments Systems (ATLAS) has teamed up with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on a $2.5 million grant project to develop an innovative assessment model that provides students opportunities to demonstrate knowledge and skills not only at the end of the school year, but also as they learn. 

The Pathways for Instructionally Embedded Assessment (PIE) project will use research-based cognitive models of learning as the basis for assessments that give educators timely information about their students’ academic progress. Learning pathways created for the PIE project will help teachers guide their students to academic success by showing them where the student is, where the student has been and where the student is going. Teachers can then tailor instruction throughout the school year to better ensure that students make progress on their pathway toward grade-level academic achievement. 

Brooke Nash, ATLAS associate director for psychometrics, is PIE’s principal investigator. Russell Swinburne Romine, ATLAS associate director, and Eun Mi Kim, ATLAS math research lead, are co-principal investigators. According to Nash, many state education agencies are interested in assessment solutions that provide their teachers with a way to monitor students’ academic progress throughout the year as well as achievement at the end of the year. 

“Districts and state departments need measures of student achievement for planning, program improvement and accountability purposes. Teachers need timely and instructionally meaningful information about their students’ academic progress while learning is occurring,” Nash said. “Statewide standardized assessments built to provide information at the end of the school year do not provide assessment results teachers need to refine their instruction as students are learning.”

Despite growing interest in innovative assessment models, limited state resources often hinder the flexibility to explore new models. PIE is a proof-of-concept project that will serve approximately 1,500 fifth-grade general education math students and their teachers in Missouri, with potential to serve thousands more if developed for full-scale use. 

“This grant funding provides DESE the opportunity to accelerate our plans to redesign the state’s assessment system,” said Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “The PIE project will give us a chance to advance our goal to better see where and when students need more academic support in order to become success ready. We are very excited to get to work on this project.”