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Friday Institute Team Providing Professional Development and Evaluation Support for the NCDPI Innovative Assessment System Pilot Program

With approval from the U.S. Department of Education’s Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is piloting a through-grade assessment system, the North Carolina Personalized Assessment Tool (NCPAT), that will provide data for immediate feedback about students’ performance throughout the year. 

Researchers from the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation will support the development of these through-course assessment opportunities through the establishment of a professional development program for educators and applied research to promote continuous improvement. NCPAT will be administered as a pilot with approximately 75-80 schools in the 2022-23 academic year and ultimately to a broader group of districts and schools in the future. 

“The Friday Institute is pleased to support NCDPI as they pilot this innovative work here in North Carolina,” says Emmy Coleman, a senior research scholar on the Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative (PLLC) team at the Friday Institute and the project’s principal investigator. “The program is just the beginning of what will hopefully be a larger movement to ensure more personalized learning and robust assessments for teachers and students nationwide.”                                                   

Composed of a through-grade classroom assessment and a flexible summative assessment at the end of the school year, NC Check-Ins 2.0—the through-grade component of NCPAT—will provide educators with immediate feedback to inform instruction, ultimately giving teachers information at the student level to better personalize learning for all students.         

The project goals include:

  • Implementing and redefining a professional development program that supports teachers, coaches, principals and district leaders in implementing NC Check-Ins 2.0—including why the assessments are important for instruction and student learning and how to use data to inform teaching and learning.
  • Building a communication plan in collaboration with NCDPI that provides support to teachers, coaches, principals and district leaders in the implementation of the NCPAT. 
  • Gathering feedback from educators and conducting cognitive labs with students to support the continuous improvement of professional development efforts and guide adjustments to the NCPAT assessment items and reports. 

Ensuring that teachers and educational leaders have comprehensive information on how to use the data effectively and proactively to support learning will be paramount to the success of the program, says Coleman. The professional development program component gives teachers and educational leaders information on how to use the outcomes from NC Check-Ins 2.0, while the score reports provide item level data for each student.

The program is currently being piloted across 11 districts and six charters, where volunteers may participate in both reading and mathematics programs or only one content area. Participants also have the option of taking part in one grade level or all available grade levels. The Program Evaluation and Education Research (PEER) Group at the Friday Institute conducted stakeholder interviews and cognitive labs with students and teachers and then regularly updated NCDPI about results to aid in continually improving the forms of training, questions and feedback teachers and students would receive. 

During the 2021-2022 school year, NCDPI explored materials for students who might need paper-based accommodations to access NC Check-Ins 2.0. The PEER Group then conducted more cognitive labs with students and teachers to determine which materials worked well in providing students equitable access. In the spring of 2022, the PEER Group conducted interviews with fourth and seventh grade teachers about their use of the Class Item Reports for targeted instruction. Those teachers reported satisfaction with the current form of the report and offered suggestions for additional improvements to the resources that teachers receive.

Additionally, the PLLC team developed a training session on NC Check-Ins 2.0 that was shared with pilot schools during the 2021-2022 school year. The team is currently in the process of developing a module focused on data literacy and using data from NC Check-Ins 2.0 to help support teacher, administrator and instructional coaches’ use of data in the classroom to help improve student achievement.

When the pilot program concludes in the 2023-24 school year, NCDPI will consider statewide implementation, with NC Check-Ins 2.0 being voluntary and all students participating in the flexible summative assessment.