Education Leaders Urge Assessment Innovation, Not Super Test

SAN MATEO, Calif.--()--A diverse group of more than 60 educational leaders representing a variety of organizations – from academic institutions to state boards of education to foundations to education providers – released an open letter today calling for the states and the assessment consortia designing the next generation of assessments to move with all haste to deploy an assessment system that not only explicitly accommodates emerging models of innovative schooling, but also supports them.

The letter, titled “Flexibility, Innovation Must Guide Implementation of New State Assessment Systems to Measure Mastery of Common Core State Standards,” is available at It argues that the emergence of digital learning has the potential to transform the nation’s school system, and the creation of a next-generation assessment system has the opportunity not just to revolutionize testing, but to be a platform for new approaches to learning and schooling.

The letter warns against using traditional methods to buy one test that attempts to meet a variety of needs. That approach could lock the nation into its current factory-era education system that has proved so inadequate to the task of meeting the country’s education goals in the 21st century.

“In an era in which learning knows no geographic bounds, there is an unprecedented opportunity to transform our nation’s education system so that every child can realize his or her fullest human potential,” said Michael B. Horn, executive director of education at Innosight Institute and a signatory of the letter. “Adopting the wrong assessment framework could stifle this opportunity.”

To that end, the group provides three recommendations for the consortia developing the assessments:

  1. Create a dynamic testing ecosystem, not another one-size-fits-all assessment.
  2. Plan for innovation. Next-generation assessment systems should be interoperable and flexible to ensure that states, districts and schools can implement complementary alternative and aligned in-course assessments and instructional materials.
  3. Adopt assessment systems that support transformation. New assessment systems should support rather than act as a barrier to competency-based learning—in which time is variable but learning is constant for each student—and systems should shift to focus on measuring and rewarding individual student growth instead of fixed inputs. Consequently, next-generation assessments must be made available on demand when a student completes a unit or course and not at a pre-determined time on the school calendar.

“We need to use this next-generation assessment system as a platform that catalyzes innovation,” said Tom Vander Ark, chair of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) and a signatory of the letter. “Assessments that lock in today’s time-based system will prevent the shift from teaching age cohorts to personalized learning.”

The open letter encouraging the assessment consortia to catalyze innovation in the nation’s schooling system emerged from a convening at the Harvard Graduate School of Education titled, “Unleashing Education Innovation.” Horn, Vander Ark and Gunnar Counselman, founder and CEO of Fidelis, organized the drafting of the letter.

About Innosight Institute

Innosight Institute is a nonprofit/nonpartisan think tank based in San Mateo, Calif. whose mission is to apply Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen’s theories of disruptive innovation to develop and promote solutions to the problems in education.


Stern + Associates
Laura Bubeck, 908-276-4344 x218

Release Summary

Open letter outlines recommendations for states and assessment teams to deploy an flexible assessment system that explicitly supports and accommodates emerging models of innovative schooling.


Stern + Associates
Laura Bubeck, 908-276-4344 x218