Partner Profile: A Partnership of Reimagining College Access

Designing a Common “Record of College Readiness Evidence” for Integrating Performance Assessment Evidence into College Applications: A Partnership of Reimagining College Access and Envision Learning Partners

The Reimagining College Access initiative is a national effort, led by the Learning Policy Institute and EducationCounsel, to advance the use of high-quality performance assessments completed by secondary students for higher education admissions, placement, and advising decisions. The ultimate goal driving this initiative is to increase college access to underrepresented students by expanding and diversifying the types of information taken into consideration in college admissions, while also reinforcing the efforts of high schools to provide meaningful and rigorous assessment experiences for students. 

Over the last two years of the global COVID-19 pandemic, many higher education institutions discontinued their use of standardized college admission test scores (SAT/ACT) due to the logistical challenges of conducting secure testing and a growing awareness of the equity concerns associated with admissions criteria that largely depended on test scores and grades. California’s public universities, including the UC and Cal State systems, have completely ended the practice of including these test scores in their admissions formulae, and some private universities, including Harvard University, paused the use of these test scores in their admissions criteria for several years. This policy change has created an opportune opening for the consideration of other types of evidence, such as performance assessments and authentic demonstrations. However, the challenge of this opportunity is getting this evidence into a standard form that colleges will see as valid, trustworthy, a “value add” to the evidence they already solicit, and can be processed efficiently and equitably.

Over the last academic year (2021-22), ELP (represented by Justin Wells and Ruth Wei) has been working together with LPI (Dr. Monica Martinez and Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond) to tackle this challenge – to develop a common and easily interpreted “Record of College Readiness Evidence” that represents students’ authentic demonstrations of their learning and accomplishments in a standardized way that is simultaneously accessible and useful to college admissions reviewers and allows students to present evidence of their unique intellectual, personal, cultural experiences/contexts, learning dispositions, and college readiness skills. 

To accomplish this purpose, ELP and LPI convened a nationally representative Advisory Panel that included higher education admissions representatives and college counseling / secondary school networks that engage students in authentic demonstrations of learning. Advisory Panel members provided input into a blueprint – a set of design specifications – to guide the development of a common “Record of College Readiness Evidence”, and provided feedback on initial drafts of the blueprint and the elements of evidence that would be solicited from student applicants. Simultaneously, ELP conducted a national scan of performance assessment by conducting a survey of school networks using performance assessments as part of their assessment systems to determine the most common learning outcomes and means of demonstrating those outcomes, with the goal of creating an inclusive menu of learning outcomes and genres/types of performance assessments for the “Record”.

In the next academic year (2022-23), ELP will again be partnering with LPI to create an online representation of the “Record of College Readiness Evidence”, with the goal of spurring interest and commitment from higher education institutions and secondary school networks to participate in a pilot of the Record in the 2023-24 admissions year.  The ultimate goal is to create a common online platform that can be used by students to submit authentic evidence of their learning and accomplishments while also meeting the needs of college admissions reviewers to seamlessly integrate new evidence into their data and review systems, and use this evidence efficiently, systematically, and equitably. There is growing interest among higher education admissions leaders in learning more deeply about student capacities that are difficult to capture in existing application materials (e.g., Harvard University’s “Making Caring Common” project) – such as students’ intellectual, civic, and moral character, personal drive, specific cultural and personal contexts/experiences, resilience and adaptability in new situations, and innovative thinking. Reimagining College Access and ELP hope to make a convincing case that authentic demonstrations of learning and accomplishments, and students’ reflections on the significance of that evidence, are robust, direct sources of evidence of these hard-to-measure traits.  

The Reimagining College Access initiative recently released a guidance document, authored by Aneesha Badrinarayan, aimed at colleges interested in integrating performance assessments into their college admission systems: Performance Assessment in College Admission: Designing an Effective and Equitable Process. Although the tool is designed for admission officers, it can also be used by K–12 educators to gain a better understanding of the considerations that colleges must take into account in the use of performance assessments in admissions. The tool defines performance assessment and then provides concrete guidance on how admission officers can incorporate information about students’ K–12 performance assessments into their application and review processes. 

We encourage K-12 school networks interested in potentially partnering with LPI and ELP in a 2023-24 pilot of the online “Record of College Readiness Evidence” platform to reach out to us! Please contact Ruth Wei (ruth@envisionlearning.org) or Justin Wells (justin@envisionlearning.org) to learn more! 

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