A core tenet of competency-based pathways (CBP) is that accurate, credible and useful student assessment information plays an essential role in supporting learning. Assessments should be a meaningful learning experience for students, provide rich information to educators so they can provide targeted support to students, and send students and parents clear signals about students’ readiness for next steps. Assessment systems should be designed to help monitor the quality and consistency of determinations about whether a student is ready to move on and signal rigorous definitions of mastery or proficiency. Assessments should vary enough to reflect the personalization inherent in different pathways yet be comparable enough to ensure quality. Students should be able to take assessments as soon as they are ready, rather than wait for the end of the year, so that they can move ahead when they need to do so.
Yet, little practical guidance is currently available for those designing assessments associated with CBP systems. For example, can the basic principles and practices of assessment design be applied to CBP systems without modification? What is it about CBP that makes the design of comprehensive assessment systems challenging? Are there unique considerations for validating CBP assessment systems? This document addresses the role of summative assessment in supporting CBP, clarifies key assessment challenges, and provides examples and recommendations that will be useful in guiding those who wish to design and implement assessment systems to support CBP.