Performance Assessment of
Competency Education (PACE)

Since 2005, New Hampshire has been committed to competency-based education and personalized learning, and this focus gained national recognition with the implementation of PACE in 2016.

PACE is a first-in-the-nation accountability strategy that enables districts to seek an exemption from the U.S. Department of Education for statewide standardized assessments, instead leveraging common performance assessments developed locally by New Hampshire educators.

The goal is to achieve deeper learning through competency education by providing evidence of learning and a deeper understanding and application of concepts learned during students’ daily classroom work. We see PACE as a critical step in ensuring all students are taking pride in the work they’re doing, and that they are getting the biggest benefit from their education.

NHLI has helped implement PACE in many New Hampshire school districts, and we are poised to continue this meaningful work.

Can PACE help your school?

Skills and Dispositions of Successful Learners

There is now solid evidence that work-study practices can be catalysts for student success both in and out of the classroom. These work-study practices, such as communication, collaboration and creativity, and self-direction, help students leverage their learning and build habits for success.

NHLI assists teachers in fully understanding and refining their approach to a competency-based education, in turn supporting students with a learning experience that fully prepares them for college, career and life.

Separating Academics from Behaviors

For decades, our educational system has relied on a 100-point scale to measure student success. But when test and quiz grades are the only measures for performance, we miss opportunities to develop key metacognitive practices students need to succeed in college, career and life.

NHLI is helping teachers integrate work-study practices into curriculum instruction and assessment. Integrating these critical competencies into content allows students to practice the metacognitive practices necessary for continued growth. Doing so not only provides students ownership in their learning, but provides teachers, parents and the student with evidence showing the level of competency and what other areas are seeing progress or need work.

With a more evidenced-based approach, work-study practices create a lever for equity that empowers students to develop key skills that will serve them far beyond high school.


Our Journey Integrating Deeper Learning in Schools and Classrooms

The 3-Phase Implementation and its Results

Phase 1

Participating educators went through a facilitated course module designed by 2Revolutions and based upon the Essential Skills and Dispositions (Lench, Fukada and Anderson, 2015). Based upon resource, this course provided teachers with guided opportunities to explore and develop their own skill level related to communication, collaboration, creativity and self-direction, and better understand the progression of learning involved to go from beginning to emerging expert within a given skill.

Phase 2

Teachers were then asked to “test” a hypothesis related to something they thought may make a difference for their learners within these essential skills. The resulting efforts produced rubrics, goal-setting exercises, explicit instruction of one or more of the WSP as well as explicit inclusion of one or more of the WSP throughout a unit.


Phase 3

All participating teachers came together at the end of the year to share their learning. This became one of the strongest aspects of our approach, as participants “borrowed” ideas and artifacts from one another to assist in deepening their own work with their own students in the coming year.

Download our case study to learn how the Sanborn Regional School District implemented competency-based learning.


School ReTool

Be Empowered to Cultivate Change Within Your School.

School ReTool represents small ways to make big changes for students, with the ultimate goal of fully preparing students for their futures in college, career and life. This program was created by IDEO and the Stanford school, and the Nellie Mae Foundation and NHLI have brought it to New Hampshire.

This professional learning fellowship opportunity helps school leaders redesign school culture using small, scrappy experiments called “hacks.”

“Hacking” is an approach to change in schools using quick, small interventions and a willingness to try, fail and learn, all in an effort to rethink how education is delivered. With experienced leaders and coaches, School ReTool participants learn about the “hack” mindset and how to bring it to life in the classroom.

Learn More about “hacks” for change in this short video.


School ReTool also gives participants the opportunity to explore deeper learning, which can be achieved through “hacks” and other more radical approaches to learning. The program offers various “big ideas” to inspire you to think about how you can bring real change to your schools and classrooms.

Make your own big change with deeper learning and big ideas.

Learn More

Interested in participating in School ReTool or involving your district’s administrators?

Contact Jonathan Vander Els at

The Ongoing Assessment Project (OGAP)

End the struggle with meeting the Common Core State Standards in mathematics. OGAP helps teachers use formative assessment and learning progressions to meet these standards, and is grounded in research on how students learn mathematics.

Learn More

Next Generation Collaborative Learning Design

New Hampshire is moving from simply creating the conditions for personalized learning to intentionally focusing on the development of a co-designed and personalized environment for all learners.

The Next Generation Collaborative Learning Design* project is in its second phase as part of our Assessment for Learning initiative. We’re proud of this multi-phased approach to expanding education systems in the Granite State.

*All work created for and by educators in the Next Generation Collaborative Learning Design project is under the Creative Commons license.


Phase I

This phase of the Next Generation Collaborative Learning Design project focused on the environments where personalized learning can take place, specifically multi-age classrooms without traditional approaches to grading.

Phase II

This phase refocuses our approach on curriculum, instruction and performance assessments with the goal of shifting the roles and relationships of teachers and students to personalize deeper learning. It also deliberately integrates the Next Generation Collaborative Learning Design project with New Hampshire’s overarching innovative system of learning and assessment, the Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE). We will be working closely with teachers to identify opportunities for personalizing various aspects of curriculum and performance assessments in collaboration with students according to their needs, interests and unique backgrounds. This process, Collaborative Learning Design, closely connects formative processes and end-of-unit performance assessments with curriculum and instruction. Collaborative Learning Design includes a focus on student exhibition as a vehicle for engaging students in Work-Study Practices (WSP)–collaboration, communication, creativity and self-direction–through authentic practice. Collaborative Learning Design–the two prongs, consisting of elementary co-design and student exhibition–explicitly highlight the deeper learning competencies while promoting students as active agents in their learning.

Download our case study Improving Upon the First Phase of the Assessment for Learning Project

Validation for Improved Education