Date of Award

Spring 2018

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Suzanne E. Graham

Second Advisor

Todd A. DeMitchell

Third Advisor

Charles DePascale


The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 authorizes a pilot program that allows up to seven states to develop innovative assessment and accountability systems. Prior to the official pilot program launch, the U.S. Department of Education approved one pilot program—New Hampshire’s Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE). To implement the PACE pilot, the New Hampshire Department of Education received a 2-year waiver (2014-2016) from federal statutory requirements related to state annual achievement testing and was granted additional waivers for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. The purpose of this study is to investigate the average effect of the PACE pilot on 8th grade student achievement outcomes in mathematics and English language arts during the first two years of implementation. This study also examines the extent to which those average treatment effects vary according to student characteristics and among PACE schools. PACE students are compared to non-PACE students with similar probabilities of being selected into treatment using propensity score methods. Multi-level modeling is then used to estimate the average treatment effect for students receiving either one or two years of treatment. Findings from this study provide preliminary evidence that the PACE pilot is having a positive effect on 8th grade student achievement outcomes in mathematics for some students starting in the second year of implementation and no effect in English language arts. Findings also suggest that students with disabilities that attend PACE schools tend to exhibit positive differential effects in comparison to students with disabilities in the non-PACE comparison group in both subject areas, although these findings should be considered exploratory due to the small number of PACE IEP students in the sample. Findings also suggest that male students that attend PACE schools tend to exhibit negative differential effects in comparison to female students in the non-PACE comparison group in both subject areas. Results are descriptive not causal, however, findings could be used to provide assurance to key stakeholders that PACE students are provided an equitable opportunity to learn the content standards. Also, because the focus of PACE pilot is on performance assessments used throughout the year, this study provides initial evidence that the learning gains on performance assessments may carry over to the more traditional state standardized tests. Implications for research, policy, and practice are also discussed.