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About Dr. Hess

Dr. Karin Hess has over 40 years of deep experience in curriculum, instruction, and assessment.


Karin is a recognized international leader in developing practical approaches for using cognitive rigor and learning progressions as the foundation for formative, interim, and performance learning and assessment.

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For almost 15 years at the Center for Assessment in Dover, NH, Dr. Hess distinguished herself as curriculum and assessment expert in multiple content areas. She has effectively guided over 35 states and US territories in the development of grade level expectations and test specifications for both general education and alternate assessments for significantly cognitively disabled students. She has authored and co-authored a dozen books or book chapters, and numerous articles and white papers related to instructional practices, alignment, cognitive rigor, text complexity, and assessment. Recent books include Ready to Advance PreK curriculum (Benchmark Education); A Local Assessment Toolkit to Promote Deeper Learning (Corwin); (Fundamentals of Literacy Instruction & Assessment, Prek-6 (Brookes); Deeper Competency-Based-Learning (Corwin); and Rigor by Design, Not Chance (ASCD). 

Dr. Hess’s past experiences as a state director of gifted education for New Jersey and as a district curriculum director, building principal, and classroom teacher (15 years) enable her to understand the practical implications of her work while maintaining fidelity to research, technical quality, and established best practices. Over the years, she has been a technical advisor to Renaissance Learning, EL Education, Mentoring Minds, Achieve3000, and WIDA.


Dr. Hess has also worked as a program evaluator for the Vermont Mathematics Project; as a content specialist for development of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) ELA, Math, and Science performance assessments; and as the developer and editor of Science Exemplars ( With Dr. Linda Darling Hammond, she co-led development of the SBAC content specifications for assessment of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in ELA and mathematics. In 2022-23, Dr. Hess worked with and the New Meridian Testing Company to design through-course assessments, applying learning progressions research.

Karin's support for competency-based education has included guiding the development of NH's K-12 Model Competencies for ELA, Mathematics, and Science and supporting school districts in many states in implementing competency-based systems and creating and analyzing the use of high-quality benchmark assessments, and performance-based assessments.

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