Why DiscoTest?

Transforming testing to serve learning

Each year, the lives of over 50 million Americans are directly shaped by high stakes standardized testing. Unfortunately, these tests continue—despite claims to the contrary—to drive forms of instruction that prevent most of us from learning optimally. At Lectica, we're returning tests to their rightful place in the natural learning cycle—as sources of rich timely feedback that reward and support optimal learning and teaching.

The hallmarks of our work include the powerful, yet simple, learning model that drives all of our work, assessments that measure and support robust learning, and the first automated developmental scoring system—CLAS.

It all started at UC Berkeley in 1996...

As a graduate student observing in public school classrooms, our founder, Dr. Dawson was shocked by the stark contrast between the educational experiences available to advantaged versus disadvantaged students. She feared that this contrast was about to deepen, due to the rapidly growing high-stakes testing industry. It seemed clear that high-stakes “right answer” focused tests would narrow the curriculum and drive teaching—especially in disadvantaged schools—toward the memorization of facts, vocabulary, and procedures, and away from practices that foster deep understanding and skill. Recognizing that testing drives instruction, Dawson set out to create a radically different testing technology—one intended to drive the kind of teaching that increases engagement while continuously building skills for thinking and learning.

The result of these efforts is a new technology that's used to develop and deliver sophisticated learning tools called Lectical Assessments. Through the DiscoTest Initiative, we plan to deliver these learning tools, free of charge, to individual teachers everywhere.

In the video below, Dr. Dawson describes what research has taught us about the impact of conventional high stakes testing—and the need for the DiscoTest Initiative. If you'd like to dive deeper into our rationale, check out our Rationale & evidence article.

Selected funders

IES (US Department of Education)

The Spencer Foundation


Dr. Sharon Solloway

The Simpson Foundation

The Leopold Foundation

Donor list

Selected clients

Glastonbury School District, CT

The Ross School

Rainbow Community School

The Study School

Long Trail School

The US Naval Academy

The City of Edmonton, Alberta

The US Federal Government

Advisory Board

Antonio Battro, MD, Ph.D., One Laptop Per Child

Marc Schwartz, Ph.D. and former high school teacher, University of Texas at Arlington

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Ed.D., University of Southern California

Willis Overton, Ph.D., Temple University, Emeritus