Developing and Measuring Higher Order Skills

Models for State Performance Assessment Systems

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In December 2015, passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) opened up new possibilities for how student and school success are defined and supported in American public education. One of the most notable shifts in the law is that states have greater responsibility for designing and building their state assessment and accountability systems.

This paper discusses four models for integrating performance-based components into assessment systems, all of which have been used successfully at scale in states and nations around the world. It also discusses what is needed to assure validity, reliability, and comparability in the use of such assessments. These models --which can also be combined in various ways – include:
I.  Performance items or tasks as part of traditional ‘sit-down’ tests.
II.  Curriculum-embedded tasks that are implemented in the classroom during the school year, assessing more complex sets of skills. These may be common or locally developed and may stand alone or be combined with test results to produce a summative score.
III.  Portfolios or collections of evidence that aggregate multiple tasks to display a broad set of competencies in multiple domains or genres.
IV.  Comprehensive assessment systems that include traditional sit-down tests, curriculum-embedded tasks, and portfolios and exhibitions leading to a student defense, each serving distinctive complementary purposes

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