Show what you know. The logic is simple and convincing. Now the Common Core State Standards promises broader acceptance of such assessments.
Performance assessment implies that students demonstrate learning on a task that is as close as possible to a real-world standard. The idea gained currency in the 1990s based on a wide range of examples, including judging arts and athletics, driver’s tests, professional practica, and academic competitions (science fairs and National History Day). English teachers were among the first K-12 educators to employ detailed rubrics and checklists to communicate expectations and make scoring more fair.
Building on my Minnesota experience, our Teaching American History program integrated performance assessment into evaluation of the program’s impact on student performance. A teacher-team developed and field-tested three assessments. The first, for 5th grade (using the American Revolution), is available online as part of our TPS at CES Featured Source page. Assessments for 8th-9th grade (using the Lincoln-Douglass Debates) and 10th-11th grade (using the Civil Rights Movement) will follow.
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Performance Assessment and the Common Core
As part of the Common Core, two national consortia are developing new assessments for piloting (2013-2014) and implementation (2014-2015). Instead of single day, high-stakes, multiple-choice tests, designers promise that these assessments will feature extended, complex tasks of reading and writing.
One of these consortia, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) with leadership from Massachusetts, makes classroom-completed performance tasks central. The other, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium with leadership from Washington State, is building an online testing system.
Massachusetts and several other states are developing model curricula that embed performance assessments aligned to the Common Core. Stanford’s History Education Group and others are also developing exemplars. Watch our blog for updates as resources become available.
Preparing for the new Common Core State Standards will require more than just buying basal readers that include informational texts. (There is some justification for purchasing textbooks as quick backgrounders to more engaging sources. Yet with myriad excellent primary and secondary sources available–many for free–such basal readers are a poor investment.) Teachers and students must become comfortable engaging minds, modeling and practicing skills of analysis and organization, asking penetrating questions, drafting, reviewing, and revising real-world work.