Why have Schools Abandoned Performance Assessments?

Performance assessments were once a hot topic in education. School districts across the nation anticipated that Common Core State Standards national test would resemble a performance assessment. This spur school systems to train all their staff  in how to design and implement performance assessments.

I spent the last four years training thousands of teachers in performance assessment design. Each of these professional did a remarkable job incorporating this new assessment system within their classroom routines.  And, just like all things in educations, the demand for this type of training simply stopped.

It’s not a coincidence that performance assessment’s popularity plunged among our public schools. A performance assessment is a time-consuming test to administer. It is not a practical evaluation for districts that are bounded to specific testing restrictions. This type of evaluation takes longer to design, to implement and to grade. The data results from these assessments are not instantaneously. It takes about a two weeks to collect and analyze the results.

Schools systems instead returned to a multiple-choice test format, which measures simple skills and concepts. Schools are aware that these assessments do not fully evaluate a student’s academic abilities, and can give false test score of what a child knows and can do.

Because these multiple choice assessments are cost-effective and faster diagnostic test, they are preferred over a performance assessment. Most of these tests are pre-packaged bulk evaluations, which can be automatically corrected by a Scantron machine. No longer do districts have to allocate funds or time for teacher training or a school coach. It does make the process easier for schools.

But faster, cheaper  and easier is not always a better way for our students.

A performance assessment maybe a more resource intensive evaluation, but it is a more accurately indicator of how well students can apply what they have learned. These assessments also quantify how a student is using prior knowledge to reinforce new grade-level content. The data it reveals is valuable in understanding how a student retains and transfers content being taught. It is unfortunate that these assessments are no longer being used by all our public schools.

Hopefully one day, school districts will give performance assessments another try. It is always a possibility in our education system.


Beyond Basic Skills: The Role of Performance Assessment in Achieving 21st Century Standards of Learning

Categories: Assessment


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