Performance assessments were once a hot topic in education. It was presumed among school districts that all national tests would resemble performance assessments. This presumption 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.

Coincidental? Not at all.

Performance assessments popularity plunged among public schools because of its design limitation to predict academic achievement, quickly and cheaply. A performance assessment is a time-consuming test to design, to administer and to grade. It is not a practical evaluation for districts that are confined to specific testing requirements and money. The data results from these assessments are not instantaneously. It takes about a two weeks to collect and to analyze the results.

The only logical solution for these school systems was a multiple-choice test, 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.

However, multiple choice assessments are cost-effective and faster diagnostic tools. 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. It does make the process easier for schools.

But faster, cheaper and easier is not always a better way for students or predicting academic achievement.

A performance assessment maybe more of a resource intensive evaluation, but it is a more accurate 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 well a student retains, transfers, utilizes content being taught in the classroom.

It is unfortunate that these assessments are no longer being used by most schools. Hopefully one day, districts will give performance assessments another try.


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

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