Step 1. Choose a Set of Content Standards
and Develop Your Performance
Descriptions and Expectations
Just as you started with a standard or set of standards to drive your
lesson plan development, so too do you start with content standards to
develop your assessments. Standards have learning expectations that
generally fall into one of these categories:
You can name your performance standards anything you want, and you are not
restricted to three levels:
- concepts and information (what students should know);
- skills (what students should be able to do);
- communication (how students can articulate concepts and skills);
- transfer (how they can apply information and skills in new ways or to
different subject matters).
What is important is that your building or district has a common
understanding and usage of each performance standard in assessing
student work. You need to clearly articulate what each performance
standard looks like in practice. Two ways to articulate standards are:
- emerging, proficient, exceptional; or
- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; or
- beginning, developing, accomplished, exemplary; or
- A, B, C, D, F.
The key to effective performance and valid scoring is setting standards
and criteria in advance. Scoring criteria make public what is being
judged and the standards for acceptable performance and let students
know exactly what they need to do to get a particular rating.
- clearly stated quality indicators or performance descriptions of what
each standard represents; and/or
- samples of student work, or anchors, that
demonstrate how the sample met or did not meet the performance standards.
Tip: Be sure your performance descriptions and
quality indicators are aligned with the content standard being addressed. One
easy way to check this is to see whether the verbs in each statement mean the
same thing, e.g., interpret = explain or present the meaning.
Scoring Performance Tasks and Using Rubrics
A rubric is an assessment scoring guide that describes student work
at different levels of performance. A rubric gives students feedback
on their performance. It tells them what the lesson or teacher expects
and what they need to do in order to improve their performance.
Teachers can use "anchors" as examples of each performance standard.
Anchors can be used as exhibits for explaining how a product did or did
not meet a performance standard.
A typical rubric:
There are two types of rubrics: analytic or trait and holistic.
- specifically articulates the criteria of the knowledge and skills to be
- contains a scale of possible points to be assigned (describes a
range of quality); and
- provides quality indicators for each level of
analytic or trait rubric consists of a set of separate criteria to
assess a piece of work. Rather than describing exemplary performance
holistically, an analytic rubric assesses specific parts of the work
separately (e.g., grammar, content, word usage, etc.).
holistic rubric is used to measure the overall effect of a piece of
work with a set of appropriate guidelines. Contrary to an analytic or
trait rubric, a holistic rubric does not measure the work's parts.
Why use Rubrics?
Rubrics articulate what students are to learn and the quality of student
performance that is "acceptable." Focusing attention on performance
standards allows teachers to provide students with more usable and timely
feedback. (See Step 4.)
Questions to Consider
Just like student work, a rubric must undergo a process of review
and improvement in order to be exemplary. Consider the following
when you construct your scoring rubrics.
- Are your rubrics aligned with the content standards (essential skills)
and performance standards (levels of understanding) of the lesson?
- Have you developed quality indicators or descriptions of each
performance standard that represent what each standard represents?
- Do the quality indicators represent a smooth continuum of performance
so as to convey that high-quality work is possible through the steps
of review, feedback, and improvement?
- Is there an example, performance description, or anchor of what
each performance standard looks like in practice? (Consider using
anchors from one student's work that underwent review and improvement to reach excellence.)
- Does the highest point on the scale describe genuinely challenging
(yet attainable) performance?
To Step 2: Decide How You Will Communicate Performance
Expectations to Students, Parents, and Others Who Are Interested
Revised August 25, 2005
Copyright © 2000, RMC Research Corporation