John Seyfarth

Document Type

Research Report

Original Publication Date


Date of Submission

January 2017


There is a strong sentiment among educators in the United States to change traditional methods of measuring student achievement. Many of those who favor such a change advocate the adoption of performance assessment. This project examines practices in three school districts that are recognized as leaders in the development and implementation of performance assessment programs in schools. Data were collected by interviews with district administrators and from documents. The finds of the study are presented in this report.

Performance assessment refers to a process for appraising learning that requires students to perform tasks designed for the purpose of demonstrating specified knowledge or skills. These tasks are designed to closely resemble problems that might be encountered in settings outside of schools and include activities in which the student solves a problem, identifies a function, or makes a decision (Tuckman, 1988). Performance assessment tasks require students to construct rather than select a response and to focus on the process of a problem solving rather than simply obtaining a solution. Several characteristics set performance assessment apart from other ways of measuring achievement. Performance assessment tasks appear in a variety of formats and often involve cooperative work. The results of the students' work must be scored by qualified judges (Seyfarth, 1993).

These types of measures have been proposed as replacements for the standardized multiple-choice tests now and used in schools in most states. Performance assessment measures are believed to be more valid indicators of learning than the standardized tests because they capture some of the complexity of real-world activities by requiring students to provide an organizing framework for a problem, collect and interpret information, and draw on a variety of knowledge and skills.

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