Are Performance Assessment Tasks More Accurate?

In my workshop on Performance Assessment Tasks, at the World Alliance for Arts Education Summit (October 11-15, 2021), I presented performance assessment tasks to assess reading and creativity. During the six month period of a new school from January to June in 2021 we used creativity to help disadvantaged K-3 students to engage with curriculum, integrate arts skills, and achieve at higher levels in reading.


One of the most important areas for review is implementation of the assessments. To work on this important aspect of performance task assessments—as defined by assessing what students know and can do—multiple points of assessment, all embedded in regular curriculum products, were used to chart student progress on a regular basis. For example, when they built playground dioramas, each child was tasked with suggesting what our new school’s playgrounds might look like. That work was observed and scored, and teachers used that score to understand learning progress aspects such as confidence, problem-solving, originality, and elaboration. We used the performance assessment rubric on creativity to assess student progress every six weeks and teachers and teaching artists scored student work together. They then marked the rubric’s documentation of student progress over time from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset and informed instruction accordingly.

80% Increase in Reading Scores

The results showed an 80% increase in students attaining reading proficiency. Of course we had to give the state test in reading and math to the third graders. Those results showed that our students only scored 20% correct in Math, but 35% correct in ELA. Although not directly causal to our creativity and reading intervention, the increased reading score was notable because it was in contradiction to the district’s scoring which favors math over reading across the district’s schools. We were left with test results we could not answer: did these results show our emphasis on reading? What did they reveal about our student’s learning? How should we change instruction because of them?


Our performance assessment tasks and rubric findings informed teacher instruction during the six-month period in a more accurate way than the standardized test results. Teachers trusted the results of the performance assessment tasks because the information more accurately showed student thinking and learning progress. The results of the standardized test left our teachers wondering what they meant, how accurate they were, and what they might mean for teacher instruction going forward.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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