Supporting Students in Deeper Learning Competencies

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Performance Assessments

Performance assessments are part of a high-quality assessment system. In the new K-3 Foundations School, only the state exams given to third graders are standardized formats that ask students to check the correct answers from those provided by the state. All of the rest of the reading and creativity assessments are performance assessment tasks that ask students to produce higher-order thinking responses so that students can demonstrate their deeper learning competencies. This level of quality assessment has been shown to produce a much deeper level of learning outcomes for students, for example, in a multi-district study in California:

The study found that students experienced expanded opportunities to demonstrate deeper learning competencies—including improved communication and presentation skills; greater confidence in college and career preparation; and growth in social-emotional skills such as perseverance, creative problem-solving, and a growth mindset. It also found that teachers reported an increased focus on alignment among curriculum, instruction, and assessment across subjects and grade levels; continuous reflection on and improvement of their instructional practice; more positive relationships with their students; and closer collaboration with their colleagues (Maier et al., 2021, pp., online summary).

Expanded Learning Opportunities

No one ever said that standardized tests helped student learning. Performance assessments help students with important goals for learning and create expanded learning opportunities to reach those goals. Creative problem solving is one of those competencies that continues to be important to schools and work place success. Deeper learning outcomes for students requires that teachers and students spend time developing student confidence in order to approach problem solving with a variety of solutions. Creative problem solving competency—framing problems, developing different solutions, and creatively solving them—is a most important competency for success. Schools are likely to become more successful when they place student work inside of performance assessments where students can more deeply demonstrate what they know and can do.