After a six year effort in implementing an educational
plan known as PBE (performance-based education), the fifth largest
school district in Colorado is observing an increase in student
achievement. Student scores on new reading and mathematics standardized
performance assessments increased in performance across the board.
Scores in integrated language arts reached the 70th percentile
for elementary and the 60th percentile in middle school students.
These scores are 20-30 points higher than scores received on the
Iowa Basic Test of Basic Skills.
PBE in Aurora is widely supported by staff, parents,
and community stakeholders. Stakeholders worked together to set
standards and develop a system in which students demonstrate what
they know and can do as they meet those standards.
The district adopted five learner outcomes requiring
students to be; self-directed learners, collaborative workers,
complex thinkers, community contributors, and quality producers.
From these outcomes, content standards (what students should know
and be able to do) are developed with benchmarks to guide students
and teachers along the way.
Parents and staff collaboratively designed graduation
standards that incorporated specified outcomes such as specified
performances, products, and other exhibitions based on curriculum
content and processes.
The PBE model requires that content standards be
assessed by bodies of evidence and secured assessments. Bodies
of evidence could include (a) a performance assessment that demonstrates
students' ability to apply learning to a real-world situation
or (b) a traditional form of assessment such as a criterion referenced
content test. Developing a framework for a body of evidence includes
four steps: (1) clarify the benchmark: the reference point for
a particular level of performance (2) brainstorm possible assessments
for each focus point: particular set of skills, concepts, knowledge
bits and processes for a particular aspect of the content (3)
prioritize all possible assessments and choose which assessments
which must be part of the body of evidence (4) outline the scoring
process. Frameworks include both performance and traditional assessments.
Scoring rubrics are developed by teachers and students, making
criteria for performance known to all stakeholders and allowing
the criteria to guide the instruction. Secured assessments include
standardized tests and district- and school-developed assessments
to measure individual student performance against expected achievement
in basic subject area content. These assessments determine how
well students are doing in reference to the standards.
1. Students perform at high levels on integrated performance assessments that are aligned with instruction and specified performance standards. This shows that performance assessments allow students to better demonstrate their skills and knowledge than do basic skills tests.
2. To implement a district-wide performance-based assessment plan will require changes in the way curriculum and assessments are designed and in the way in which instruction is practiced by teachers.
Implementing performance-based measures requires a huge effort (commitment, time, money, professional development) on the part of staff, parents, and community in terms of designing the system and designing the new structure in which it resides.
3. Performance-based education is not a quick fix.
It requires time to conduct an evaluation of student achievement
(in this case six years).
Hartenbach, David L., Ott, Joan, Cark, Sue. (1997). Performance-Based Education in Aurora. Educational Leadership. Vol. 54, No. 4, p. 51-54.