Yesterday, I published a post about the opening of the Performance Assessment Resource Bank (see Great Free Resource Available Today – The Performance Assessment Resource Bank).

Here’s a short interview with two staff from the PARB, Elizabeth Leisy Stosich, EdD, SCOPE Research and Policy Fellow and Laura Gutmann, PhD, UL-SCALE Research Assistant (I’m especially excited about their plans to assist English Language Learners!):

LF: First, can you give a short-and-sweet definition of “performance assessment”, its history in education and its value, perhaps by contrasting it with other forms of assessment?

Elizabeth Leisy Stosich & Laura Gutmann:

Performance assessments ask students to perform, create, or produce something to demonstrate their learning in ways that are authentic to the discipline and/or the real world.  They are designed to engage students in applying their knowledge, skills, and content understandings to novel problems or issues in the world.  Think of students investigating a question they may have a genuine interest in (e.g., “How much money will I need to put into a savings account each month in order to buy a car when I’m 18?”) versus multiple-choice questions on rates of change. Or think of a student writing a letter to the editor after synthesizing research on an issue on the ballot that they care about, versus taking a multiple-choice test that asks you to answer comprehension questions about a reading. 

LF: What exactly is the Performance Assessment Resource Bank, who runs it, and who funds it?

Elizabeth Leisy Stosich & Laura Gutmann:

The Performance Assessment Resource Bank (PARB) is a free, online resource for K-12 teachers, administrators, and policy makers. This curated collection serves as a platform for 1) sharing high-quality performance assessments and related resources and 2) building community among the educators and leaders who use, develop, and share these important tools. It includes performance assessment tasks and support materials for designing and effectively implementing innovative systems of assessment, all focused on more meaningful learning.

Understanding Language-Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (UL-SCALE) and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) have built the PARB with funding support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Sandler Foundation and in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) over the past three years.   

LF: You’ve been beta-testing it for nine months – what have been the key lessons you’ve learned during that time and what adjustments have you made?

Elizabeth Leisy Stosich & Laura Gutmann:

A major priority for development has been improving the ease with which educators can find the resources they need to develop and use performance assessments. Specifically, we have improved the search and filtering systems. Now educators who are looking for tasks can sort by grade, subject, course, the duration of the task (i.e. days, weeks), the level of student collaboration, and the standards (i.e. CCSS, NGSS) the task addresses. In addition, educators can find tasks that incorporate what we have identified as “Critical Abilities” for supporting meaningful learning, such as tasks that require students to engage in Analysis of Information, Communication in Many Forms, Research, and the Use of Technology. Although we will continue to improve the search functionality, we believe the beta-testing process has helped to support teachers, administrators, and policy makers in being able to find the resources they need.

LF: How can educators use it, as well as contribute to it?  Do you have any specific stories you can share from teachers who have used it in the classroom?

Elizabeth Leisy Stosich & Laura Gutmann:

Educators can use the Performance Assessment Resource Bank by downloading performance tasks, task development and scoring tools for use in teacher teams and professional development, research on performance assessment, and much more. In addition, educators can share these free resources via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

We depend on educators and organizations to grow the resource bank by sharing their work. Individual teachers, professional development providers, researchers, and organizations can share performance tasks and resources related to performance assessment by selecting “Submit a Resource” on the homepage. Each resource goes through an extensive review process to ensure it meets high quality standards. Submitting a performance task for review can also assist educators in strengthening their own work, since they will receive feedback from content experts on their performance task.

For example, Carisa Barnes began testing out the bank’s resources as an expert secondary English Language Arts teacher in San Diego.  She helped inform PARB’s development and eventually became an official task reviewer, providing extensive feedback on ELA performance tasks that were submitted to the bank according to our quality criteria.  Now, she is sharing her expertise with other educators from around the country by leading professional development workshops on performance assessment that incorporate use of the bank and support participants in implementing its resources.  Carisa says, “The Performance Assessment Resource Bank has been an empowering solution for my classroom…the tasks are interesting and engaging for students and fit seamlessly into my curriculum.  I love hearing students talk about how the tasks helped them become more critical thinkers.”

LF: What are you hopes and plans for the future?

Elizabeth Leisy Stosich & Laura Gutmann:

We have two primary goals for future expansion and deeper use of the bank.  First, we want to continue to build the resources available on the website to more comprehensively represent the full range of grade levels (PK-12), and better incorporate an equity and language focus.  SCALE recently merged with another Stanford center called Understanding Language.  Our goal is to draw attention to the essential role of language in content instruction and assessment, especially for underserved and emerging bi-literate students (“English learners”), and provide tools and strategies that help teachers serve these learners better. 

Secondly, our focus is on helping diverse users meaningfully navigate the site and incorporate the tools into their local contexts.  We want to support states and local districts as they prepare to use more innovative assessments by providing model resources in the PARB, as well as conduct use cases that illustrate how they can use the site to develop and implement high-quality performance assessments. Looking forward, we plan to strategically customize this type of support for district leaders who want to work closely with us to support local efforts to use more innovative assessments within their school settings. 


LF: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share?

Elizabeth Leisy Stosich & Laura Gutmann:

SCOPE and UL-SCALE have been working in partnership with educators at all levels of the system, including state, district, school, and teacher leaders, to create more supportive conditions for the use of performance assessment.  We understand that using performance assessment to create more meaningful learning opportunities for all children is hard work and requires people across the system to work together towards this goal. Some of the resources in the PARB come directly from our partnerships with state and local leaders. Others are the result of long standing partnerships across networks of schools and districts engaged in performance assessment. By making these resources more widely available, we hope to bring greater attention to and build support for the excellent work that educators across the country are doing with performance assessment.

LF: Thanks, Elizabeth and Laura!

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources For Learning About Performance Assessment.