Across the country, educators and policy makers are searching for ways to develop and implement innovative assessment programs to address accountability requirements and to reform instruction. As both local and state educators consider new assessment models, they find themselves coming up against many issues of time. It’s widely agreed that there’s too much time spent on testing and test prep, and there’s too little time to teach and take on additional responsibilities to transform instruction. Educators often feel that innovation represents an additional burden on their time rather than a benefit.

Since the last big push to reform instruction and assessment nearly a quarter century ago, we’ve developed new psychometric techniques as well as new technologies to assist us in our attempts to innovate.

Internet access, electronic collection of student work, and online distributed scoring, for example, can all play significant roles in making performance assessments more manageable and efficient.

Problem: Time and effort burdens

Many recent efforts have not adhered to a fundamental principle that must be followed if performance assessment is to have a chance of surviving this time around. That principle is this: Efforts to take performance assessment to scale must minimize or eliminate additional burden on local educators.

One way to follow the “minimal burden” principle is by providing time-saving instructional approaches and tools (e.g., online instructional resources) that replace or modify things teachers are already doing or using.  The general strategy upholding the principle is to replace; don’t add on.

An effective way to follow the “replace; don’t add on” maxim is to use curriculum-embedded performance assessments (CEPAs). As defined by Hofman, Goodwin, and Kahl (2015), a CEPA is a multi-day instructional module that consists of a series of instructional activities. Some of the activities lead to student work that can be used in both formative and summative assessment processes. The parts of the CEPAs that require students to produce scorable products or demonstrations are performance tasks built into the instructional modules from the get-go. Alignment of the assessment tasks to instruction is guaranteed.

CEPAs are used in place of, not in addition to, instructional units or parts of units that teachers have been using. Marion and Shepard (2010)  promote “replacement units,” which are similar to CEPAs, but focus exclusively on formative purposes. Because both types of units include recommended activities and resources and provide assessment tools, techniques, and scoring rubrics, the teachers, in effect, are given tried-and-true lesson plans.

(Next page: Teacher input and ownership for performance assessments)

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