Selecting the Best Assessment Measures for Your Students
The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium call upon teachers to provide opportunities for students to acquire rigorous content knowledge from complex text, develop critical thinking skills, and utilize expository writing, speaking and listening skills, media and technology to solve "real world" problems in preparation for college, career, and civic life.
Performance-based assessment, often seen as student generated exhibitions, demonstrations, essays, debates, or oral presentations has powerful implications for the teaching and learning of social studies, meeting the Common Core State Standards, and similarly, preparing students for the 21st century. Unlike multiple-choice tests, performance-based assessment tasks enable students to demonstrate understanding by constructing knowledge through disciplined inquiry and critical thinking. Authentic assessment and project-based assessment seek these same objectives and, in addition, requires students to use knowledge and skills in ways they can be used in the "real world" in meaningful contexts that are valuable beyond school. Research confirms that students engaged in authentic instruction and assessment demonstrate higher achievement than students who experienced lower levels of authentic instruction and assessment, consistently for grades 3 through 12, across different subject areas, and for different students regardless of race, gender, disability status, or socioeconomic status.
Working with the end in mind, social studies educators should consider moving toward wider use of these assessment measures that capture these goals for students. Fortunately, a number of models have emerged with the potential to be powerful tools to assess students' knowledge and skills in authentic settings and provide teachers opportunities to engage in dialogue to understand what students need to know and be able to do and what social studies teachers need to know and be able to do to prepare all students for effective citizenship in the 21st century.
This NCSS Social Studies Performance-Based Assessment Clearinghouse was created to provide a) examples of social studies performance-based assessment measures conducted at local and state levels, b) research findings that support the use of performance-based assessment to inform instruction, and c) existing educational policies that can inform advocacy efforts for the inclusion of social studies performance-based assessment at the local, state and national level.
NCSS does not recommend or endorse any particular compendium of assessment items; the Clearinghouse is merely a place where social studies educators can go to explore options that exist. Before selecting any assessment measure, educators are advised to carefully critique, evaluate, and select the best measure to meet the objectives of their educational program and the learning needs of their students. They need to carefully budget for the reliable scoring and reporting of the results (as well as for the design and administration).