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Collaboratively-developed, Standards-based Performance Assessment

Performance Assessment PLC Kick-Off Webinar

Wednesday, June 24, 2020, 9:00AM - 10:30AM

View the Webinar Recording: Part 1 and Part 2


book What are Collaboratively-Developed, Standard-Based Performance Assessments?

The CDE offices of Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness and Assessment engaged Colorado practitioners and leaders from K-12 education, industry, and higher education to create a process and supports to the field in the development of performance assessments that students can use to demonstrate their readiness to graduate from high school.

High quality performance assessments are generally hands-on and/or involve real-world scenarios and have the capacity to measure a student’s ability to apply and transfer to new situations both relevant content knowledge and essential skills. The use of performance assessment to inform readiness to graduate from as high school graduation provides all students the opportunity to demonstrate deep content knowledge through the application of essential skills in a non-traditional assessment format that has the ability to more effectively showcase student talent.


Performance Assessment Defined

Performance Assessment in Colorado is an authentic demonstration of student knowledge and skills through the creation of a complex product or presentation. The product and process are relevant to the student, and prepare them for success in the postsecondary and workforce world. Performance assessments are an iterative process where students apply their knowledge and improve their skills through feedback and revision in order to reflect on and demonstrate growth.

A culminating Collaboratively-developed, Standards-based Performance Assessment, as per CDE’s Graduation Guidelines Menu of College and Career-Ready Demonstrations, is an authentic application of Essential Skills for Postsecondary & Workforce Readiness, through the creation of a complex product or presentation.


magnifying glassWhy This Option?


A Focus on Essential Skills

The performance assessments used for graduation purposes are focused on measuring not only a student’s academic content knowledge in Math and English, but also the Competencies or Essential Skills identified in Colorado’s Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness description and the Colorado Academic Standards.

The Collaboratively-developed, Standards-based Performance Assessments are intended to be developed through the lens of the Essential Skills, using content in English and Math as the vehicle through which the Essential Skills are demonstrated. Note that while the Graduation Guidelines indicate only English and Math content, the performance assessment process is content-agnostic and can and should be used across all content areas, including interdisciplinary.

This approach represents a significant shift in performance assessment development as most processes focus on tasks that are focused solely on the measurement of academic content. Performance assessments designed through the lens of the Essential Skills can result in deeper content learning as students must demonstrate their knowledge by engaging with specific skills that elevate the content, e.g., various modes of communication, reflective practice, and/or time management. While Essential Skills have been embedded in academic standards and recognized in classroom practices, until now, Colorado educators have not come to consensus on how these skills ought to be measured alongside content.

The Collaboratively-developed, Standards-based Performance Assessment process is designed to be Aligned, Accessible, Authentic, Relevant, Transferable, and Iterative. As such, performance assessments should represent student voice and local context. And while upcoming pilot efforts will result in high quality examples of performance assessment tasks, culminating events, and portfolio defense demonstrations, there will not be a “bank” of performance assessments to administer directly to students.


lightbulb Implementation Supports

During the 2018-2019 school year, Colorado educators created tools designed to support teachers, schools, and districts as they implement performance assessment systems. These resources represent the components of the State-wide Scoring Criteria needed to ensure that all performance assessments are rigorous and equitable.


Performance Assessment System Design


An authentic demonstration of student knowledge and skills through the creation of a complex product or presentation. The product and process are relevant to the student, and prepare them for success in the postsecondary and workforce world. Performance assessments are an iterative process where students apply their knowledge and improve their skills through feedback and revision in order to reflect on and demonstrate growth.

Design Elements

A design, feedback, reflection, and revision tool for teachers to collaboratively develop high quality performance assessments







Performance Outcomes

Colorado educators used their experience and nationally recognized frameworks for high quality performance assessment, to define performance outcomes - or observable behaviors linked to Essential Skills - by which students can demonstrate each competency.


Adaptability and Reflective Practice


Career Development

Credible and Ethical Research

Social Responsibility

Time and Work Management

Inquiry and Problem Solving

Self-Efficacy and Self-Care

Team Building


In the spring of 2019, educators from JeffCo Public Schools, Mesa School District 51, Fountain-Ft. Carson School District and Colorado Springs School District 11 participated in the creation of performance assessments that were trialed in their classrooms. With support from CDE and Envision Learning Partners, the educators used the design elements and performance outcomes to guide the development and implementation of the performance assessments to be used classrooms. Educators developed and trialed three categories of performance assessments:

  1. Classroom performance assessment tasks;
  2. Culminating performance assessments, such as an end of unit project;
  3. Collection of performance assessments - tasks and culminating performance assessments - that served as evidence to support a student’s defense of graduation readiness. All performance assessments in a student’s body of evidence were created, administered, and scored according to the design elements. The defense is structured and supported by educators, but student-led.

Tasks, Culminating Performance Assessments, and Defense must be collaboratively-developed (educators with peers and with students) and scored (inter-rater reliability) in order to be used as valid measures for graduation purposes.

The trials confirmed that this approach relies heavily on student agency. Educators intentionally leveraged students’ Funds of Knowledge (Vélez-Ibáñez and Greenberg, 1992), that is, their life or identity experiences that shape how they interpret the world around them and, subsequently, impacting what and how they learn, how they make connections, and how they demonstrate and articulate what they know and can do.


lightbulb Next Steps

During the 2019-2020 school year, CDE will lead several efforts to support the needs of all who seek to make performance assessment a part of demonstration options for high school graduation.

  1. Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR) Symposia: The PWR Symposia events across the state provide an entry-level opportunity for interested educators, and school and district leaders to learn about the work that has been done to date, ask questions, and determine next steps if there is an interest in pursuing this Graduation Guidelines Menu Option.
  2. State-wide Performance Assessment Professional Learning Community (PLC): This PLC will consists of districts across the state interested in providing their students with the option of using Collaboratively-developed, Standards-based Performance Assessment as a pathway toward graduation. The vision is to create a collaboration among districts committed to a systemic approach to performance assessment and a portfolio defense. The PLC participants will design and implement performance assessment opportunities with their students, receive supports in the areas of local systems and structures, leadership, effective pedagogies, and school/district culture. In addition, a technology scoring platform will be piloted.
  3. Individual Career and Academic Planning (ICAP) Process: The current ICAP guidelines are being refreshed and revised in the form of a process oriented playbook. The performance assessment work will be embedded in the playbook to demonstrate how the performance outcomes serve to measure the essential skills required as in the ICAP.
  4. Reimagining College Access: CDE will continue to work in partnership with the Learning Policy Institute, the Colorado Education Initiative, Colorado institutions of higher education, and Colorado school and district leaders to inform how performance assessments can be used to transform higher education by relying on these measures to provide a more holistic view of applicants in college admissions, placement, and advising.


For more information or to find out how to participate in any of the performance assessment initiatives, please contact Angela Landrum or Jared Anthony in CDE’s Assessment Office:

Angela Landrum,, 303.866.6931

Jared Anthony,, 303.866.6932



The Promise of Performance Assessments: Innovations in High School Learning and College Admission. Learning Policy Institute, 2018.

Beyond the Bubble Test: How Performance Assessments Support 21st Century Learning. Linda Darling-Hammond and Frank Adamson, 2014

Effects of Implementing Performance Assessments on Student Learning: Meta-Analysis Using HLM. Sung-Eun Kim, 2005.