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Collaboratively-developed, Standards-based Performance Assessment


Partner to CDE in the advancement of performance assessment, 2Revolutions, features an article highlighting innovations in Colorado's assessment program.

The Changing Assessment Landscape in Colorado

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Fact Sheet

This comprehensive Fact Sheet provides implementation supports and expectations

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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 high school 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.

The performance assessment process is a student-centered approach that is designed to benefits all students. Performance Assessment is designed to:

  • Validate student perspective and experiences
  • Support transference of knowledge and skills into new situations by giving students the skills to articulate what they know and can do, as well as identify their areas of strengths and challenges

  • Promote student agency through feedback (teacher/mentor/peer)
  • Be an asset-based approach to assessment for learning
  • Engage students in the co-creation of learning goals and success criteria

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.


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Why This Option?

A Focus on Essential Skills

The performance assessments used for graduation purposes are focused on measuring a student's academic content knowledge in Math and Reading, Writing & Communicating as well as the Colorado Essential Skills.

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 measure academic content only. 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 current pilot efforts will result in high quality examples of performance assessment tasks, culminating events, and graduation defense demonstrations, there will not be a “bank” of performance assessments to administer directly to students.

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Implementation Supports

Colorado educators have 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.

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

  • Aligned
  • Accessible
  • Authentic

  • Relevant
  • Transferable
  • Iterative

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
  • Communication
  • Career Development
  • Credible and Ethical Research
  • Social Responsibility

  • Time and Work Management
  • Inquiry and Problem Solving
  • Self-Efficacy and Self-Care
  • Team Building

Performance Assessment Professional Learning Community

CDE partnered with educators from 38 school districts across the state to form a Professional Learning Community (PLC) focused on cultivating strong performance assessment practices and supporting the design of the collaboratively-developed, standards-based performance assessment on the Graduation Guidelines Menu of Options. The PLC designed tools, templates and examples in support of various performance assessment approaches, such as tasks, culminating events, and graduation defenses.

Performance assessments must be collaboratively-developed – that means educators with their peers and/or with students - and they must also be collaboratively scored in order to be used as valid measures for graduation purposes. In support of the collaborative scoring need, PLC participants utilized OSCAR Classroom by MZD, a collaborative performance assessment scoring online platform, to facilitate statewide scoring collaboration of the teacher developed performance assessments. This resource is available to all Colorado educators. OSCAR Classroom features:

  • Teachers can upload student work directly into OSCAR Classroom
  • Teacher collaborative scoring
  • Optional student feedback in addition to scores
  • Integrates with Google Drive

  • Simple teacher authoring and sharing of performance tasks
  • Supports student portfolio scoring
  • Supports multi-media responses (video, pdf, images, audio, text)
  • Ideal tool for teacher professional development

To gain access to OSCAR Classroom, please send your request to Angela Landrum in CDE's Assessment Office.

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Additional Information and Supports

Additional 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. 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.
  3. 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 in CDE's Assessment Office.

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CDE Partners with The Center for Assessment, Design, Research and Evaluation (CADRE) at the University of Colorado Boulder to study Performance Assessment implementation.

This multi-site case study work documents what was learned from Colorado schools that have used performance assessments for several years to establish relevant learning experiences for students and to evaluate student postsecondary and workforce readiness knowledge and skills. 

Summary: Exploring the Uses of Performance-Based Assessment to Assess Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

Paper 1 – The Performance-Based Assessment Pilot

Paper 2 – Documenting the Implementation and Uses of Performance-Based Assessment to Evaluate Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

Paper 3 - Using Performance-Based Assessments to Advance Teaching and Learning in High School Classrooms

Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Additional Research:

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