4 Steps for Using Criterion-Referenced Performance Standards as Reference Points to Determine Grades

Learning goals/standards are more useful when embedded in a proficiency scale or a performance scale to determine grades. Creating and using criterion-referenced performance scales aligned with standards is a high need for schools and districts today, especially as they transition to standards-based grading and reporting systems. To create and use criterion-referenced performance scales involves a multi-step process.

[Check out Natalie Bolton’s presentation Using Deconstructed Standards to Articulate Proficiency Language on Thursday, November 30 at 2:45 PM view the full agenda]

Step #1 Deconstruct standards to identify learning targets. Deconstructing standards involves articulating a standard or learning goal into simpler explicit learning targets to guide daily classroom instruction.

Step #2 Classify the deconstructed learning targets. A taxonomy related to cognitive complexity should be used to classify deconstructed learning targets. Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, & Arter (2012) use a hierarchical taxonomy to deconstruct standards based on four levels:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Reasoning
  3. Performance skill
  4. Product

Identifying the thinking processes in the verb of the standard derives the cognitive complexity of a standard and learning target. In most cases, the classification of the standard is obvious with the taxonomy but the objects of the verbs should not be ignored. Discrete distinctions in objects of the verb may lead you to report a lower cognitive level of the standard or change the intent of the standard.

Step #3 Take classified deconstructed learning targets and develop criterion-referenced performance scales. A well-designed performance scale, based on a taxonomy, can function as an effective communication tool between teachers, students, and parents as it outlines the progression of learning toward the standard (Moore, Garst, & Marzano, 2015). In Table 1, three performance levels are articulated noting a progression in demonstrating mastery of the standard using performance levels (not meeting, partially meeting, meeting). In some cases, for product and skill targets or more complex reasoning targets, partially meeting a standard might be further distinguished and articulated into two levels (partially meeting high and partially meeting low).

Table 1

Sample Performance Scale

Level Performance Descriptor
Meets Standard Targeted learning goal/standard (knowledge, reasoning, skill, or product) as written with accuracy and phrased as… With accuracy, student will be able to…
Partially Meeting Standard (high) Meets targeted learning goal/standard with minor inaccuracies/misunderstandings.

OR

Foundational processes (provides detailed knowledge and application, if applicable) of the underpinning content of the standard with accuracy and phrased as…With accuracy, students will be able to…

Partially Meeting Standard (low) Meets targeted learning goal/standard with major inaccuracies/ misunderstandings.

OR

Limited or minimal knowledge of the underpinning content of the standard and phrased as… With accuracy, students will be able to…

Not Meeting Standard Student has no success or major misconceptions with the targeted learning goal/standard.

Examples of standards, their deconstruction, and application to the above performance scale using the Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, & Arter (2012) taxonomy follows. In examples one and two, the standards are identified as reasoning. In example three, the standard is identified as a product. In example four, the standard is identified as knowledge. Deconstruction of Common Core State Standards has been used in all examples and adapted from the Kentucky Department of Education (2011). Verbs are bolded within the performance descriptor language.

Using the deconstruction process, the reasoning content is articulated at the meet level and the knowledge content is articulated at level partially met level. If a standard was identified as a product target, the product language would be articulated at the meet level and the skill and/or reasoning content would be articulated at the partially met high level and the knowledge content at partially met level (see example 3). If a standard was identified as a skill target, the skill language would be articulated at the met level, the reasoning content at the partially met high level, and the knowledge content would be articulated at the partially met level. If a standard was identified as a knowledge target, the knowledge content would be articulated at the meet level and only some of knowledge content would be articulated at the partially met level. In some cases, knowledge standards might be written very discreetly and students either met the standard or did not met the standard (see example 4). Models of work at each performance level should also be used to define and highlight content depth and accuracy expectations.

Example 1: English Language Arts Grade 3 Reading

Standard: (CCSS ELA Reading Literature/Key Ideas and Details/Grade 3/Standard 2)


Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
(Taxonomy: Reasoning)

Meets Standard With accuracy, student will be able to:
Determine the moral of a fable, lesson of a folktale, and central message of a myth.Determine how the central message, lesson, or moral is conveyed through key details in the text.
Partially Meeting Standard Meets targeted learning goal/standard with inaccuracies/ misunderstandings.

OR

With accuracy, student will be able to:
Recognize or recall specific vocabulary (story, fable, folktale, myth, diverse cultures).

Recount stories from diverse cultures; fables from diverse cultures; folktales from diverse cultures; and myths from diverse cultures.

Not Meeting Standard Student has no success or major misconceptions with the targeted learning goal/standard.

Example 2: Mathematics Grade 8

Standard: (CCSS Mathematics Grade 8 (8 EE.8c)

Analyze and solve pairs of simultaneous linear equations:
c. Solve real-world and mathematical problems leading to two linear equations in two variables.
(Taxonomy: Reasoning)

Meets Standard With accuracy, student will be able to:
Apply rules for solving systems of two equations in two unknowns to mathematical problems.Analyze real-word problems that lead to two linear equations in two variables by extracting needed information and translating words to symbols.
Partially Meeting Standard Meets targeted learning goal/standard with inaccuracies/ misunderstandings.

OR

With accuracy, student will be able to:
Recognize or recall specific vocabulary system of equation and simultaneous linear equations.

Solve systems of two linear equations in two unknowns.

Not Meeting Standard Student has no success or major misconceptions with the targeted learning goal/standard.

Example 3: English Language Arts Grades 9 -10 Writing

Standard: (CCSS ELA Writing/Text Types and Purposes/Grades 9 – 10/Standard 2)


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

a. Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

b. Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.

c. Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.

d. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic.

e. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

f. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).
(Taxonomy: Product)

Meets Standard With accuracy, student will be able to:
Write informative/explanatory text which:

  • examines/conveys complex ideas, concepts, information
  • demonstrates clear and accurate information
  • uses effective selection, organization, analysis of content

Introduce a topic and:

  • organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions
  • uses formatting, graphics, and multimedia to aid comprehension

Develop the topic appropriate to audience’s knowledge with:

  • well chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts
  • extended definitions
  • concrete details
  • quotations
  • other applicable information
  • examples

Use appropriate and varied transitions to:

  • link the major sections of the text,
  • create cohesion
  • clarify the relationship among complex ideas and concepts

Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic.

Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

Conclude with a statement or section that follow from and supports the information or explanation presented.

Partially Meeting Standard (high) Meets targeted learning goal/standard with minor inaccuracies/ misunderstandings.

OR

With accuracy, students will be able to…
Determine organization of complex ideas.

Determine appropriate formatting, graphics, and multimedia to aid comprehension.

Determine well-chosen, relevant, sufficient facts, definitions, details, and quotations appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.

Determine appropriate and varied transitions that link sections, create cohesion, and clarify relationship among complex ideas/concepts.

Evaluate word choice for managing complexity of tone.

Determine formal styles and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of information writing.

Determine an effective, supportive conclusion for the topic that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented.

Partially Meeting Standard (low) Meets targeted learning goal/standard with major inaccuracies/ misunderstandings.

With accuracy, students will be able to…
Identify:

  • complex ideas
  • appropriate formatting
  • supporting details
  • effective
  • transitions
  • precise language
  • domain specific-language

Identify a conclusion for the topic that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented.

Not Meeting Standard Student has no success or major misconceptions with the targeted learning goal/standard.

Example 4: Mathematics Grade K

Standard: (CCSS Mathematics Grade K (K.CC.2)


Count forward beginning from a given number within the known sequence (instead of having to be at 1).
(Taxonomy: Knowledge)

Meets Standard With accuracy, student will be able to:
Count forward by 1’s beginning with another number other than 1 (verbal sequence only)
Not Meeting Standard Student has no success or major misconceptions with the targeted learning goal/standard.

Step #4 Use the performance scales to determine grades. If a school chooses not to use labels to report performance, levels or numbers for each label could be used instead. The chart below demonstrates how performance levels could be used instead of or in addition to performance labels. Additionally, the chart articulates if a traditional letter grading system (A – F) is used, how the performance levels across standards could be converted to an average and turned into a letter grade or a pattern of ratings could be converted to a letter grade. Patterns of ratings scales should be determined with colleagues. In the end, grades on a report card or transcript are clearer when they align with scores and labels used on performance/proficiency scales and clearly articulated to stakeholders.

Performance Label

Performance Level

Performance Level Ratings Average

Performance Pattern of Ratings

Letter Grade

Meets Standard

2.0

1.7– 2.0

90% of the ratings are meet standard label and no more than 5% are lower than partially meet standard label.

A

Partially Meeting Standard (high)

1.5

1.3 – 1.6

92% of the ratings are meet standard label and no more than 5% are lower than partially meet standard label.

B

Partially Meeting Standard

1.0

0.9– 1.2

60% of the ratings are partially meet standard label or better, and no more than 10% are lower than partially meet standard label.

C

Partially Meeting Standard (low)

0.5

0.5 – 0.8

40% of the ratings are partially meet standard label or better, and no more than 50% are lower than partially meet standard label.

D

Not Meeting Standard

0.0

0.4 and Below

More than 50% of the ratings are lower than partially meet standard label.

F

Adapted from Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, & Arter (2012)

Teachers should use the performance scales for the basis of instruction, feedback, assessment, and determining grades. Additionally, teachers should share performance scales with students that are written in student-friendly language that describe the levels of performance relative to the learning target. Models of work at different performance levels aligned with performance scales should also be shared with students. Students can use the performance scales and models to self-assess his/her work and develop and monitor student learning goals.

Register Now for the 12th Annual Sound Grading Practices Conference from Pearson Assessment Training Institute

Written by contributing author Natalie Bolton

Dr. BoltonDr. Natalie Bolton

Natalie Bolton is an associate professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL).  She earned her Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of Louisville.  She also has an M.A. in secondary education with emphasis in social studies education, and a B.A. in secondary education, social sciences from the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Bolton’s prior work experiences include middle school teacher, middle school assistant principal, Kentucky Department of Education Social Studies Consultant, Director of the Office of Civic Education and Engagement and assistant professor, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY.

Dr. Bolton conducts research in the areas of assessment, program evaluation, and social studies/civic education.  At UMSL, she teaches graduate level courses related to education research, quantitative statistics, and program evaluation and serves as a research methodologist on doctoral dissertation committees.  Additionally, she works as an assessment and program evaluation consultant independently and with the Assessment Training Institute/Pearson.  She works with school and education organizations in the U.S. and internationally on designing assessments, program evaluations, and assessment literacy practices.

Dr. Bolton demonstrates an unwavering commitment to students becoming successful learners by embedding formative assessment into her teaching practices.  She was recognized in 2012 for UMSL’s most prestigious teaching award, The Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award.

References

Chappuis, J., Stiggins, R., Chappuis, S., & Arter, J. (2012). Classroom assessment for student learning. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Kentucky Department of Education (2011). English Language Arts deconstructed standards. Retrieved from http://education.ky.gov/curriculum/conpro/engla/Pages/ELA-Deconstructed-Standards.aspx

Kentucky Department of Education (2011). Mathematics deconstructed standards. Retrieved from http://education.ky.gov/curriculum/conpro/Math/Pages/Mathematics-Deconstructed-Standards.aspx

Moore, C., Garst, L., and Marzano, R. (2015). Creating and using learning targets and performance scales: How teachers make better instructional decisions. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences.

To learn more about Using Criterion-Referenced Performance Standards as Reference Points to Determine Grades, register for 12th Annual Assessment Training Institute’s Sound Grading Practices conference today!

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