Performance Assessment Glossary

This glossary, assembled by the Center for Collaborative Education, includes many key terms related to performance assessment that are used throughout this issue of VUE. 


A concept encompassing the responsibility of an educational system to the public, which includes students.*

Authentic assessment

Assessment focused on connecting what students are taught in school to real-world issues, problems, and applications through valid and reliable tasks.


Process of assuring teachers have a common understanding of the work quality that corresponds to different score points (or performance levels) in a rubric.


A multifaceted, long-term assignment that serves as a culminating academic and intellectual experience for students.

Common Core State Standards

A set of national college and career-ready standards (developed by the National Governors’ Association Center for Best Practices) in English language arts/literacy and mathematics, which are designed to outline what a student should know and be able to do from K–12.


The quality of being able to look at assessment results from students in a variety of contexts, and make reliable inferences about their respective levels of performance.

Competency-based (or proficiency-based) education

System of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting based on students demonstrating they have learned the knowledge and skills expected before progressing to the next level of learning without regard to seat time, days, or hours.

Culturally responsive teaching

Teaching which ensures that student perspectives and experiences are at the heart of teaching and learning. Culturally responsive teaching calls for teachers to reject assimilation, implicit bias, and “default culture” within the curriculum and in their relationships with students – particularly those from traditionally underrepresented groups.

Deeper learning

Learning which demonstrates higher-order thinking skills and greater depth of knowledge.


The degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

U.S. law passed in December 2015 that governs K–12 public education policy and modified some provisions from its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, relating to the periodic standardized tests given to students.

Experiential learning

Learning that is based on students “doing” what they are to learn, and reflecting on that learning.

Flexible pathways

Various courses, academic programs, and learning experiences that allow students to earn academic credit and satisfy graduation requirements, typically offering course options that expand outside of the traditional classroom.

High-stakes standardized test

Test used to provide results, most commonly for the purpose of accountability, that have important consequences for individuals, programs, or institutions.

Higher-order thinking

Thinking that requires more cognitive processing including complex reasoning, planning, and developing of concepts

Inter-rater reliability

The consistency with which two or more judges rate the work or performance of assessment takers.*

Language and content integration

A pillar of ELL pedagogy, in which academic content and skills are taught at the same time as language acquisition, in such a way that they support each other.

Learning progressions

A map or sequence of knowledge and skills that a student will achieve over time as they approach mastery of a particular topic or competency.

Mastery-based grading

Evaluating students based on their demonstrated level of mastery of concepts, as opposed to averages over the span of a course.


Professional learning badges (usually digital) for educators that are earned through competency-based, personalized, small-scale professional development modules in a specific skill.

Multiple measures

More than one way of assessing outcomes, such as tests, projects, presentations, and papers.*

Next Generation Science Standards

Science standards that reflect what students should know and be able to do in core scientific and engineering ideas, processes, and cross-cutting concepts.

Performance assessment

Multi-step assessment with clear criteria, expectations, and processes that measure how well a student transfers and applies knowledge and complex skills to create or refine an original product and/or solution.

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)

Consortium that works to create and deploy a standard set of K–12 assessments in mathematics and English, based on the Common Core State Standards.

Personalized learning

Instructional approaches that tailor the educational experience for every student by embracing individual strengths, needs, interests, and culture, and elevating student voice and choice.

Project-based or inquiry-based learning

Instructional approach that utilizes multifaceted projects designed to address real-world problems and issues as a central organizing strategy for educating students

Reciprocal accountability

The concept that if school or district leaders are going to hold teachers or principals accountable for something, they have an equal responsibility to ensure that teachers and principals know how to do what is expected.


The degree to which assessment outcomes for a group of students are consistent over repeated administrations of the assessment.*

Restorative justice

An approach to discipline in which the student repairs the damage caused by their behavior and restores their relationship with the community.


A framework for describing what levels of proficiency in a competency-based assessment will look like. These descriptions are used as targets for students to aim and self-assess their own performance, and as criteria against which student performance is evaluated.


Instructional techniques used to move students progressively toward stronger understanding, and ultimately, greater independence in the learning process

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)

Consortium that works to create and deploy a standard set of K–12 assessments in mathematics and English, based on the Common Core State Standards

Student agency

The amount of control that a student has to choose what they will study, how they will study it, and how they will demonstrate that they have learned it.

Student-centered learning

Learning through curriculum and instruction that addresses the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, and/or cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students.

Technical quality

The aggregate evidence that an assessment gives accurate and useful information about what students know and can do.*


The degree to which accumulated evidence and theory support specific interpretations of assessment scores entailed by the proposed uses of the assessment.*


* Definitions from R. Tung & P. Stazesky, Including Performance Assessments in Accountability Systems: A Review of Scale-Up Efforts (Boston: Center for Collaborative Education, 2010).