ERIC Identifier: ED381987
Publication Date: 1995-06-00
Author: McLaughlin, Margaret J. - Warren, Sandra Hopfengardner
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education
Using Performance Assessment in Outcomes-Based Accountability
Systems. ERIC Digest E533.
Outcomes-based accountability ensures that the educational system is
responsible for student attainment of specific learner outcomes. Increasingly,
outcomes-based accountability systems are using results of both traditional
assessments, such as norm-referenced tests, and authentic or performance
assessments in an effort to measure broad domains of student knowledge.
PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT AND STUDENTS WITH
Performance assessments can offer a number of benefits over the
use of traditional standardized assessments for students with disabilities. The
most important benefit is the potential for linking instruction and assessment:
As the student completes the assessment task, the teacher uses the data to
To ensure success of performance assessments in an outcomes-based system, the
following issues must be addressed for students with disabilities:
1. Defining the Outcomes. Assessment programs are constructed to measure
progress toward valued educational goals. When outcome frameworks are defined
too narrowly (e.g., academic content domains) and neglect other valued areas
(e.g., vocational skills, personal management, social skills, and
communication), the outcomes may not reflect all of the skills that are valued
for students with disabilities. Assessment tasks need to be relevant to the
students' program goals.
2. Developing Performance Standards. Standards are benchmarks against which
student performance may be compared. A critical decision in designing an
assessment system is whether students will be compared to themselves to
determine change in their performance over time, or whether they will be
compared to fixed standards of performance. Many students with disabilities
cannot meet absolute standards, particularly in academic areas. When
participation in the assessment program is linked to high school diplomas,
students with disabilities may be at a particular disadvantage.
3. Assessment Accommodations. Students with disabilities may benefit from
accommodations made during assessment:
*Additional time to complete the task.
*Alternative testing locations.
*Alternative means of administration (e.g., reading, interpretation,
*Alternative supplies or equipment (e.g., computers).
*Alternative forms of assessment.
4. Scoring. When assessment results must be reported in the aggregate and
when results matter, such as for diplomas, scoring reliability becomes critical.
Rigorous scoring is as necessary in alternative assessments as in traditional
PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS IN ACTION: DESCRIPTIONS OF SELECTED STATES AND DISTRICTS
A number of states and local school districts have
adopted performance assessments in their outcomes-based systems. Many of these
sites have included students with disabilities in the assessments.
Kentucky: The Kentucky Educational Reform Act outlines six performance goals
that all students are expected to attain upon graduation from Kentucky schools:
concepts from the sciences, arts, humanities, social studies, and practical
in family, work group, or community.
and integrating knowledge.
Students are also expected to have mastered 75 outcomes in specific academic
Performance assessments include:
in writing and mathematics for all students in grades 4, 8, and 12.
events for all students in grades 4, 8, and 12, with focus on mathematics,
science, social studies, arts and humanities, and vocational education/practical
assessments (open-ended and multiple-choice questions) for all students in
grades 4, 8, and 12, with focus on mathematics, science, social studies, arts
and humanities, and vocational education/practical living. Alternative
portfolios are developed by students with severe disabilities in grades 4, 8,
All students are required to participate in the transitional assessments or
alternative portfolios unless a physician provides a statement documenting
significant negative impact on the student's health as a result of
Maryland: The Maryland School Performance Program (MSPP) was developed as a
comprehensive student outcomes accountability system. Reflecting state-level
goals and strategies, student learning outcomes have been developed in the areas
of reading and writing, mathematics, social studies, and science.
Assessment of student outcomes within the MSPP includes:
tests (Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills).
performance assessments (Maryland School Performance Assessment Program).
Functional Tests, criterion-referenced minimal competency tests.
An alternative performance assessment is currently being proposed for
students with significant cognitive disabilities.
Students with disabilities may be exempted by their IEP team from
participation in any of the three assessments.
Vermont: The Vermont Assessment Program was implemented statewide during the
1991-1992 school year. The program employs both standardized assessments and
portfolios to collect information about the performance of 4th and 8th graders
in mathematics and writing:
standardized assessment used is the Uniform Assessment, which includes two
40-item multiple choice tests and a single on-demand writing task that the
student must complete independently.
student's portfolio is expected to include 10-20 items. From these, students
select 5 to 7 "best pieces" to be scored.
School-based staffing teams determine whether or not students with
disabilities are eligible for exemption from the portfolio development and
assessments. Exempted students may build portfolios that do not conform to the
state requirements for use in instruction.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF USING PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY?
There are a number of issues that need to be addressed
when using performance assessment as part of large scale assessment programs:
with increased program costs.
scoring reliability and establishing fair, yet flexible, scoring rubrics.
the outcomes and indicators.
certain that the assessments provide many opportunities for students to
demonstrate proficiency in an outcome area.
the assessment results to influence instruction either individually or at the
To address these issues, it is important to include both general and special
education teachers in designing and implementing the assessment program.
WHAT ARE THE CONSIDERATIONS FOR INCLUDING STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES IN OUTCOMES-BASED ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEMS?
Despite the strong
impetus to include students with disabilities in assessments, there are still
major considerations that must be addressed:
Outcomes-based systems present special educators with a difficult conceptual
switch from believing that each student with a disability should have
individualized outcomes to accepting the notion of a common set of outcomes
There is still ambiguity among assessment experts regarding how much
accommodation should be provided within an assessment program.
When one set of scoring standards is defined for all students, with no
modifications made for students with disabilities, students with disabilities
may be denied diplomas or otherwise penalized.
When results are used for high stakes accountability, there may be greater
pressure to exempt students with disabilities. Once the decision to exempt
students with disabilities is made, there may also be pressure to identify more
students as having disabilities in order to exempt more students from the
STRATEGIES TO SUPPORT USING PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT IN OUTCOMES-BASED SYSTEMS
When using performance assessments in
outcomes-based systems, educators can increase the potential for success of
students with disabilities by considering the following:
performance standards in sufficiently broad terms or in ways that emphasize
enough flexibility in the assessment system to accommodate individual student
multiple data-gathering strategies including on-demand assessments, examples of
student work, and teacher judgments.
Derived from McLaughlin, M. J. & Warren, S.
H. (1994). Performance Assessment and Students with Disabilities: Usage in
Outcomes-Based Accountability Systems. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional
Children. Product #P5061.