Performance Assessments

Free Online Event: Performance Assessments

Evaluating Students Through Group Work, Projects, and Portfolios

Download a PDF of the key takeaways

Is there a better way than standardized tests to find out what students are learning? A small number of states, districts, and educators have long sought to find an answer to that question. Problem- and project-based learning, cooperative learning, portfolios, senior projects, and competence-based learning—to name a few—are all versions of this ongoing movement to evaluate students on what they can do with what they know rather than their test-taking skills.

But evaluating student learning this way can be highly subjective:

    • How can teachers and administrators assess students’ performance in fair, constructive ways?
    • What are the biggest challenges to implementing performance-based learning and how are schools getting around them?
    • How do you know students are acquiring the deeper learning that projects were intended to cultivate?

Education Week offers a big-picture look at the current state of performance assessment and pinpoints some best practices. In this virtual event, Education Week journalists and guests will staff online "discussion" rooms on a host of topics, including group work, the move to competency-based learning, and new efforts to abolish letter grades.

Join them on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, from 1 to 3 p.m. ET, for a deep dive into student assessments in your schools. This Online Summit provides you a unique opportunity to directly interact with reporters and assessment experts and practitioners and to watch a livestreamed series of interviews with the reporters after they’ve “broken it down” with you.

Thank you to those who joined us for this event, which took place on Feb. 19, 2019.


Feb. 19, 2019
1-3 p.m. ET*

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Event Video

Student Assessments: In Conversation With Education Week

  • 1:00–2:30 p.m. ET | Student Assessment Summit 2019 Discussions Open
    Education Week journalists and guests provide practical takeaways on student assessment
    Room 1: An On-the-Ground Perspective on Performance Assessment
    Moderator: Stephen Sawchuk, Associate Editor, Education Week
    Guest Speakers: Young Whan Choi, Manager of Performance Assessments, Oakland Unified School District, Oakland, Calif.; Scott Marion, President and Executive Director, Center for Assessment
    ‣ Join Education Week’s curriculum reporter Stephen Sawchuk for a discussion of how one district incorporated a yearlong performance assessment into its graduation requirement—and some of the opportunities and challenges it faced.

    Room 2: Performance Assessment and College Admissions
    Moderator: Catherine Gewertz, Senior Contributing Writer, Education Week
    Guest Speaker: Peter Ross, Principal, Education First
    ‣ Do students have a tougher time getting into college if they come from schools that use projects and portfolios as assessments? Veteran reporter Catherine Gewertz explores several initiatives that are working with colleges to take a broader view of applicants’ academic achievements.

    Room 3: Letter Grades: Help or a Hindrance?
    Moderator: Madeline Will, Staff Writer, Education Week
    Guest Speakers: David Frangiosa, Physics Teacher, Pascack Hills High School, Montvale, N.J.; Julia E. Torres, Language Arts Teacher and Librarian, Denver Public Schools
    ‣ A growing number of teachers complain that letter grades tend to distract students from real learning and are too heavily based on non-academic factors. But this grading system is notoriously difficult to eradicate, and schools’ attempts to substitute alternative grading systems often face backlash. Education Week reporter Madeline Will and two teachers who have moved away from traditional grading practices discuss the challenges and benefits of alternative systems.

    Room 4: Making Group Projects Fair for Everyone
    Moderator: Sarah D. Sparks, Associate Editor, Education Week
    Guest Speakers: Art Graesser, Professor, Department of Psychology and the Institute for Intelligent Systems, University of Memphis; Rachel Scott, Magnet Director, Texarkana Arkansas School District, Ark.
    ‣ A common complaint among students working in group projects is that the work is divided unfairly; one student carries the load or dominates the discussion, while others just show up. How can teachers ensure that tasks and grades for group work are being doled out fairly? Sarah Sparks explores practical wisdom and research on what works in evaluating group projects.

    Room 5: Making Assessment Painless
    Moderator: Alyson Klein, Assistant Editor, Education Week
    Guest Speakers: Allison Timberlake, Deputy Superintendent for Assessment and Accountability, Georgia Department of Education; Scot Osterweil, Creative Director, Education Arcade and the Game Lab, MIT Comparative Media Studies Program
    ‣ Thanks to a new state law, Georgia is trying out game-based assessments for 1st and 2nd graders. These are “formative assessments” to help teachers gauge what students know in math and reading and so far dozens of districts have signed up to participate. Alyson Klein shares insights from a Georgia educator and an educational games expert on how their experiment with game-based assessments is working out.

    Room 6: Measure Achievement Without Overtesting: How to Get Powerful Feedback that Helps Schools Grow
    (This room will have no featured guests.)
    ‣ Learn how to increase achievement, modify instruction, and monitor progress with the power of formative assessments. From computer-adaptive diagnostic and screening programs to ongoing progress monitoring, see how fun and engaging activities can measure growth while boosting student success.

    Room 7: Defining, Measuring, and Fueling Student Mastery
    Moderator: Louise Hansen, Assessment Consultant, Renaissance
    Guest Speakers: Jan Bryan, National Education Officer, Renaissance; Eric Stickney, Senior Director of Educational Research, Renaissance
    ‣ Adopting a mastery approach to student learning involves several key questions: What constitutes "mastery"? How does it develop? How do you accurately measure it? And—most importantly—how do you help students achieve it? Join Renaissance for an interactive discussion of these critical points, along with tips and strategies for matching every student with tasks and projects at the right level of challenge to inspire deeper learning.

  • 2:30–3:00 p.m. ET | Final Reporter Wrap-up
    Student Assessments: In Conversation With Education Week
    Led by the reporters, the Education Week newsroom will close out the day with insights from the discussions they’ve had with you, the readers.

Guests, Speakers, and Moderators

Young Whan Choi
Manager of Performance Assessments
Oakland Unified School District, Oakland, Calif.

Choi leads the district’s ethnic studies program and graduation capstone project. He has been a public school teacher in New York City, Providence, R.I., and Oakland, Calif. He has developed a national online ethnic studies curriculum, directed the Educating for Democracy in the Digital Age initiative, and holds master’s degrees in social studies teaching and instructional leadership. His writing has appeared in various education and news publications, and he hosts The Young and the Woke podcast.

David Frangiosa
Physics Teacher
Pascack Hills High School, Montvale, N.J.

Over his 13 years in education, Frangiosa has taught all three sciences in grades 9-12 and students of all academic abilities. He is in his fourth year of developing a standards-based assessment and reporting curriculum. He has facilitated sessions on related topics at the New Jersey Science Convention and has been invited to be a facilitator at ECET², the “Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers” conference.

Catherine Gewertz
Senior Contributing Writer
Education Week

Gewertz is a reporter covering assessment and pathways from the middle grades to high school and beyond. Since joining Education Week in 1999, she has been the lead common-core reporter and has covered urban schools. Previously, Gewertz was a staff writer at United Press International and The Los Angeles Times.

Art Graesser
Department of Psychology and the Institute for Intelligent Systems
University of Memphis

Graesser's research interests question asking and answering, tutoring, text comprehension, inference generation, conversation, reading, problem solving, memory, emotions, artificial intelligence, computational linguistics, and human-computer interaction. He and his colleagues have developed and tested software in learning, language, and discourse technologies. He is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at University of Oxford, England.

Alyson Klein
Assistant Editor
Education Week

Klein is Education Week's lead federal policy reporter with primary responsibility for the U.S. Department of Education, the White House, and other executive agencies.

Scott Marion
President and Executive Director
Center for Assessment

Marion works with state education leaders, legislators, state and district assessment and accountability leaders, and classroom teachers to design and support states in implementing assessment and accountability initiatives, including high quality, locally designed performance assessments.

Scot Osterweil
Creative Director
Education Arcade and the Game Lab
MIT Comparative Media Studies Program

Osterweil has designed games in both academic and commercial environments. His designs include the acclaimed Zoombinis series (math and logic),Vanished: The MIT/Smithsonian Game (environmental science), Labyrinth (math), Kids Survey Network (data and statistics), Caduceus(medicine), and iCue (history). He is a founder and creative director of Learning Games Network where he led the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Language Learning Initiative, and where he designed Quandary, named Game of the Year at the 2013 Games for Change festival. He co-authored the book Resonant Games and served as the play consultant on the Emmy Award-winning Amazon TV series "Tumbleleaf."

Peter Ross
Education First

Ross has deep expertise in education as a classroom teacher, manager of education initiatives, strategy consultant, and organizational leader. As part of his portfolio at Education First, he is currently partnering with the Learning Policy Institute and EducationCounsel to lead the Reimagining College Access initiative that seeks to support the use of K-12 performance assessments in higher education admission, placement, and success efforts.

Stephen Sawchuk
Associate Editor
Education Week

Sawchuk covers curriculum and instruction, with a focus on the Common Core State Standards, literacy, social studies, and STEM. A veteran education reporter with 10 years' experience writing about K-12 education, Sawchuk formerly covered the teaching profession for Education Week. He joined the newspaper in 2008 and was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan from 2016-17.

Rachel Scott
Magnet Director
Texarkana Arkansas School District, Ark.

Scott's other roles in education include magnet campus coordinator, instructional technology specialist, and chemistry teacher. Scott is a certified PBL Coach through the Buck Institute for Education. She earned her Bachelor of General Studies (2010) and Master of Science in Instructional Technology (2014) from Texas A&M University–Texarkana and her Education Specialist in Educational Leadership (2017) from Arkansas State University. Scott is a doctoral candidate in Educational Technology at the University of Florida, with a research focus on technology integration in magnet schools.

Sarah D. Sparks
Assistant Editor
Education Week

Sparks is a reporter for Education Week who has covered education research and the science of learning for more than a decade. Sarah joined Education Week in 2010, and has published on education and other issues in Education Daily, the Republican-American, the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, and others.

Allison Timberlake
Deputy Superintendent for Assessment and Accountability
Georgia Department of Education

Timberlake oversees, plans, and directs the development, implementation, and analysis of Georgia’s K-12 student assessment and accountability systems. Prior to this role, she directed the development and implementation of Georgia’s student growth model and redesigned school accountability system. Prior to joining the Georgia Department of Education, she oversaw assessment and evaluation activities for the Southern Regional Education Board’s school improvement initiatives.

Julia E. Torres
Language Arts Teacher and Librarian
Denver Public Schools

Torres is a veteran language arts teacher and librarian in Denver Public Schools. She serves teachers around the country by facilitating teacher development workshops rooted in the areas of culturally responsive teaching; anti-racist educational practices; equity and access in librarianship; and education as a practice of liberation. She facilitates reading and writing workshops with students locally and around the country with the goal of empowering them to use literacy to fuel resistance and positive social transformation and has been experimenting with progressive grading practices since 2012.

While teaching in an urban school district, Torres has developed strategies to empower learners by going gradeless in her AP English classroom. She serves on several local and national boards and committees promoting educational equity and progressivism. She is the current National Council of Teachers of English Secondary Representative-at-large, a Heinemann Publications Heinemann Fellow, and Educator Collaborative Book Ambassador.

Madeline Will
Staff Writer
Education Week

Will is a reporter for Education Week who covers the teaching profession. She rejoined the staff in 2016 as the assistant editor for Education Week Teacher after previously interning at Education Week in 2014. In between, she worked as the publications fellow for the Student Press Law Center and interned at the Chronicle of Higher Education.