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New Acuity Tool Tackles Online Assessment of Performance Tasks

Education publishing and technology company CTB/McGraw-Hill has released a new application that allows teachers to create project based assessment tasks. Acuity Performance Task System is a new component within the company's Acuity InFormative Assessment solution. This authoring system and item database addresses a specific type of activity that's planned for the test items that will appear in the Common Core State Standard tests under development by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

SBAC refers to this type of item as a performance task, a set of scenario-based questions that mimic the complexity of a real-world situation that may draw upon connections across two or three subjects.

The new system from CTB/McGraw-Hill allows users to create and assign their own performance tasks, drawing on English language arts, math, and science. According to the company, teachers may ask students to provide written or multiple-choice responses to a reading passage and provide visual displays or math formulas as part of the same task.

"We've long known that project-based learning is an ideal way to push students to develop the complex critical-thinking skills that the modern workplace and new Common Core State Standards demand, but only recently with sophisticated performance assessments have we been able to reliably and meaningfully gauge students' understanding and application of their project-based lessons," said Ellen Haley, president of the company. "Performance tasks aren't just tests--they're instructional tools. By formalizing the assessment process for project-based learning, we can help guide a far more meaningful learning experience and foster the higher-order thinking skills that are so invaluable in the classroom and beyond."

The system also includes a set of 400 Common-Core-aligned performance tasks in English and math. Since they're customizable, the same tasks can be modified to conform with state or local standards too.

Each task can be divided into separate steps, and the teacher can score each step as the student works through it or assign additional study materials before the student moves to the next step.

A scoring system provides reporting on "global" as well as task-specific activities.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.