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CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.

A Reflection on the Big Picture: Bridging QPA Practice and Systems

November marked the fifth anniversary since the Center for Collaborative Education first published the Quality Performance Assessment Guide. As we have disseminated and used the Guide – and the QPA Framework upon which it is based – we’ve continued to develop new tools as we’ve learned about the needs of the field. We’ve also, over these five years, confirmed and deepened our understanding of what is necessary for the successful implementation of performance assessment and QPA systems.

Three Core Components

Our original scale-up study, Including performance assessments in accountability systems: A review of scale-up efforts, identified three core components that we incorporated into the QPA framework.

  • robust, sustained professional development to build teacher capacity to create high-quality, curriculum-embedded performance assessments
  • technical quality to ensure that performance tasks are valid and student work is scored reliably
  • political leadership and policy support that enables performance assessment initiatives to be successful and sustaining

At its heart, the QPA framework is about building capacity to use performance assessment with technical quality; all within a system that supports a culture of teacher-driven practice and student-centered learning. The vertices of the triangle are the teacher practices. The process of using these practices collaboratively involves the educator collaboration necessary to sustain professional learning. Leaders create the space for teachers to build their practice collaboratively, and also create and align policies and systems to support the full potential of students engaging in authentic demonstrations of learning.

The three core components have held up in our experiences with schools and districts. And while they are embedded in the QPA framework, we’ve been thinking deeply about how we can represent the leadership and policy elements in greater detail. How can we illustrate the big picture of the underlying systems that work together to create equitable learning experiences for every learner? How can we help educators understand how to work on one aspect of their system and keep the big picture in mind so that over time, they can create high quality systems? The graphic below, Connecting Practice to Systems, is part of our answer to these questions.

Click to enlarge image.

From Assessments to Assessment Systems

As teachers move from the starting point of creating one performance assessment for their own classroom to creating multiple performance assessments and collaboratively designing assessments with colleagues or students, it naturally leads to questions about the broader systems of curriculum, making decisions about promotion and graduation, and reporting on student learning.

  • How does each assessment fit into a system of assessments to show student-owned growth, learning, and mastery over time?

  • Does our curriculum reflect the range of academic and essential skills we are asking students to cultivate deeply through performance assessment?

  • How can the richness in teacher conversations and calibration with student work be communicated in how we report on learning, both officially and day to day?

Balancing the flexibility of QPA and the research-based underpinnings of technical quality has always been a core principle of our work. Alignment between systems and day-to-day teaching and learning can take time. No matter where you enter into the process, if educators implement with integrity – with attention to equity, culture, and the process of change – they will engage all essential parts of the system over time.

Moving into 2018, we are working on an updated edition of the QPA Guide with an expanded tools section and we will continue to expand our support to design aligned systems within which QPA practices at the teacher level can thrive. As catalysts and facilitators of the change process, it helps us to support our partners if we can help people see and understand that big picture. Not just the how, but the why. This is our continued work with our current and future partners.


Blog Post

Integrating the Arts and Quality Performance Assessment

March 21, 2017
"The goals of arts integrated tasks align strongly with QPA tasks, creating the potential for even higher quality tasks when the two are used together. When done well, arts integrated QPA tasks increase student engagement in their learning by connecting to relevant topics and expanding the ways students can represent their learning."
Blog Post

Getting Started with Performance Assessment: What You Need to Know (video)

June 1, 2016
Guest practitioners at the Quality Performance Assessment Summer Institute 2015, Terry Bolduc, Jill Zeeban and Nels Tooker share advice for new practitioners of QPA.
Blog Post

Placing Teachers at the Center of Assessment

March 13, 2017
The Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment seeks to redefine the measures of student learning. The consortium believes that “In this day and age, we need to re-conceptualize assessment rather than tinker to refine a testing model that has limited value in furthering public education,” and that the best way to assess student learning is to return the role of designing assessments to those closest to students – teachers.