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Understanding Proficiency

Understanding Proficiency supports educators in analyzing and learning from student work on performance tasks. The website leverages the Smarter Balanced performance tasks in English language arts and literacy (ELA/literacy) and mathematics to support professional development that can help operationalize the demands of college- and career-ready standards in order to inform and enhance teaching and learning.

Next generation assessments, designed to assess college and career readiness, rely on rigorous performance tasks that reveal how well students are able to integrate their knowledge and skills across multiple standards. These performance tasks measure important 21st century skills, such as synthesizing information and thinking critically; skills that are difficult to adequately assess with traditional multiple-choice questions.

Reviewing student work from performance tasks gives teachers richer and more detailed evidence of what students have learned, and where they might need more instruction and support.

Designed by WestEd, in partnership with the Stanford Center on Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE), Understanding Proficiency features scored student responses to the Smarter Balanced performance tasks — annotated by practicing educators — and illustrates the full range of performance levels for each task. You will find student answers to constructed response questions and to full-write essay prompts, providing examples of student work at each performance level for each item.

Additionally, the site offers videos of educators engaged in analysis and discussion of student work; interviews with educators about what they learned from scoring student responses; and professional development tools to support educators in using these resources for professional learning.

Visit Understanding Proficiency for ELA/literacy and mathematics resources at every grade level, videos, and professional development tools.

Understanding Proficiency was developed with support from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.