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Review of Performance Level Descriptions

Review of Performance Level Descriptions

No Child Left Behind

Internal Review of Select States' Performance Level Descriptions

To comply with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, all states must have their assessment and accountability systems approved by July 1, 2006 through the federal peer review process.

To meet the compliance requirements, the states must

  1. provide specific details to demonstrate the reliability and validity of their approved assessment and accountability systems,
  2. identify performance standards in reading and mathematics content areas for students in grades 3-8 and high school, and
  3. set standards for demonstrating proficient performance on these assessments and report the percentage of students who are judged proficient in each grade and subject.

While a handful of states have established levels of proficiency in reading and math, many states need guidance in preparing specific descriptions of the knowledge and skills needed to meet each performance level (Performance Level Descriptions or PLDs) in each subject at each grade. Further, in anticipation of future requirements, states are preparing to develop PLDs for additional subject areas (e.g., science).

The ultimate goal of this project is provide guidance to the states in attempt to advance a consistent interpretation of what it means for students to be proficient in a given subject area, regardless of the state in which they live. The specific objectives of this project are to

  1. collect and enter into a database the PLDs (by subject, grade, and performance level) developed by the states,
  2. content analyze the PLDs in reading and mathematics to characterize the nature and depth of requirements across levels and grades, and
  3. use the results of the content analysis to create guidelines that the states can use to develop PLDs that are consistent across grades and clearly linked to the cut scores that translate test results into performance level categorizations.

Project staff have collected the reading and mathematics PLDs from 11 states, and structured them into a database. These PLDs are currently accessible by the states. Additionally, project staff content analyzed the reading and mathematics PLDs from these states. Based on the general approaches they identified, staff developed a recommended approach. The state of California recently used this approach to develop PLDs in English language arts, mathematics,science, and history/social science. Project staff currently are collecting science PLDs from the states to include in the database.

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