MVP of the Common Core Documents: Achievement Level Descriptors

If I was going to put together a baseball team (football is too dangerous), I would want SF Giants 2014 World Series MVP pitcher Madison Bumgarner on the team.  He would be my go-to guy if I needed to end the inning.  Likewise, when putting together important documents to help me make meaning of and teach to the Common Core Standards, I go to the Achievement Level Descriptors (ALD’s) for Math and ELA. These explicitly tell me how deeply I need to teach “the what” of the standards. Because of this document, I can focus on “the how,” which is the fun (and most important) part of the game!

Achievement Level Descriptors are text descriptions of four levels of student achievement on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. They are a way of describing the knowledge, skills, and processes expected of students by performance levels. The levels are cumulative, so a student demonstrating proficiency at a level 3 also shows proficiency at a level 1 and 2.

Generally speaking, the four levels that describe student performance are as follows:

  • A Level 4 student demonstrates thorough understanding …
  • A Level 3 student demonstrates adequate understanding …
  • A Level 2 student demonstrates partial understanding …
  • A Level 1 student demonstrates minimal understanding …

The Achievement Level Descriptors (ALDs) are categorized from broad to narrow: from grade level to SBA Claim (score reporting category) to assessment target. Assessment targets were created to guide the development of items and tasks that will measure the CCSS.  Smarter Balanced developed the ELA assessment targets by determining the priority skills and processes from the CCSS for ELA.

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The Consortium chose to use the CCSS for Math clusters for their math assessment targets.

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True for both Math and ELA, the Range ALD describes the performance level for each assessment target.  The Threshold ALD is a summary of the Range ALD’s as it describes the standard level for each content category.

Example of 8th grade math ALD's for the Function Domain

Example of 8th grade math ALD’s for the Function Domain

As you examine the ALD’s  for math, you’ll also notice that they categorize some assessment targets as Domain 1 and others as Domain 2.  Domain 1 refers to the priority standards and Domain 2 refers to the supporting standards.

ELA categorizes their assessment targets by Content Categories (i.e. Reading Literary Texts, Reading Informational Texts, Writing, Listening, and Research).  ELA has not prioritized their standards.

Example of 8th grade ELA ALD's for Listening

Example of 8th grade ELA ALD’s for Listening

Using the Achievement Level Descriptors offers a way to teach to and develop assessments aimed at a Performance Level 3.  It allows us to find a way to push the students to a level 4.  It also nudges us to think in terms of assessment targets which show connections between standards.  Like Bumgarner, Achievement Level Descriptors get the job done and are the MVP of the CCSS documents in my book.






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