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Resources & Guidance

"Ensuring that our students graduate with genuine opportunities for success in life...requires that we apply everything we know about the science of learning and the art of teaching."
Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr.

PLAN Pilot Webinar Series

NYSED has launched a PLAN Pilot Webinar Series to provide information on performance-based learning and assessment.  Webinar recordings are posted in our Video Gallery following the live event.  Join our listserv to receive notices of upcoming events.

PBLA Resources

Understanding Performance-Based Learning and Assessment
  • PLAN Pilot Frequently Used Terms: Performance-Based Learning and Assessment (PBLA) Fact Sheet

  • The Learning Policy Institute's report on the promise of performance assessments provides the field with a comprehensive review of how these assessments are being used in the United States and abroad as innovations in high school learning and college admissions, the potential they hold for educational equity, and their value for guiding teaching and learning and better conveying what students know and can do.

Guha, Roneeta, Tony Wagner, Linda Darling-Hammond, Terri Taylor, and Diane Curtis .  The promise of performance assessments: Innovations in high school learning and college admission. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. (2018).

  • In Possible Future, Carol Lee presents a vision for how a multidimensional conception of learning and development that fosters deeper student learning may be integrated into public education by improving educator capacity and building more robust curriculum that allows students to engage in hands-on learning experiences and be assessed through multiple modes of measurement.

Lee, Carol D. "Possible futures: A curriculum that promotes civic ends and meets developmental needs." Kappan 103, no. 3 (2021): 54-57.

  • Marc Chun provides examples of performance tasks and discusses how the use of these tasks enable college professors to link pedagogical and assessment practices as a viable approach to support students in developing transferable, higher-order thinking skills.  While this article is aimed at college professors, it could be useful for high school teachers as well.

Chun, Marc. "Taking teaching to (performance) task: Linking pedagogical and assessment practices." Change: The Magazine of Higher Education. (2010, March/April).

  • Read about how performance assessment is an important tool that enables educators to measure things that multiple-choice tests cannot—like the ability to apply knowledge to solve complex problems—in this brief on Psychometric Considerations for Performance Assessment. Learn about how performance assessment can be used in combination with other types of tests to measure different aspects of what students know and can do. This brief also discusses the human judgment involved in scoring performance assessment and explains how educators need to be well trained and monitored to ensure rubrics are completed accurately and consistently. 

Tucker, Charlene G., Tim Davey, Steve Ferrara, Paul W. Holland, Rich Shavelson, Noreen M. Webb, and Lauress L. Wise. “Psychometric considerations for performance assessment with implications for policy and practice.” New York: Educational Testing Service (2015).  

Strategies for Implementing Performance-Based Learning and Assessment
  • In 2021, the Center for Assessment investigated issues related to the relationship between the use of complex performance assessments and efforts to promote instructional practices that improve student learning.  Enhancing the impact of performance assessments on instruction outlines a strategy for how state agencies and local districts can promote and monitor instructional changes to support the successful adoption of performance-based models.

Evans, Carla, and Sarah Wellberg. "Enhancing the impact of performance assessments on instruction: A research-based framework monitoring the use of performance assessments to promote positive instructional change." The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, Inc. (2021, August 11).

  • In this 8-minute video, listen to educators in Virginia explain how they changed the way classrooms look throughout Fairfax County Public Schools by implementing a learning model built around meaningful learning experiences and purposeful assessment.  The model provides practitioners with a structure for rethinking teaching, learning, and assessment using a learner-centered approach.

Fairfax Network - Fairfax County Public Schools.  "Best practices: FCPS learning model" [Video].  (2016).

  • Scott Marion presents a high-level design of a through year system anchored in rich performance assessment tasks that may enhance deeper learning for students and teachers.

Marion, Scott. "All I wanted for Christmas was a through year assessment system that promotes deeper learning: Fulfilling the promise of performance-based assessment." The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, Inc. (2022, January 11).

  • ​The Learning Policy Institute's Quality Criteria for Systems of Performance Assessment capture a set of research-based expectations for what it takes to support high-quality performance assessment systems within K-12 schools, districts, and networks.  School, district, and network leaders can use this tool to examine their existing systems and identify opportunities and next steps for enabling and advancing the use of performance-based learning and assessment in their current context.

Willis, Larkin, Aneesha Badrinarayan, and Monica Martinez.  Quality criteria for systems of performance assessment for school, district, and network leaders.  Learning Policy Institute, (2022).

Resources for Advancing Deeper Learning
  • Watch this series of video interviews conducted by the Learning Policy Institute with educators and representatives from successful deeper learning networks, including Big Picture Learning and the Internationals Network, to learn about Strategies and Practices to Advance Deeper Learning.  Hear from practitioners about cross-site learning opportunities, job-embedded professional development, community building practices, and other systems and structures in place to support deeper learning in these networks.

Learning Policy Institute. Video feature: Strategies and practices to advance deeper learning [Video].  (2020).

  • In Taking Deeper Learning to Scale, the Learning Policy Institute analyzes the efforts of schools and school districts to improve academic achievement.  Through case studies of 3 diverse schools, this report highlights the need for a more deliberate focus on creating conditions that promote highly effective teaching and support deeper learning.  Read about how Brockton High School in Massachusetts used deeper learning as a strategy to improve student achievement and all of the obstacles the school overcame to implement changes in teaching, learning, and school culture.

Noguera, Pedro A.  Taking deeper learning to scale.  Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute, (2017).

  • Explore this interactive playbook of Design Principles for Schools to learn about the guiding principles for putting the science of learning and development into action.  This resource provides a framework on how practitioners can implement structures and practices that support student learning and development and illuminates the multiple ways that schools can be designed to support all learners.

Learning Policy Institute and Turnaround for Children.  Design principles for schools: Putting the science of learning and development into action.  (2021).

  • Preparing Teachers for Deeper Learning studies the work of teacher education programs in meeting the challenge of preparing teacher candidates for deeper learning, finding that effective programs teach and support their candidates in the same ways they want the candidates to teach and support children.  This research brief on the Learning Policy Institute's publication describes strategies and guidelines for preparing teacher candidates to enact deeper learning.  While the study is directed at teacher preparation programs, it could be useful to middle and high school teachers as well.

Darling-Hammond, Linda, Jeannie Oakes, Steve Wojcikiewicz, Maria E. Hyler, Roneeta Guha, Anne Podolsky, Tara Kini, Channa Cook-Harvey, Charmaine Mercer, and Akeelah Harrell  Preparing teachers for deeper learning (research brief).  Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute, (2019).

Videos of PBLA in Practice

Teaching and Learning

  • See how a high school in Nashville, Tennessee, allows students to expand their learning experiences beyond the classroom through internships.  In this 6-minute video, students and educators explain how these hands-on learning opportunities utilize a supportive mentorship structure to enable students to explore their professional passions and build real-world skills while bolstering their academic work.

BPLearning.  "Learning through interests" [Video].  (2022).

  • Watch an 11th grade pre-calculus class in Oklahoma engaging in an authentic financial planning project to learn about compound interest, in this 8-minute video narrated by their teacher.  See how the students' culminating presentations demonstrate their learning, as they apply mathematical knowledge and skills to actual financial situations of members of their community.

PBLWorks.  "Finance project" [Video].  (2019).

  • Hear how a science teacher in Brooklyn generated student interest in learning about corrosive inhibitors by sparking their curiosity through real-life issues and current events.  Watch as these 11th grade chemistry students ask questions, design and conduct experiments, and present their findings to practitioners in the field, in this 9-minute video about a project on water quality.

PBLWorks.  "Water quality project" [Video].  (2019).



  • Watch a New York City high school student's culminating defense of a scientific investigation that was inspired by a sound unit in his physics class, which sparked his curiosity about how people respond to pitch.  This 10-minute video shows the student presenting to a panel of teachers and outside experts and responding to their questions.  Listen in as the panel discusses the student's work, using a rubric.  The video also includes clips of the student conducting the experiment, as well as interviews with him and his teachers to explain the performance-based learning and assessment process.

NY Performance Standards Consortium.  "Performance assessment: Student work examples - science" [Video].  (2020).

  • In Oakland, California, a yearlong Graduate Capstone Project provides an opportunity for students to research, analyze, and become experts in a topic of their own choosing.  This 6-minute video shows how this complex project, which is used as a districtwide performance assessment, is building students' ownership of their own learning and helping them develop and use critical thinking and communication skills.  Educators describe how the project enables graduating seniors to engage in a real-world problem as they prepare to transition out of high school.  Starting around the 1:20-minute mark, hear teachers explain how they use rubrics to authentically assess their students' work.

Learning Policy Institute.  "The power of performance assessments: Oakland Unified's graduate capstone project" [Video].  (2017).

  • Listen to an 11th grade student in Australia present her final exhibition on an independent research project and hands-on learning experience in marine science.  Watch this student demonstrate the knowledge and the depth of understanding she gained through her experience, as she walks her unseen audience through what causes deforestation in the seaweed forests around Australia - and what we can do about it - in this 13-minute video.

Big Picture Learning.  "Anais moderation sample" [Video].  (n.d.).

PBLA in CTE and Work-Based Learning

Many high-quality career and technical education programs fit into the category of performance-based learning and assessment because they incorporate real-world problems and tasks, giving students opportunities to develop and apply knowledge and skills in settings that resemble authentic, real-life situations.

  • Read about how BOCES CTE Programs are preparing students across New York State for the workforce by developing programming that combines active, hands-on learning with the opportunity for students to translate what happens in the classroom into the real-world.  This short paper highlights how dynamic BOCES CTE programs are helping students gain the college and career skills they need for successful futures.

Want to see BOCES CTE programs in action, or hear from their students?  Take a virtual tour of the CTE Center in Rockland BOCES in this 13-minute video, or hear students reflect on their hands-on learning experiences in this 7-minute video from Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (WSWHE) BOCES.

Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) of New York State.  "Career & technical education: Preparing today's students to power tomorrow's economy."  (2020).

  • Hear how the Brooklyn STEAM Center is partnering with 8 high schools in Brooklyn to provide 11th and 12th grade students with CTE training that culminates in student portfolios of work products that illustrate their career readiness.  Learn about how the Brooklyn STEAM Center is creating opportunities for young people to advance both academically and career-wise in this 11-minute video that gives an overview of this CTE model.

Brooklyn STEAM Center.  "Overview of the Brooklyn STEAM Center" [Video].  (2022).

  • In this 5-minute video, learn about how high school students in Vermont engage in community-based learning that focuses on student interest to create internship opportunities that are designed to connect academic learning to the real world.  Hear from students and educators about how the program helps students explore their interests and postsecondary possibilities, then reflect on their experience with a culminating project developed with support from their community partners. 

Edutopia.  “Community-based learning: Connecting students with their world” [Video].  (2015).  

  • Watch students in New York City build a tiny house in this 4-minute video about a building science class at The Urban Assembly School for Green Careers.  Listen to the teacher explain how he facilitates student learning while you watch a time lapse video of the classroom as the tiny house is constructed, and hear students reflect on the knowledge, understanding, skills, and confidence they gained through this experience. 

Sedita, Chris.  “UAGC building science documentary short” [Video].  (2022). 

  • Check out this Sample School Day from a student at The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School to see how this school provides a hands-on education to New York City students by combining traditional academics with maritime-themed CTE.  Explore the Harbor School’s website to learn more about how the school uses a continuum of work-based learning experiences to extend student learning from the school classroom into a real-world, work-related context. 

The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School.  “Our students.”  (n.d.). 

  • Work-based learning (WBL) is an instructional strategy that enhances classroom learning by connecting it to the workplace.  Learn about the key components of a comprehensive WBL program through the WBL Toolkit that includes guidance, resources, and further research on the impact of WBL opportunities for high school students. 

US Department of Education.  “Components of comprehensive work-based learning (WBL) programs.”  Work-based Learning (WBL) Toolkit.  (2017). 

For more information on CTE and WBL, visit NYSED's Career and Technical Education website.


Supporting PBLA with Community Partnerships
  • Explore this collection of Resources for Building Community Partnerships from Edutopia to learn how schools can benefit from the support and expertise of local businesses, organizations, and individuals, and for strategies for fostering successful business and community partnerships. This page includes collections of videos and articles on (a) discovering benefits of community and business partnerships; (b) specific tips and strategies for schools; (c) building partnerships to support project-based learning; and (d) seeing successful partnerships in action that foster career readiness, create opportunities for service learning, and support after-school learning and enrichment programs. Scroll to the bottom of the article for downloads used by practitioners at featured schools and real-world examples of community partnerships. 

Borovoy, Amy Erin. “Resources for Building Community Partnerships.” eduTopia. (2016, June 15). 

  • Check out this article on Setting Up Community Partnerships for Authentic Project-Based Learning (PBL) for a list of tips about finding and working with partners to collaborate with students in hands-on project-based learning experiences. Try using the authors’ “Community Partner Brainstorm Sheet” and “Community Partner Request Template” to help you get started searching for a community partner. Already have a partnership in place? There are also practical tips for how to strengthen partnerships and ideas for working with your partners to help launch a PBL unit, evaluate student work, create authentic audiences, and more.  

Koehler, Tara, and John Sammon. “Setting Up Community Partnerships for Authentic PBL.” eduTopia. (2023, July 7). 

  • Watch this 1.5-minute video to see an example of how community partnerships can support PBLA and civic learning. Listen to high school students from the Brooklyn STEAM Center’s construction and design pathways share their experiences creating an exhibit that simulates the experience of navigating the streets of New York City without a warm winter coat, in order to raise awareness about homelessness, in partnership with the non-profit organization New York Cares to support their annual Coat Drive. 

New York Cares. “Warming Up NY with the Brooklyn STEAM Center.” [Video]. (2023). 

  • Read this 14-page resource about how to Transform Learning with Community-Based Design—a local process where young people, educators, administrators, caregivers, and experts come together to collaboratively design better learning experiences and outcomes. This resource is designed to help schools, communities, and systems understand community-based design and includes an overview of this approach, its aims, and how it works, as well as links to tools designed to help educators understand the experiences of young people in schools and classrooms, and profiles of school communities who have embarked on community-based design journeys.  

Wood, Jenee Henry, and The Transcend Team. Transform Learning with Community-Based Design. Transcend Education, (2023). 

Scroll up to see examples of how community partnerships can support student learning through internships and mentoring. Check out the short videos of students in Tennessee (under “Videos of PBLA in Practice”) and Vermont (under “PBLA in CTE and Work-Based Learning”) engaging in hands-on experiences with their community partners. 

Engaging Families in PBLA
  • Read this preview of Alvestad's book on Developing Parent & Community Understanding of Performance-Based Assessment for guidance on taking the first steps to help parents understand the role of performance-based assessment in student learning. In chapter 1, Alvestad introduces why parent involvement is important for helping children succeed in school, as well as key features of effective parent involvement, so that school leaders can proactively plan for communicating with families about changes in practice.

Alvestad, Kathryn. Developing parent and community understanding of performance-based assessment. Routledge, (2013).

  • Involving parents in assessment can provide teachers with useful information to assist with each child’s learning, but current “assessment for learning” (AfL) practices are different from the assessment methods experienced by the parents of today’s school students. AfL or “formative assessment” is a collaborative process that involves setting goals, self-assessment, giving and receiving feedback, and supporting students to become self-aware, self-directed learners. Read this brief article on Involving Parents in Assessment to consider six recommendations for educators to engage parents and caregivers in the process of assessment by opening the doors of communication to support teachers in improving student outcomes. 

Lopez, Kirsten. “Involving parents in assessment.” Teach In (2016). 

  • Check out some talking points for helping families learn about one form of performance-based learning and assessment—project-based learning—in this brief article about Getting Parents Excited about Project-Based Learning. Read the author's advice on how to communicate that project-based learning is different from the arts-and-crafts projects that may come to mind for parents and caregivers, so that educators can begin to develop the right vocabulary and rationale to explain project-based learning as an evidence-based instructional strategy.

Piper, Katie. "Getting parents excited about project-based learning." eduTopia, (2021, October 14).

  • Read this brochure on the importance of family engagement for performance-based assessment to help ensure students have the support they need at home to succeed in school. Consider the ways the authors suggest families can engage to help their children, and the key questions they encourage parents and caregivers to ask in order to evaluate the effectiveness of performance assessments, such as: "Does the assessment require my child to use higher level thinking and problem-solving skills rather than simply memorizing to determine the answer?" and "Are teachers receiving training and assistance in designing and using performance assessments?"

Project Appleseed. "Performance based assessment." (n.d.)

National Models and Trends in Performance Assessment
  • In their 2021 Measuring Forward report, KnowledgeWorks teamed up with several education organizations to examine trends in innovative K-12 assessment practices across the nation.  This report summarizes current issues spurring new visions for assessment systems, emerging assessment designs, and how states are working to build capacity for successful - and sustainable - system change.

Aurora Institute, the Center for Assessment, the Center for Innovation in Education, Envision Learning Partners, the Great Schools Partnership, and KnowledgeWorks. "Measuring Forward: Emerging Trends in K-12 Assessment Innovation." KnowledgeWorks. (2021, November 08).

  • Linda Darling-Hammond of the Learning Policy Institute weighs models for state performance assessment systems in this detailed analysis of integrating performance-based components into assessment systems.  This paper compares various forms of assessments by providing examples from around the world of differing uses of performance-based items.

Darling-Hammond, Linda. "Developing and measuring higher order skills: Models for state performance assessment systems." Council of Chief State School Officers. (2017).

  • How do states integrate performance assessment in their systems of assessment?  In 2018, scholars guided by this question found 4 approaches to integrating performance-based assessments were being employed by states across the nation - including using them as part of high school graduation requirements.  In this article, the scholars analyze how different states utilized these different approaches.

Stosich, Elizabeth Leisy, Jon Snyder, and Katie Wilczak. "How do states integrate performance assessment in their systems of assessment?" Education Policy Analysis Archives, 26(13). (2018).

  • The Region 2 Comprehensive Center (R2CC) led by WestEd, in consultation with NYSED, conducted deep-dive case studies into the use of performance-based assessments in seven states—Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Vermont—to understand policies, implementation processes, successes, areas for improvement, and lessons learned. Read Graduation Requirements and Measures: A Review of Performance Assessment Implementation in Select States for the New York State Education Department to learn about the general themes that emerged from the case studies, and to review more detailed profiles of implementation in each state and consortium studied. The findings highlight the array of testing requirements as well as the importance of multiple measures for graduation, based on the stakeholder analysis, and the common theme that performance-based assessments are used to provide more opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery of skills and content.

Terrell, Jenna Howard, and Sarah Barzee. "Graduation Requirements and Measures: A Review of Performance Assessment Implementation in Select States for the New York State Education Department." Report. Region 2 Comprehensive Center. (2023, September).

3 Types of PBLA Approaches in New York

1. Career and Technical Education and Work-Based Learning


  • School networks and regional hubs that are implementing high-quality career and technical education and work-based learning in ways that prepare students for success in the workplace.

Research on PBLA Models

Examples of Assessment Approaches

More Approaches to Explore...

  • Scroll up to "Videos of PBLA in Practice," above, to see videos of students from Big Picture Learning schools engaging in hands-on learning experiences through internships.
  • Read about the International Baccalaureate's (IB) Career-related Programme (CP), which incorporates the values of the IB into a unique programme addressing the needs of students engaged in career-related education. Also check out IB's CP Brochure.
2. Inquiry-Based Approaches with Learner Profiles


  • School networks that use inquiry-based pedagogical approaches and assessments, designed around a learner profile, to measure students' individual performance on specified objectives.

Research on PBLA Models

  • The Learning Policy Institute examined Big Picture Learning in this study of successful deeper learning networks. Among other key findings, the Learning Policy Institute highlighted Big Picture Learning's vision for deeper learning and equity, collaboration with stakeholders, multifaceted professional learning supports, and evolution of practices and structures to improve the quality of its approach and the spread of deeper learning.

Bradley, Kathryn, and Laura E. Hernandez. Big Picture Learning: Spreading relationships, relevance, and rigor one student at a time. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute, (2019).

  • In this case study of Chicago Public Schools, enrollment in International Baccalaureate programs is found to have a positive correlation with student achievement, high school graduation, and college attendance for disadvantaged urban youth, particularly for male students.

Saavedra, Anna Rosefsky. "The academic impact of enrollment in International Baccalaureate Diploma Programs: A case study of Chicago Public Schools." Teachers College Record 116 (2014).

Examples of Assessment Approaches

3. Project-Based Learning and Performance-Based Assessment Tasks


  • School networks that use a project-based learning approach and practitioner-developed performance-based assessment tasks to determine student progress.

Research on PBLA Models

Fine, Michelle, and Karyna Pryiomka. Assessing college readiness through authentic student work: How the City University of New York and the New York Performance Standards Consortium are collaborating toward equity. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute, (2020).

  • Read findings from a randomized study by researchers from the University of Southern California, funded by Lucas Education Research, that examined the impact of project-based learning and aligned resources and teacher professional learning experiences on student outcomes in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Learn about the "Knowledge in Action (KIA)" approach to teaching AP courses, and its positive effects on student AP test scores, in this 4-page research brief on how Project-Based Learning Boosts Student Achievement in AP Courses.

"Project-based learning boosts student achievement in AP courses." Lucas Education Research, (2021).

  • The Learning Policy Institute examined the Internationals Network for Public Schools in this study of a deeper learning approach to supporting English Learners. Among other findings, the Learning Policy Institute highlighted the Internationals Network's dedication to deepening and sustaining local investment as key to the model's success in supporting rigorous academics, linguistic dignity, and bilingualism using a deeper learning approach. 

Roc, Martens, Peter Ross, and Laura E. Hernandez. Internationals Network for Public Schools: A deeper learning approach to supporting English Learners. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute, (2019).

Examples of Assessment Approaches