Acuity Performance Assessment Tasks that Will Prepare You for the Common Core State Standards – Part 2

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A couple weeks ago, Holly Bremerkamp (“the Acuity Lady”), shared information about about how the ways in which the “new” Acuity can help educators get a better picture of student performance and prepare you for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In a follow up, Holly shares how Acuity can prepare for K-12 high stakes assessments with the largest CCSS performance task item banks.

The MARS Tasks Bank for Mathematics

So, this is where it gets exciting! You may already be familiar with the MARS tasks, created by the Mathematics Assessment Resource Center, Shell Center for Mathematical Education at the University of Nottingham, and the University of California at Berkeley. This is the first time that the MARS organization has partnered with an assessment provider to add these tasks to a comprehensive K-12 formative assessment solution. Many of the tasks were authored prior to the creation of the CCSS; however, the MARS organization has greatly influenced how Mathematics performance-based assessment has evolved. I feel privileged to work in partnership with this esteemed organization and to offer their wonderful tasks in Acuity.

In the MARS task bank, you get over 300 tasks. There are 280 tasks for student in grades 2 – 8 and 40 for students in high school, and what is especially terrific about these tasks is that they can be administered in a short time but still incorporate the elements that make performance tasks so valuable—authentic  scenarios, real-world applications, complex problem solving, etc.  Since each task takes approximately 20 – 40 minutes to administer they can easily be inserted into your regular instruction and assessment routine.

So you may ask yourself, what is the benefit of getting MARS tasks through Acuity?  The answer is simply this—you get richer student performance data. Although the MARS tasks are available only as printable tasks, they can also be inserted into an Acuity Custom Test which can include other assessment item types. By using items that test the Depth of Knowledge (DOK), this type of assessment can engage students at all skill levels and provide richer data about what students know and can do.  A Custom Test can be assigned, administered (paper/pencil for the MARS tasks, even if the rest of the test is given online) and scored.  Then all of the reports available for Custom Tests at the student, class and school levels will include detailed data on the Performance Tasks included in that test.  Thus, a MARS task that has been obtained on the internet is just a task, but a MARS task in Acuity is supported by all of the wonderful instructional support and reporting tools that our educators enjoy.

The CTB Task Banks for English Language Arts and Mathematics

Although I loved to use performance-based assessments in my own classroom, it did take time to create the kind of rich, multi-faceted tasks that I wanted my students to experience. I had to search for engaging stimulus materials, determine what standards I wanted to assess with the task, write the task to accurately assess those standards, and create my rubric so it effectively evaluated the task content. It was a labor of love, and I loved to see my kids engaged in the tasks I created.

What I would have wished for (had I known such a thing existed) is a bank of rich Performance Tasks that met all of my expectations, created by brilliant people who felt the way that I did about “assessment-as-learning.”  And now, I am finally able to offer the tasks that I would have wanted through the CTB Performance Task Bank.

The CTB task bank includes both ELA and Math tasks that represent the most advanced thought leadership in the educational assessment market.  There are 18 tasks in Mathematics and 45 tasks in English Language Arts, all authored by brilliant leaders of the Acuity content development team. Each task revolves around engaging, authentic, real-world, and age-appropriate stimulus materials (for example, 8th grade students learn about K-9 FBI agents while 3rd grade students read a passage about building a bird’s nest). The task then moves the student through a step-by-step process, from a novice-level question to an expert-level prompt in a scaffolded structure that gets the best from every student and gives the educator detailed information about each student’s knowledge, skills, and level of mastery.  Each task includes item metadata and scoring rubrics.  Best of all, each of the CTB Performance Tasks can be copied and edited, if you want to add or take away questions—in other words, to make our tasks your own. The CTB task bank is a dream come true, one I wish came true when I was in the classroom.


Holly Bremerkamp, “@TheAcuityLady

For more information about this comprehensive Common Core K-12 benchmark assessment solution and how we can help meet your instructional improvement goals in 2013, visit and be sure to follow the @TheAcuityLady on Twitterand Facebook to get up-to-date information.

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2 Responses to Acuity Performance Assessment Tasks that Will Prepare You for the Common Core State Standards – Part 2

  1. Pingback: The Acuity Lady: Live from ISTE 2013 | CTB/McGraw-Hill Blog

  2. Pingback: Nurture 21st Century Skills: Register for Acuity Webinar Today! | CTB/McGraw-Hill Blog

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