George Lucas Educational Foundation

An Introduction to Comprehensive Assessment

Performance-based evaluation is a real-world improvement on the artificial measures of paper-and-pencil testing. 
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An Introduction to Comprehensive Assessment (Transcript)

Teacher: Today we're going to take SAT I.

Narrator: Tests, from national, standardized tests to final exams are the most common form of student assessment. But many educators believe we need better ways to measure learning and achievement.

Howard Gardner: People may be good test takers but once you leave the world of testing you have to think for yourself because the world doesn't come organized in four choices with the fourth one being "None of the above".

Student: Well can I show you something on the computer?

Teacher: Absolutely.

Student: Okay.

Narrator: Comprehensive assessment provides ongoing feedback so that teachers, principals, parents and students can constantly improve teaching and learning on a daily and weekly basis.

Teacher: As far as listening and speaking and writing you're making steady progress.

Narrator: Comprehensive assessments provide a picture of the whole student, and can include more traditional measures like multiple choice tests and essays as well as portfolios, experiments, and role play that mirrors real life tasks.

Student: Hi my name is Eddie Kim. I am a site planner and thank you for letting us propose a plan.

Narrator: In the Urban Plan project students learn state standards and economics by working in teams to create development proposals.

Student: Yeah, that's way too high. How do we kill our percent but still make the city go up?

Dong-Jin Lee: The project as a whole, it gets you ready for the real world. Just looking out of the book it gets pretty tedious, like you're just looking in a book. You're memorizing facts and stuff. But once you learn how to actually use those facts, you get a deeper understanding and you can better interpret questions and so you build up like really useful skills.

Student: The number is going to be about one point five million.

Narrator: While comprehensive assessment requires a significant amount of time and energy, proponents insist the investment pays big dividends.

Linda Darling-Hammond: Students have to develop the performances. The teachers have to evaluate them. But the time is not lost to teaching and learning. The time is teaching and learning because the actual conduct of the assessment is a learning experience for the students. It informs teaching. It actually gives teachers feedback immediately about what they need to do to meet students' needs, so it's actually productive time.

Student: In the year 2050 education has become project-based.

Narrator: Comprehensive assessment promotes student accountability for learning, self-reflection, and presentation skills needed for the work world.

Student: Transportation, four facts.

Hugh Price: As I was mulling all these issues about assessment, I was struck by the fact that there are all other sorts of attributes like drive and grit and determination, ability to problem solve, communication skills, leadership skills, these intangibles that were critically important.

Teacher: Football field 100 years, 300 feet.

Hugh Price: And that by virtue of the excessive reliance on the testing scores you're ruling out large numbers of youngsters of all races, and all complexions who may not have stratospheric test scores, but who have these other kinds of attributes that experience shows contribute to high-level success in the real world.

Teacher: Oh so you're just going to have a bunch of paths through here?

Students: Yeah.

Teacher: Nice.

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producers:

  • Roberta Furger
  • Leigh Iacobucci
  • Diane Curtis
  • Roberta Furger
  • Sara Armstrong


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Eric Seguim-Arnold
  • Jon Dobovan
  • Ken Ellis
  • Ward Laver
  • Gabriel Miller
  • Lewis Trusty
  • William Turnley


  • Peter Coyote

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • The College Board

Comments (9) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

John Garrett's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

After watching this video I am reminded of the book by Ted McCain entitled "Teaching for Tomorrow". In that book he talks about moving how we teach and educate more like the real world. Some of the tools he uses in his classoom are contracts, resource froms, timelines, etc. Also he talks a lot about project based learning as an assessment tool. In changing my middle school classes to more of this type of assessment and less on formal tests and quizes I have found that the students are better able to show me their understanding of a skill or concept and their anxiety level is much lower when I talk about assessment.

John Slyer aka Mr Sly The Science Guy's picture
John Slyer aka Mr Sly The Science Guy
Science Coach for Middle Level in Upstate New York

Project based learning with real life issues is the best way to prepare students for the real world. I believe that we may be able to teach more if we take more time to address real question and delve deeply into them with our students.

Becky's picture

As a student, who struggles with test taking, I find project based learning and comprehensive assessment very useful. It not only provides me with opportunities to organize my thoughts, and practice skills, but it also helps to lessen my test taking anxiety.

Hillary Drinkell's picture

Part of the Montessori curriculum insists that all students follow a project/research based design. Our students are encouraged to work with different age groups so that all students either learn or help teach each other. This allows all students a sense of success.

Pati True's picture

It is our moral obligation to prepare our students to function in the real world. Those "intangibles" are exactly the skills they will need in the work force and to be honest skills that many current graduates are lacking. This is an idea whose time MUST come, in order to shift the paradigm.

mike lieber's picture
mike lieber
Technology Education - New York

Our SED is killin us with these exams. Teahers are fearfull of jumpin in to PBL b/c they worry about the time frame and how they are going to prep students for the test (fill thier heads with facts). I could use some help in gathering date on schools that have made this change and have state test scores to rpove it's success.

Eloise R. Sanchez's picture
Eloise R. Sanchez
Business Instructor from Guam

Two of my favorite people--Howard Gardner and Linda Darling-Hammond! I realize that curriculum, instruction and assessment always go hand in hand and each work towards improving teaching in the classroom.


peter's picture
consulting partner / pristine consult

the challenge isn't with the concepts and practices of PBL, rather it is with how to make the new function within the old.

Elizabeth_rf's picture
V.P. of Learning at New Futuro

No doubt that this works. PBL requires much more collaborative work than our teachers can plan in the planning time they have. Also, the key element in here (as in any learning scenario) is real time quality feedback, not only in the final presentation but along the journey to that final moment. If you are planning on using PBL, make sure to consider those two elements. Good luck!

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