How to Use Authentic Assessment with PowerSchool

January 05, 2017

It’s not surprising that technologists often focus on assessment practices, such as multiple-choice tests, that lend themselves to technological solutions. But at PowerSchool, we put education first when we talk about educational technology. That’s why we’ve developed a flexible, easy-to-use LMS platform that gives students and teachers plenty of room for a wide range of creative approaches to assessment.

Indeed, there are tests and quizzes for assessment, but with features such as WikiProjects and standards-based grading, PowerSchool Learning offers a more robust and comprehensive assessment and learning tool than other providers.

What is authentic assessment?

Broadly speaking, “authentic assessment” means designing meaningful assessments that require students to apply both knowledge and skills. It’s often used with practices like standards-based assessment (tracking student performance on learning goals across a range of tasks) and backward design (starting with the desired learning outcomes and planning curriculum “backwards” from there).

Authentic assessment isn’t a clear-cut category: some assessments are more “authentic” than others, and it all depends on your learning goals. If you’re teaching a standardized test prep course, then a multiple-choice test could be considered “authentic”: it measures both knowledge and test-taking skills.

But in most cases, authentic assessment involves more complex and open-ended tasks. For example, in a course aimed at teaching students how to code, an authentic assessment would most likely require students to build some actual software.

Let’s take a look now at how we can go about building authentic assessments.

4 Steps to Building Authentic Assessments

    1. Identify standards
      The first step is to determine what your students should know or be able to do. Let’s use the fourth grade literacy standard below as an example.
      Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations.
      Having established a standard as the starting point, select an appropriate task, criteria, and rubric for evaluation.
    2. Select authentic tasks
      What makes a task authentic? The differentiator is that an authentic task requires students to construct their own responses rather than chose between ones presented. The task should also mirror challenges face in the real world.Example: Have students write two different stories; one with first-person narration, and the other with the third-person narration. Have them present their work to the class and explain the differences.
    3. Identify criteria for the taskTask criteria get specific about the knowledge students should demonstrate via their tasks. Example criteria:- Understanding of the types of narrations
      – Examples that support the prompt
      – Overall clarity and focus of writing
    4. Create the rubricThe rubrics gives a guideline for how students will be evaluated based on their task performance.

      Here is a great example of a sample rubric.

Why is PowerSchool Learning excellent for authentic assessment?

Reason #1: WikiProjects turn the web into a sandbox for your students

WikiProjects are probably the single most powerful tool for authentic assessment in PowerSchool Learning. Each WikiProject gives students a space where they can use PowerSchool’s intuitive content management system to showcase their knowledge and their 21st-century communication skills.

Like a lot of what’s in PowerSchool Learning, WikiProjects are simple on the surface. Beginners can easily add video, audio, images, and text to their WikiProjects without writing a single line of code. But WikiProjects are also incredibly flexible. With Embed-the-Web blocks, students can create content in a huge variety of web applications and embed their work directly into their projects. With MiniSites, students can even build entire HTML websites, Java applets, or Flash applications and run them right in PowerSchool Learning.

All of these examples make WikiProjects great for authentic assessments. PowerSchool Learning is unique in that students can combine research writing, videos, images, audio tracks, and even simple software applications in a single online space—further still, it integrates with ePortfolios, gradebooks, and more.

Reason #2: Standards-based grading tracks performance in detail

One common complaint about authentic assessment is that it’s harder to quantify than a traditional test. A well-designed test provides a good sense of what students know by looking at what kinds of questions they can and can’t answer. But if you’re not careful, authentic assessment can obscure a student’s specific achievements behind one big overall grade. If an authentic assessment measures ten different learning goals, and the student gets a B, how do you know which learning goals the student needs to improve on? And if you have more than one assessment of the same learning goal, how do you measure the student’s progress towards that goal over time?

Standards-based grading in PowerSchool Learning, or SBG for short, is a gradebook designed from the ground up to address precisely these problems: it assesses students on multiple standards per task and then tracks student performance on each standard across multiple tasks. The traditional gradebook fits right alongside SBG meaning teachers can still give an overall grade for each task.

Reason #3: ePortfolios provide a place for student work

The purpose of a student portfolio is to showcase student growth, current abilities, or cumulative achievement. Creating and maintaining a student portfolio is easy with PowerSchool Learning, as it streamlines the process so students can easily capture content from any of their classes to showcase in their personal portfolio. Schools and districts can create templates to kick-start the creative process, and portfolios can be exported as a portable website in HTML.

Already a master of authentic assessment?

To share some specific examples of authentic assessment in PowerSchool Learning for an upcoming blog post, contact us at

See how many others are using

The largest user community in K-12 education technology