ABSTRACT

Performance level descriptors (PLDs)1 are ubiquitous in K-12 student achievement testing, appearing on websites of state departments of education, on score reports, and in test interpretation guides. PLDs defi ne the knowledge, skills, and processes (KSPs) of students at specifi ed levels of achievement and oft en include input from policy makers, stakeholders, and content experts. An uneasy relationship frequently exists between the content expectations expressed in the PLDs and the policy they are supposed to represent. Th is may be due to the way that PLDs are developed. Instead of being a conceptualization point that connects and organizes a state’s standards and assessment system (Bejar, Braun, & Tannenbaum, 2007; Hansche, 1998), PLDs are oft en developed immediately prior to standard setting (Cizek & Bunch, 2007; Hambleton & Pitoniak, 2006), resulting in PLDs that have neither guided test development nor been guided by the content of test. Th e consequence is that the expected KSPs of the PLDs may not refl ect the actual KSPs as represented by the fi nal cut scores.