Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Christopher Gareis

Committee Member

Thomas Ward

Committee Member

Leslie Grant


In 2014 the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation replacing end-of-course, multiple-choice assessments with locally developed alternative assessments in five courses, including two middle school social studies courses. This policy allowed Virginia school divisions the autonomy to develop the format, quantity, and focus of their assessments to meet state accountability. Given the grassroots nature of this policy, there has been little oversight of these local alternative assessments (LAAs). Thus, this exploratory study sought to gain insight into how divisions approached the process of preparing for and developing local alternative assessments and Balanced Assessment Plans, as well as the quality of the assessments created. Through a professional referral sampling process 12 divisions were interviewed and submitted two assessments each to be evaluated against the Virginia Quality Criteria Tool for Performance Assessments (VQCT). The divisions in the study responded to the autonomy granted by the state by first engaging in on-going, quality professional development to build teacher capacity. Using a variety of templates and the VQCT, divisions involved teachers in the process of developing the set of LAAs. The division assessments focus on writing prompts centered around tasks authentic to the social studies which require deeper-learning competencies by students, but the structure of the implementation of the assessments are less consistent potentially lessening the quality of the assessments. The work of these divisions suggest that the success of a grassroots performance assessment policy requires quality, on-going professional development and thoughtful analysis of the assessments and their alignment to desired learning goals.




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