In standards-based units of study, student products and performances are assessed by criteria that are directly linked to standards. The criteria usually focus on important characteristics of student performance (e.g., accuracy or use of models) and may judge the impact of the performance. The criteria can then further be defined by a continuum or scale that describes two or more positions for each criterion. For example the range may be from barely there to beyond the requirements of the task, or from novice to expert. The criteria, scale, and performance descriptions result in a scoring guide that can be used to communicate student performance in relation to standards.
A complete standards-based assessment system provides examples of student work, called exemplars or benchmarks, that define unacceptable and acceptable levels of performance in concrete and meaningful ways for students, parents, teachers, and others concerned about student learning. Taken as a whole, the activities, products, performances, criteria, performance descriptions, and exemplars are sources of evidence used to document progress and attainment of the standards. Remember that a single source of evidence does not represent attainment of a standard. Rather, a student builds a portfolio of sources of evidence across time, within and across units. Multiple sources of evidence are needed to document the attainment of any one standard.