PALS: Performance Assessment for Language Students

Introduction to PALS

Defining performance standards is an essential component of an instructional program. They give teachers, students, and parents a measurable level of performance as a goal of the program. Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) teachers have been developing a performance assessment program since 1995. As it has been developed, teachers and students have field tested the rubrics and modified them to reflect the language development of students within an academic setting. The assessment tasks, both formative and summative, and accompanying rubrics are laid out in a program called PALS: Performance Assessment for Language Students. The program also includes conversion charts for turning the score on a performance task into a corresponding grade.

We invite teachers, students, and parents to become familiar with the rubrics and to use them as they deem appropriate. For language professionals outside of Fairfax County, we also invite your use, and request only that you cite Fairfax County as the source.



FCPS must be cited whenever these rubrics are used.

Level 1 Speaking Tasks

Level 1 Writing Tasks

Level 2 Speaking Tasks

Level 2 Writing Tasks

Level 3 Interactive Tasks

Level 3 Presentational Speaking Tasks

Level 3 Writing Tasks

Upper Level Interactive Tasks

Upper Level Presentational Writing Tasks

Upper Level Presentational Speaking Tasks

Spanish for Fluent Speakers


Six Steps for Improving Proficiency

Step 1: Involve students in developing the rubric

  1. Students brainstorm the domains. Ask students to suggest what characteristics or components of a speaking or writing sample should be assessed.
  2. Students and teacher agree on the domains. Write the domains on an overhead transparency and show the students how their suggestions relate to the domains of the rubrics. 

Step 2: Teach students how to apply the criteria

  1. Teacher explains the levels of performance. Explain that the rubrics are based on four levels of performance which are : "Meets Expectations", "Exceeds Expectations", "Almost Meets Expectations" and "Does Not Meet Expectations."
  2. Teacher relates the level of performance to grades. Explain that "Meets Expectations' is a "B", "Exceeds Expectations" is an "A", that "Almost Meets Expectations is a "C", and that "Does Not Meet Expectations is a "D" or "F".
  3. Teacher explains the levels of performance for each domain. For example, in the domain of "Fluency", read each descriptor and explain it. It is helpful to start with the "Meets Expectations" level of performance.
  4. Teacher shows and explains models or examples for each level of performance.
  5. Students practice scoring using models and the rubrics. Give the students 2 or 3 new samples from different levels of performance and ask them to identify the level of performance for each one using the rubrics. 

Step 3: Give the students a new task to perform

  1. State the objective of the task.
  2. Give clear directions.
  3. Teacher evaluates the performance later but withholds the scoring results. 

Step 4: Teach students to evaluate the performances of peers

  1. Place students in groups of 4 or 5.
  2. Give each group their sample performances from step 3, copies of the rubrics and peer evaluation forms.
  3. Assign a different domain to each student. For writing tasks, student A evaluates Task Completion, student B evaluates Comprehensibility, student C evaluates Vocabulary, student D verifies subject-verb agreement or other basic language structures. Do the same for speaking tasks.
  4. Have each student analyze the domain assigned to him or her for each performance in the group.
  5. Ask the students to fill out the peer evaluation form and give to the student whose sample was evaluated. 

Step 4, alternate: Have students evaluate their own performance

(Do this instead of Step 4 as students become more experienced with the process.)

  1. Give them their task and a copy of the rubric.
  2. Ask students to determine at which level they have performed for each domain of the rubric.
  3. When appropriate, ask students to find evidence in their work which substantiates their assessment.
  4. Ask students to determine areas of strength and areas in need of improvement. 

Step 5: Give students feedback on their self-evaluation

  1. Students compare their evaluation to that of the teacher.
  2. Students recalibrate their understanding of the rubric with the teacher. 

Step 6: Help students develop plans for improvement

  1. Students complete the Proficiency Improvement Plan (PIP).
  2. Teacher collects the PIP from each student and provides feedback.

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Last Updated

March 1, 2013