The South Carolina Department of Education and the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary developed the performance-based assessment instruments for the identification of intellectually advanced elementary students for inclusion in gifted education programs. An important consideration in the test development process was to limit bias related to gender, minority group membership, and/or socio-economic status.
The Performance Tasks Assessment development process was led by Dr. Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, from the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary and a noted authority in the field of gifted education. Dr. Huynh Huynh, from the University of South Carolina and Dr. Thomas Ward, from the College of William and Mary, were instrumental in guiding the statistical analysis of the tests' psychometric properties. The steering committee also included the Department of Education State Coordinator for Gifted Education, first Ms. Suzette Lee and subsequently Dr. Wayne Lord, and the Director of the Office of Assessment, Dr. Paul Sandifer.
There are several features that distinguish the Performance Tasks Assessment from traditional standardized aptitude and achievement measures. Using manipulatives provides a "hands-on" dimension to the problem solving process. Another feature of performance- based assessment is the focus on deep reasoning and problem solving within a domain, using fewer, but typical items that probe a student's ability to combine complex task demands. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of performance-based assessment is the provision for preteaching. The purpose of the preteaching is to familiarize inexperienced students with the task demands of the items and to clarify performance expectations before the actual testing occurs.
There are four forms of the Performance Tasks Assessment (Forms A, B, C, and D), which are rotated from one year to the next. Each form has two levels, Primary and Intermediate. Primary is used in grades 2 and 3; Intermediate is used in grades 4 and 5. Each form also has two domains, verbal and nonverbal.
The South Carolina Performance Tasks Assessment is administered from mid-February to early March. Students in grades 2-5 (for placement in grades 3-6) must qualify to take the Performance Tasks Assessment. Students must qualify with Dimension A or B, but not both.