RTTT Performing Fine Arts Assessment Project

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Item Specifications - What does it mean?

The Florida Department of Education and committees of experienced Florida educators developed the NGSSS Benchmarks.  The Florida Performing Fine Arts Assessment Steering Task Force developed the Item Specifications.

It is a resource used by test item Writers and Reviewers to develop all items for Florida’s Performing Fine Arts Assessments.  This resource defines the content, complexity, and format of the items and provides guidance to item Writers and Reviewers.

Each Item Specifications page indicates the alignment of items with the NGSSS and defines how to begin creating a test item for a Benchmark.  It also serves to provide all stakeholders with information about the scope and function of the Performing Fine Arts Assessments.

Item Specifications

Benchmark Number

Each NGSSS Benchmark is labeled with a system of numbers and letters.
  • The first two letters identify the Discipline: 
    DA – Dance;               MU – Music;  and                   TH – Theatre.
  • The number in the third position is the Grade Level:
    K – Kindergarten, 1 – First Grade, 2 – Second Grade, etc.
    6 - 8 – Sixth through Eighth Grade; 9 - 12 – Ninth Grade through Twelfth Grade.
  • The letter in the fourth position represents the Big Idea:
  • The fifth number is the Enduring Understanding:  see NGSSS page.
  • The sixth number is the specific Benchmark.

Big Idea

Big Ideas are the major organizing point for arts education in Florida.  Big Ideas provide a broad overview of what students should know and be able to do.  Big Ideas are organized into “Enduring Understandings.”  Big Idea: C - CRITICAL THINKING, S – SKILLS, O - ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE, H - HISTORICAL CONNECTIONS, and F – FUTURE.

Enduring Understanding

Enduring Understandings provide a more focused view of arts education and targeted understanding for Florida students. Enduring Understandings enable arts teachers to identify or design Essential Questions for planning purposes.


Benchmarks explicitly describe what students should know and be able to do in Dance, Music and Theatre.  Benchmarks are specific and measurable.  The disciplines of Dance, Music and Theatre are considered to be “Hard-to-measure” content areas.

Benchmark Clarification

Benchmark Clarifications simply restate the benchmark in terms of what the student will do when responding to questions of each type.

Response Mode

Responding Item, Performing/Creating Task

Item Type

Item Types are used to assess the benchmark or group of benchmarks.
Multiple Choice (Selected Response), Short Answer, Essay, Performance Task

Content Limits

Content Limits define the parameters of subject matter content with suggestions on where to find material and examples.

Stimulus Attributes

Stimulus Attributes define the parameters of the types of written, visual, audio, and video materials that should be used in the test items, including the appropriate use of graphic materials. It also defines grade level or course specific content if applicable.

Response Attributes

Response Attributes define the characteristics of the answers that a student must choose from or provide.

Item Context

Item Context gives a topical frame of reference to real-world applications of the test items.

Sample Item

Sample questions are provided to assist the writer in composing an item (stimulus/response) for the assessment that will follow the specifications. These questions represent only one of the numerous possibilities to consider when writing items to creatively assess the knowledge and skills implied in each benchmark.

NGSSS Big Ideas Enduring Understandings Benchmarks Item Specifications Assessment Items

Item Specifications - What does it mean?


DANCE:  Responding Item Specs

MUSIC - Elementary:  Responding Item Specs

MUSIC - Middle School:  Responding Item Specs

MUSIC - High School:  Responding Item Specs

THEATRE:  Responding Item Specs


The Performance Task Item Specifications may not include all of the Performing Benchmarks.  Please refer to the Blueprints for your EOCs, if you wish to include all of the Performing benchmarks.

DANCE:  Performance Item Specs

MUSIC - Elementary:  Performance Item Specs

MUSIC - Middle School:  Performance Item Specs

MUSIC - High School:  Performance Item Specs

THEATRE:  Performance Item Specs

NOTE: This information was developed under a grant from the U. S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U. S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.