# Performance Level Descriptors

MSA standards are divided into three levels of achievement:

• Advanced is a highly challenging and exemplary level of achievement indicating outstanding accomplishment in meeting the needs of students.
• Proficient is a realistic and rigorous level of achievement indicating proficiency in meeting the needs of students.
• Basic is a level of achievement indicating that more work is needed to attain proficiency in meeting the needs of students.
MSA Performance Level Descriptors for Mathematics Grade 3
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• complete repeating patterns
• identify congruent figures and lines of symmetry
• interpret tables and bar graph
• apply place-value concepts
• add and subtract whole numbers
• represent multiplication basic facts
What basic students likely cannot do:
• write simple equations and simple inequalities
• analyze properties of solid figures
• interpret pictographs
• determine value of mixed currency
• represent division basic facts
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• write simple equations and simple inequalities
• analyze properties of solid figures
• interpret pictographs
• determine value of mixed currency
• represent division basic facts
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• analyze properties of plane geometric figures
• analyze transformations
• describe the probability of one simple event
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• analyze properties of plane geometric figures
• analyze transformations
• describe the probability of one simple event
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections
MSA Performance Level Descriptors for Mathematics Grade 4
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• find the unknown factor in an equation
• find perimeter
• write simple fractions and decimals
• multiply whole numbers
What basic students likely cannot do:
• generalize a non-numeric pattern rule
• write simple expressions using whole numbers
• describe probability as a fraction
• divide whole numbers
• subtract decimals
• estimate to find the sum
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• generalize a non-numeric pattern rule
• write simple expressions using whole numbers
• describe probability as a fraction
• divide whole numbers
• subtract decimals
• estimate to find the sum
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• represent simple fractions on a number line
• measure to the nearest quarter inch
• convert inches to feet or yards
• make a line plot
• analyze data to find range and median
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• represent simple fractions on a number line
• measure to the nearest quarter inch
• convert inches to feet or yards
• make a line plot
• analyze data to find range and median
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections
MSA Performance Level Descriptors for Mathematics Grade 5
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• locate whole numbers on a number line
• evaluate expressions
• identify similar figures
• organize data
• determine the probability of one simple event
• compare decimals
What basic students likely cannot do:
• interpret the rule for a one operation function table
• solve simple equations
• determine equivalent units of measurement
• analyze data to interpret stem-and-leaf plots and read circle graphs
• identify members of a sample space
• apply knowledge of fractions and decimals
• apply number relationships to prime and composite numbers and greatest common factor
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• interpret the rule for a one operation function table
• solve simple equations
• determine equivalent units of measurement
• analyze data to interpret stem-and-leaf plots and read circle graphs
• identify members of a sample space
• apply knowledge of fractions and decimals
• apply number relationships to prime and composite numbers and greatest common factor
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• analyze geometric relationships of plane geometric figures
• estimate and apply formulas to determine perimeter and area
• determine measures of central tendency
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• analyze geometric relationships of plane geometric figures
• estimate and apply formulas to determine perimeter and area
• determine measures of central tendency
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections
. MSA Performance Level Descriptors for Mathematics Grade 6
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• identify a rule for a one operation function table
• identify plane geometric figures
• organize data to make frequency tables
• find percent of a number
• represent integers
What basic students likely cannot do:
• write a rule for a one operation function table
• evaluate expressions
• locate integers on a number line
• identify on a graph a linear relationship that shows increase, decrease, and no change
• classify triangles
• apply formulas to determine volume and area
• apply knowledge of rational numbers
• analyze number relationships.
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• write a rule for a one operation function table
• evaluate expressions
• locate integers on a number line
• identify on a graph a linear relationship that shows increase, decrease, and no change
• classify triangles
• apply formulas to determine volume and area
• apply knowledge of rational numbers
• analyze number relationships.
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• analyze linear relationships to identify graph of a line.
• identify perpendicular bisectors.
• apply formulas to determine area of a rectangle and a triangle
• organize data to make a stem-and-leaf plot
• represent whole numbers using exponential form using powers of 10
• compare and order fractions
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• analyze linear relationships to identify graph of a line
• identify perpendicular bisectors
• apply formulas to determine area of a rectangle and a triangle
• organize data to make a stem-and-leaf plot
• represent whole numbers using exponential form using powers of 10
• compare and order fractions
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections
MSA Performance Level Descriptors for Mathematics Grade 7
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• identify simple expressions in context
• apply the properties of congruent polygons
• apply mean, median, and mode
• identify a number written in exponential notation
What basic students likely cannot do:
• write and evaluate simple expressions, solve simple equations, and write simple inequalities
• locate points on a number line and a coordinate plane using rational numbers
• identify and apply properties of various angles
• determine best choice of a data display and organize data in a variety of displays
• determine probability and express it as a decimal
• compare and order decimals, fractions, percents and integers, and determine equivalent ratios
• determine percent of another number
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• write and evaluate simple expressions, solve simple equations, and write simple inequalities
• locate points on a number line and a coordinate plane using rational numbers
• identify and apply properties of various angles
• determine best choice of a data display and organize data in a variety of displays
• determine probability and express it as a decimal
• compare and order decimals, fractions, percents and integers, and determine equivalent ratios
• determine percent of another number
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• evaluate algebraic expressions
• identify in a table linear relationships that show increase, decrease, and no change
• graph the solution to an inequality
• draw a transformation on a coordinate plane
• determine area of a trapezoid and surface area of a rectangular prism
• use percents as rates to solve a problem
• determine equivalent fractions, decimals, and numbers in exponential notation
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• evaluate algebraic expressions
• identify in a table linear relationships that show increase, decrease, and no change
• graph the solution to an inequality
• draw a transformation on a coordinate plane
• determine area of a trapezoid and surface area of a rectangular prism
• use percents as rates to solve a problem
• determine equivalent fractions, decimals, and numbers in exponential notation
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections
MSA Performance Level Descriptors for Mathematics Grade 8
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• determine the nth term in recursive arithmetic sequences
• identify data organized in a variety of data displays
• determine length using a scale drawing
What basic students likely cannot do:
• identify linear functions given a graph
• write and simplify expressions, write and solve equations, and solve inequalities
• identify properties of parallel lines cut by a transversal
• apply the Pythagorean Theorem
• determine square root of whole numbers
• apply a variety of percents in context
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• identify linear functions given a graph
• write and simplify expressions, write and solve equations, and solve inequalities
• identify properties of parallel lines cut by a transversal
• apply the Pythagorean Theorem
• determine square root of whole numbers
• apply a variety of percents in context
• communicate a partially developed understanding of problem solving using a strategy with little or no support
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• determine the nth term in recursive geometric sequences
• determine circumference of a circle
• organize and display data in a variety of data displays
• analyze results of simulations
• represent rational numbers in scientific notation
• use proportional reasoning to solve problems
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• determine the nth term in recursive geometric sequences
• determine circumference of a circle
• organize and display data in a variety of data displays
• analyze results of simulations
• represent rational numbers in scientific notation
• use proportional reasoning to solve problems
• communicate a comprehensive understanding of problem solving using a strategy with supporting connections

Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• use context clues to determine appropriate meanings of words and commonly used expressions
• identify information and details directly stated in a text
• draw simple inferences from grade-appropriate text
• identify basic characteristics of a literary genre
• use appropriate prior knowledge to make simple inferences about information in a text
What basic students likely cannot do:
• use sufficient textual evidence to support or explain an idea or inference about a text
• identify or state a main idea of an informational text
• identify or state a theme of a literary text
• use graphic aids to help construct meaning from a text
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• identify a stated or implied main idea of an informational passage
• identify a theme or lesson learned in a literary text
• support simple inferences or ideas about a text with appropriate textual evidence
• use graphic aids to help construct meaning from a text
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• synthesize information to arrive at generalizations, conclusions, and complex inferences
• use textual evidence effectively to explain ideas
• analyze a text to uncover its complexities
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• discriminate between details/information and the ideas they express
• synthesize information and details to arrive at generalizations, conclusions, and complex inferences
• analyze a text to uncover its complexities
• use evidence from a text effectively to explain conclusions and inferences

Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• draw simple inferences from grade-appropriate text
• identify information directly stated in a text
• use context clues to determine appropriate meanings of words
• identify the main idea of a text when that idea is obvious
• make connections to the real world and the text by accessing prior knowledge
• respond in writing to questions about a text with minimal textual evidence
What basic students likely cannot do:
• support ideas about a text with adequate text-relevant information or evidence
• infer a main idea from a text
• use knowledge of literary elements to make meaning
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• use context clues to determine appropriate meanings of words
• recognize the relationship between text features and ideas or information in a text
• support a literal reading of a text with text-relevant information
• support simple inferences or general ideas about a text with appropriate textual evidence
• apply knowledge of literary elements (e.g., character, main conflict) when making meaning from a text
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• explain complexities of a text
• clarify and extend ideas in a text with specific, effective text-relevant information
• consistently make connections among ideas in a text
• exhibit a reading of a text beyond the literal
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• analyze a text to uncover its complexities
• clarify and extend ideas in a text with specific, effective text-relevant information or evidence
• use relationships among ideas in a text to draw conclusions and make generalizations
• articulate conclusions about author's craft
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• understand basic literary elements (e.g., character, simple plot, conflict)
• make low-level inferences from information in a text
• use context clues to determine appropriate meanings of words
• respond in writing to questions about a text with only minimal textual evidence
What basic students likely cannot do:
• provide adequate textual evidence to support or develop ideas about a text
• consistently apply basic word-level knowledge (e.g., synonyms)
• demonstrate more than a minimal understanding of the text
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• pull appropriate details or information from across a text to summarize briefly or demonstrate a general understanding of the text
• define words using contextual evidence
• recognize synonyms of grade-appropriate words and use synonyms to draw a simple conclusion
• demonstrate a general, often literal, understanding of a literary or informational text
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• reason deductively when drawing conclusions or making inferences
• read critically to evaluate text
• demonstrate understanding of the complexities of a text
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• apply deductive reasoning to draw conclusions and make inferences
• provide appropriate and sufficient textual evidence to clarify effectively ideas in a text
• read critically to evaluate text
• synthesize ideas and information to uncover the complexities of a text
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• demonstrate a minimal to literal understanding of a grade-appropriate informational or literary text
• respond to questions about a text with only minimal supporting textual evidence
• apply basic understanding of narrative elements in a literary text (e.g., sequence, character relationships)
• determine meanings of words in context
• make simple predictions and draw simple conclusions based on information in a text
• recognize a main idea and identify information not related to a main idea
• apply basic word-level knowledge to identify word meaning and usage
What basic students likely cannot do:
• recognize an organizational pattern in an informational text
• apply understanding of author's choice of language to make meaning of text
• provide adequate text-relevant information or evidence to support an idea or a conclusion about a text
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• demonstrate a general understanding of a literary or informational text
• use textual evidence to draw conclusions about narrative elements in a literary text (e.g., mood, characters)
• determine the meanings of words and expressions in context (e.g., idioms, common expressions, synonyms)
• recognize an author's opinion in an informational text and determine the purpose of a text or portion of text
• identify an organizational pattern of an informational text
• provide some textual support for an idea of conclusion about a text
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• explain an organizational pattern of an informational text
• recognize the implications of an author's specific language choices
• extend ideas or information in a text in order to discover the text's complexities
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
interpret effectively an author's choice of words and phrases use effectively supporting evidence from a text to clarify or extend ideas analyze and explain an organizational pattern of an informational text by using effective textual evidence
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• identify information directly stated in an informational or literary text
• respond in writing to a question about a text with only minimal textual support
• identify a main idea of an informational text or a theme of a literary text when that idea or theme is apparent
• draw conclusions about characters in a literary text
• recognize the implications of text features (e.g., bulleted list, illustration)
What basic students likely cannot do:
• draw conclusions about characters in a literary text
• recognize tone in a text
• effectively use context clues to define words and phrases
• move beyond a minimal understanding of literary elements (e.g., setting, characters)
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• demonstrate a general understanding of an informational or literary text
• recognize an obvious tone in a text
• determine the meanings of words in context
• draw conclusions and make inferences about characters and character relationships in a literary text
• articulate an understanding of setting as related to time and place
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• articulate a sophisticated understanding of a literary setting
• analyze author's craft
• clarify and extend ideas to explore the complexities of a text
• use textual support effectively to explain ideas about a text
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• interpret effectively an author's choice of words and phrases
• use effectively supporting evidence from a text to clarify or extend ideas
• analyze and explain an organizational pattern of an informational text by using effective textual evidence
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• identify information directly stated in the text
• draw simple conclusions and make simple inferences from information in the text
• apply basic summary and paraphrasing skills to grade-appropriate text
• respond in writing to questions about a text with only minimal textual support
What basic students likely cannot do:
• cite adequate textual evidence to support or explain ideas about a text
• identify a main idea
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• draw conclusions about characters from their words and actions
• identify a main idea
• support ideas about text with appropriate textual evidence
• demonstrate a general understanding of a literary or informational text (e.g., make inferences, draw conclusions)
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• use textual information effectively to clarify ideas in and about a text
• analyze the implications of literary elements
• analyze an author's use of language
• demonstrate an understanding of the text beyond literal reading
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• choose appropriate text effectively to clarify ideas
• draw conclusions about multiple elements of both informational and literary texts (e.g., word meanings, comparison, poetic devices, implications of text features)
• analyze narrative elements (e.g., relationships between characters, character traits, plot structure)
• apply language skills (e.g., recognize synonyms, define words in context, analyze poetic language, determine tone)
MSA Performance Level Descriptors for Science Grade 5
Basic
Students at this level need more work to attain proficiency. They use minimal supporting evidence. Their responses provide little or no synthesis of information, such as data, cause-effect relationships, or other collected evidence with little or no use of scientific terminology.
Proficient
Students at this level have attained a realistic and rigorous measure of achievement. They use supporting evidence that is generally complete with some integration of scientific concepts, principles, and/or skills. Their responses reflect some synthesis of information, such as data, cause-effect relationships, or other collected evidence with accurate use of scientific terminology present in the responses.
Students at this level have demonstrated outstanding accomplishment. They use scientific evidence to demonstrate a full integration of scientific concepts, principles, and/or skills. Their responses reflect a complete synthesis of information, such as data, cause-effect relationships, or other collected evidence with accurate use of scientific terminology to strengthen their responses.
MSA Performance Level Descriptors for Science Grade 8
Basic
Students at this level need more work to attain proficiency. They use minimal supporting evidence. Their responses provide little or no synthesis of information, such as data, cause-effect relationships, or other collected evidence with little or no use of scientific terminology.
Proficient
Students at this level have attained a realistic and rigorous measure of achievement. They use supporting evidence that is generally complete with some integration of scientific concepts, principles, and/or skills. Their responses reflect some synthesis of information, such as data, cause-effect relationships, or other collected evidence with accurate use of scientific terminology present in the responses.
Students at this level have demonstrated outstanding accomplishment. They use scientific evidence to demonstrate a full integration of scientific concepts, principles, and/or skills. Their responses reflect a complete synthesis of information, such as data, cause-effect relationships, or other collected evidence with accurate use of scientific terminology to strengthen their responses.
MSA Performance Level Descriptors for Algebra/Data Analysis
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• represent and extend a linear and geometric pattern
• determine the sum of two matrices
• write and solve an equation that models a real-world situation
• determine the value of an equation or inequality for a given value of x
• use the graph of a line of best fit to make a prediction
• use a curve of best fit to describe the trend of the data
• determine the experimental probability from a survey and a simulation
• determine the value of a data point from the mean and the remaining data points
• determine the mean of data in a stem and leaf plot and the median in a box and whisker plot
• identify the maximum and minimum of the graph of a non-linear function
• compare rate of increase/decrease between intervals of the graph of a non-linear function
What basic students likely cannot do:
• use the results of a simulation to make a prediction
• determine the theoretical probability of an event
• determine the quartiles of a data set and create a box and whisker plot
• identify representative sampling and simple random sampling
• identify the graph of a system of equations
• write and solve a system of equations that models a real-world situation
• model a real-world situation with an algebraic expression that uses the sum or quotient
• write the equation for a line of best fit
• identify and use a curve of best fit and a line of best fit to describe data and make predictions
• determine the difference between two matrices
• recognize the misuse of data from a survey and a graph
• determine the linear equation that models a function in a table
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• use the results of a simulation to make a prediction
• determine the theoretical probability of an event
• determine the quartiles of a data set and create a box and whisker plot
• identify representative sampling and simple random sampling
• identify the graph of a system of equations
• write and solve a system of equations that models a real-world situation
• model a real-world situation with an algebraic expression that uses the sum or quotient
• write the equation for a line of best fit
• identify and use a curve of best fit and a line of best fit to describe data and make predictions
• determine the difference between two matrices
• recognize the misuse of data from a survey and a graph
• determine the linear equation that models a function in a table
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• determine the range of a non-linear graph
• write an inequality that models a real-world situation
• extrapolate the value of a graph beyond the grid provided
• explain and justify a system of equations and its solution that models a real-world situation
• explain and justify the extension of a linear pattern beyond immediate next terms
• justify the appropriate use of a curve of best fit to make a prediction
• model a real-world situation with an algebraic expression that uses sum and product
• multiply a matrix by a scalar and interpret the result
• analyze stem and leaf plots to determine measures of central tendency
• justify a sampling method as providing a representative sample
What advanced students likely can do that proficient students likely cannot do:
• determine the range of a non-linear graph
• write an inequality that models a real-world situation
• extrapolate the value of a graph beyond the grid provided
• explain and justify a system of equations and its solution that models a real-world situation
• explain and justify the extension of a linear pattern beyond immediate next terms
• justify the appropriate use of a curve of best fit to make a prediction
• model a real-world situation with an algebraic expression that uses sum and product
• multiply a matrix by a scalar and interpret the result
• analyze stem and leaf plots to determine measures of central tendency
• justify a sampling method as providing a representative sample
MSA Performance Level Descriptors for Biology
Basic
Students at this level demonstrate a minimal understanding of biology concepts, principles, and/or skills. Student responses indicate limited synthesis of information and understanding of scientific terminology.
Proficient
Students at this level demonstrate a realistic and rigorous level of achievement by providing evidence of an understanding of biology concepts and the ability to use scientific evidence to generally integrate scientific concepts, principles, and/or skills. Student responses indicate some synthesis of information and understanding of scientific terminology.
Students at this level demonstrate an exemplary level of achievement by providing evidence of a complete understanding of biology concepts and the ability to use scientific evidence to fully integrate scientific concepts, principles, and/or skills. Student responses indicate a complete synthesis of information and understanding of scientific terminology.
MSA Performance Level Descriptors for English
Basic
What basic students likely can do:
• read a writing prompt and respond by attempting an organizational strategy and supplying minimal support and elaboration
• apply basic capitalization and punctuation rules.
• use sentence sense to combine two or three simple sentences logically
• draw simple conclusions and inferences from grade-level text regarding main idea, plot, characterization, theme, and tone
• provide evidence in writing that a minimal understanding of a text has been achieved
• recognize structural features of a poem
• read titles of on-line sources and predict usefulness of content for a given purpose
What basic students likely cannot do:
• read and address a writing prompt by using an organizational structure and supplying adequate support and elaboration
• internalize and apply a wide-range of language mechanics rules
• apply sentence sense to combine multiple sentences, using effective subordination, coordination, and sequencing
• make valid connections between ideas within or across texts
• provide textual evidence in writing to verify a literal understanding of grade-appropriate text
• draw simple inferences from images and figurative language
• interpret poetry
• use context clues to determine the meaning of unknown/above grade-level words
• recognizing grammatical classifications of words using position, form, and function
Proficient
What proficient students likely can do that basic students likely cannot do:
• all of what a basic student can do, plus
• read and address a writing prompt by using an organizational strategy, supplying adequate support and elaboration, and minimizing errors in language usage and conventions
• apply a wide-range of internalized language mechanics
• use a resource to apply standard English language usage and conventions
• apply sentence sense to combine multiple sentences using effective subordination, coordination, and sequencing
• make valid connections among ideas within a text and draw conclusions and inferences by synthesizing information
• draw simple inferences from images and figurative language
• interpret poetry
• provide textual evidence in writing to verify that a literal understanding of a text has been achieved
• use context clues to determine the meaning of unknown/above grade-level words
• recognize distinctions between the denotative and connotative meanings of words and phrases
• recognize grammatical classifications of words by position, form, and function
What proficient students likely cannot do:
• fulfill the demands of a writing prompt by using an effective organizational structure, providing relevant and complete support, exhibiting clear and/or purposeful word choice, and applying correct language usage and convention
• expand sentences by correctly placing modifying details
• analyze the connection between stylistic elements and author's purpose in poetry and grade-appropriate text
• clarify and extend understanding of a text beyond the literal
• provide in writing stated and implied evidence that affirms an understanding of the complexities of a text