Performance Tasks

Rather than utilize traditional exams as benchmarks of success, teachers and their partners collaborated to design and deliver performance tasks and projects that promote students’ mastery of 21st century skills.

1Work Based Problems

Work-based problems are taken directly from a work site and students use tools and approaches employed by professionals in the field to solve the problem.

Predicting NYC Energy Demand over the next 10 years

What is the best way to meet the electrical energy needs of New York City for the next 10 years?

SCHOOL: Energy Tech High School

New York City’s energy needs are changing rapidly. The city’s population is growing and is likely to continue to grow. All of these people will need electricity to turn on their lights, power their businesses, and charge their devices. Most of our power comes from coal and other fossil fuels. Fossil fuel supplies (coal, natural gas, and oil) are dwindling and its use is thought to be one of the major contributing factors to human-caused climate change. However, it is unclear whether shifting more emphasis to other power sources (including solar, nuclear, wind, or hydroelectric) is economically or technologically feasible.

Tales from a Manhole (and Other Field Experiences)

How can I determine the most relevant details to include in field notes?

SCHOOL: Energy Tech High School

You’ve just finished up a field exercise that you were sent to accomplish at your work site. After completing the field work you have to write up field notes in a way that your boss will understand what happened, what the results are and what your recommended next steps would be. You may have readers who are reading for different purposes. How will you adapt the information to make it appropriate for the audience? Your partner in this task is an industry partner at Con Edison or the National Grid.

Managing a Robotics Challenge

How can project management help my team effectively build a VEX+ Robot?

SCHOOL: Energy Tech High School

You and your team have been charged with building a VEX +Robot together. It’s one thing to follow the steps to build the robot, but it’s another to project-manage the process. In this process, you will each have an opportunity to manage a different phase of the project to build the robot. Each project is unique and has a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal. A project team often includes people who don’t usually work together, sometimes from different organizations and across multiple geographies. There are often overlapping phases that operate on different timelines. You will develop a project plan for the completion of your robot that includes a definition of the goal, a breakdown of the tasks, a timeline of the tasks, each person’s dependencies, responsibilities, and the assignments. Your deliverables are a project plan, daily progress reports and weekly status reports. You’ll be working with an expert in project management to make sure you finish the project on time, complete with quality controls and a robot that does what you want it to do.

3Student Driven Campaigns

Campaigns are driven by student interests and often inspired by a social justice problem. Students create a multi-media campaign that raises awareness of the issue, as well as a call to action to address the issue.

Scripted: Future – The Homeless Project

SCHOOL: School of the Future

At School of the Future, Dean of Students and Basketball Coach James Jennings uses a process he’s designed for students to create their own service-learning tasks in a workshop/dialogue format. Jennings developed the process over time to help students who were, as he calls it, “bugging out.” Sometimes, these are students who are in trouble, sent to him for disciplinary action; other times it is students who are near to dropping out, having a hard time connecting to the school community, failing classes, or seeing no connection between their academic work and their lives. Added to the mix are students who hear about what’s happening on Wednesday nights in Jenning’s office and want to participate, or the students who want to do service work to build their college applications. Jennings has led over 30 workshops this year.

Create Your Own Project Through Dialogue

What is socratic questioning?
How will this help workout the real issue?
What can I do to make change toward an issue through action?

SCHOOL: School of the Future

This challenge is a project to help around issues that are important to the student. This process is to help students who are “bugging out” (when students who are in trouble are sent into disciplinary action, drastic action such as dropping out, having difficulty connecting with school, failing courses, or feeling their academic work has no connection to their lives.)

The Big Blog

How can I use an online community to inspire people about a topic I care about?

SCHOOL: Isaac Newton Middle School

In this task students see the inner workings of the internet as a tool to express their opinion on topics that matter to them. Students create their own functional social networking site that emphasizes “Sharing, Communicating, and Engaging.” While this task is focused on blogging, the site student create can also include opportunities for friends to create profiles, play games, take surveys, read and respond to blogs, and chat in discussion forums. Students will exhibit their online community –and all of its features - for parents, teachers, and friends. Students will also be expected to have in-depth knowledge of how these features were designed and the role they plan in fostering an active online community where citizens share their opinions on important topics. This task will lay the foundation for how students can use this twenty-first century tool to communicate their ideas to the world as they apply the skills of expressing their opinion with evidence. Possible external partners could include experts in the fields of the issue students take on and/or communications firms and expert bloggers.

Scholarship And You

What does scholarship look like for YOU after High School?

SCHOOL: EPIC South High School

The typical approach to post-high school planning is rarely sufficient, especially for students who don’t have college role models at home due to being the first in their family to attend. This task utilizes our Rights of Passage (an SE skill building program) and CORE advisory program to build a bridge into real and substantial, rather than cursory or shallow, conversations about students’ future plans. Designed to prepare students for the next step, we explore of resume building, scholarship finding, FAFSA filling, and a safe space to explore other options besides college.

During this process, students explore the burning question of college life. Students will begin to research colleges and learn about the college path/process. They will then design a research project that addresses their questions about college and set out to answer them through pursuing several activities. These include beginning their primary research by interviewing mentors, making college visitations, and consulting secondary sources. The goal is to authentically connect with the possibilities that exist for them after high school, and for the students to realize that college life could be a reality for them, as well.

The Identity and Culture Challenge

How does identity shape our community? Why is it important to really know someone else?

SCHOOL: EPIC South High School

EPIC’s unique, small school includes two important structures for supporting student success and culture building. Right of Passage (ROP) is a gender based social/emotional group and CORE our daily advisory program.

The goal of this unit is for students to build awareness of the importance of community. The overall purpose with this task is to deepen the social fabric between the diverse communities of students under our roof and implement a strong curriculum of social emotional growth and support that is key to our school’s mission. In this task, students gain an understanding of themselves and their identity, then make empathetic connections to others in their school community. They explore personal identity activities in ROP and do academic extensions of these activities in CORE.

Skin Deep

What is beauty?

SCHOOL: Isaac Newton Middle School

The goal of this task is to have students come up with their own concept of beauty and assess how beauty is portrayed in different aspects (print media, pop music, etc.) Young people are inundated with normative images and messages about beauty on a daily basis. It is especially important to promote a healthy self-image for our pre-teen students to make sure that they grow up appreciating different cultures, their unique abilities and looks, and tolerance for all those who do not fit the norm. Through this task, students will learn to express their beliefs in a respectful way, as well as how to help teach others what they’ve learned about how beauty can and should be defined.

Speak Up!

How can I become an expert public speaker?

SCHOOL: Isaac Newton Middle School

This task is intended to support students in building verbal communication skills that will help them become expert public speakers. One essential ingredient of project-based learning is to present your product to a public audience. This task will help your students become experts! Students will begin this task by watching a presentation of someone who is awkwardly presenting. Students then learn an acronym for public speaking – SPEAK, (Stand up straight, Project your voice, Eye contact, Articulate your words, Killer confidence) that will help them prepare for any public speaking event. The process is modeled by teachers and then practiced by students in front of the class or with a small group. ELO partners could include local actors or other public speaking experts who can provide feedback to students on their presentation style.

Activism Proposal

How can I apply the skills that I’ve learned to a social issue I care about? How can I use my new knowledge to start a movement?

SCHOOL: Hudson High School of Learning Technologies

At Hudson High School, we require our students to present a research proposal to their advisory teacher proposing a community-based activism project that they will complete in the spring of their senior year. Once approved, students develop their project, engage in the work, and present their findings. They identify and make contact with an expert/decision maker in their field of study who can be an expert advisor. This performance task is a request for support of sponsored research and in depth instructions for the project.  It is written persuasively and demonstrates some expertise in the area of interest. The proposal makes the case for how students will spend several weeks of their high school career.  

Quest 4 Feedback/Reflection Activity

How can the Hudson senior team implement sustainable feedback processes that help our students notice their strengths and weaknesses and work to revise their assignments accordingly?

SCHOOL: Hudson High School of Learning Technologies

Have you ever wondered how to encourage more students to give, receive and respond to feedback? This task was developed to support students as they learn how to react toward and implement feedback they are given. The Quest for Feedback/Reflection Activity is a class activity that addresses this and also helps teachers observe students during the feedback process. Having a feedback-based activity supports students in developing a growth mindset as well as helps teachers and external partners provide the right context and climate for feedback to be heard.

These are our preferred outcomes:

  • Students will engage thoughtfully with each other’s BIP Research Questions.
  • Students will use supporting “feedback starters” to write thoughtful and detailed feedback for each other.
  • Receivers of feedback will read/reflect on their feedback.
  • Receivers of feedback will implement this feedback in the revision process.
Infomercial: Part 3: Filming and Editing

How can we create a visual representation of our research about a wellness issue so that information is made relevant to our peers?

SCHOOL: Health Opportunities High School

Students will working in groups of 4-5 to film and edit their infomercials. Students will be using new digital video cameras (zoom Q8) and video editing software on their laptops (Final Cut Pro) to create their 3-5 minute infomercials to bring awareness about a wellness issue to a broader audience. Students will score the videos using rubrics, and a panel will choose which infomercials are shown to the whole school through the hallway TVs. Infomercials will be shown in the ELA classes, as well. Students will not only share what they have learned with their peers, but they will also gain technical skills in filming and editing as well as 21st Century Skills such as collaboration, verbal communication, and problem solving.

Script Writing for a Wellness Infomercial

How can we write a research-based script about a wellness issue to internalize and verbalize what we know? Why is writing our script an important task?

SCHOOL: Health Opportunities High School

The students will be writing a script for their infomercial after researching one of three topics (drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, or the environment). They will be writing a short skit after seeing expert examples. The group that will benefit are the students’ peers because they face these challenges on a daily basis. Students will care about this because they will know how to respond to these challenges in their own lives.

Infomercial: Part 1: Research

How can researching about wellness help us make wise decisions?

SCHOOL: Health Opportunities High School

Students will be creating an infomercial after researching one of three topics (drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, or the environment).

These concerns emerged from a needs assessment survey as the top three interests of students.

For this performance task, students will research one of those topics in-depth to prepare for the creation of the infomercial.

After they write a research paper, they will be writing a short skit, which will then lead to videotaping the skit and possibly editing it.

The infomercial will likely air on the school TVs for students to view the group that will benefit are the students’ peers because they face these challenges on a daily basis and, as a result of the infomercial, will be empowered to act in the time of need.

The Gender Pay Gap

What can we do about women earning less than their male co-workers for doing the same job?

SCHOOL: Hudson High School of Learning Technologies

Through their participation in this project/task, students will elevate their understanding of the world and clarify their role within it. Students will take a stand on an important social issue by writing an advocacy paper and then presenting their view in a Point/Counterpoint debate.

Make it Work and/or the National Organization for Women in NYC would be great ELO partners in this task. Members of these organizations will mentor students as they work their way through this project/task. They may also participate on a panel to hear and provide feedback to students as they make their cases.

The Gender Pay Gap provides students with opportunities to learn how to draw conclusions from data as they take on an authentic social issue – wage equality.

Once students experience this task they will have the skills to take on a social issue they personally care about as a social action project.


Simulations allow students to experience real life situations by practicing the skills necessary to succeed in college and various careers.

The Skullcandy Problem: SAP Onsite Work-based Problem Solving

How can we use collaboration, verbal communication, and problem-solving skills to propose a solution to a work-based problem?

SCHOOL: Business Technology Early College High School

This task is to exercise BTECH’s Essential Skills in a simulated event with our industry partner, SAP. This opportunity will give the students an experience in the industry so they can discern that the Essential Skills are needed and required in the 21st Century workplace. This will provide students with a “head-start” with identifying strengths and skills they still need to master for their internships and possible future employment.

The students will be responsible for collaborating as a team with industry professionals to create a proposal for an innovative technology project that includes a marketing strategy, technology development plan and supporting analytical research. The brand/entertainment mock-enterprise, and ultimately its customer base, will be the group that benefits from the student’s work.

QCC On-Campus Simulation

How do I effectively navigate campus resources necessary for me to successfully participate in the college environment as well as persist through college?

SCHOOL: Business Technology Early College High School

For this task, students will navigate a college campus in order to resolve an issue posed to them in a challenge. Students will face a challenge in the bursar’s office, the registrar’s office, and other locations on the QCC campus. The students will have a window of time to pursue the solution to the given challenge by asking questions, using the campus resources, generating appropriate emails and exercising strong communication skills. To prepare for this experience, all students will engage in 3 days of Network Group lessons in which they will receive a challenge, deconstruct and plan for the challenge, complete the challenge, and reflect upon the challenge experience.

Network Group Pre-Simulation: Interview

How do I conduct an interview to elicit important information, develop a deeper understanding of a subject of study, and make future decisions?

SCHOOL: Business Technology Early College High School

For this task, students will interview a Queensborough student to find out why they chose Queensborough, what their major is, the value of higher education, and why they chose their major and school. Students will examine an expert interview, tease out the components of a good interview, and view a practice interview in a fishbowl. Students will engage in lessons on active listening, developing lateral thinking, and code switching to help them in their interviews. Students will see another example of interviews to identify types of questions that interviewers ask and record it in a graphic organizer. Students will participate in a discussion to uncover their reason for the interview after completing a writing prompt about the purpose of the interview. Students will develop questions for their interviewee using a graphic organizer. Students will receive feedback on their questions from their peers and Network Coach, then practice their questions in a way that helps students develop lateral thinking. Just before their interview, students will participate in a discussion to revisit the purpose of the interview.

4Design Challenges

Design challenges are solved collaboratively and hands-on, requiring students to ask good questions, develop deep subject area knowledge, identify and solve challenges, and share their experience.

Looking to the Future

What do I need to do to set myself up for success?

SCHOOL: Bronx Arena High School

This task is designed to influence goal setting as part of your work in high school. Through this task, you will begin to build skills of self-advocacy and strengths-based goal setting. By building these skills, you will also be building good habits that will eventually enable you to be successful in any goal you set. If you stick to these habits and use them to modify your graduation and future plans as you grow and progress, you will graduate from high school with a plan for the future.

Rocking The Boat: Swallow Identification and Habitat Improvement Project

What effects do humans have on their environment? How can I use environmental science to improve my community?

SCHOOL: Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School

This project is part of a year-long, experiential community outreach unit in which a group of 9th and 10th grade FLHFHS students use the Bronx River as their outdoor classroom to study environmental science, water quality, ecosystems, and the human impacts on these ecosystems. This unit is a partnership between Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School and Rocking The Boat After spending the first semester working hands-on with water quality testing, this project will be done by groups of 9th and 10th grade students in the spring, applying the deep conceptual knowledge they’ve learned to this specific tree swallow habitat restoration project.

This project is designed to serve as an introduction to Tree Swallow migration as well as familiarize the student with research on the Swallow’s living habitat. Tree Swallows breed in fields, marshes, shorelines, wooded swamps, and beaver ponds throughout Northern America. This type of bird prefers to live near bodies of water that produce multitudes of flying insects for food. For nesting, they need old trees with existing cavities or a human-made nest box. Students will learn more about the different environments of the species and help reinstall new nesting boxes to help improve the Tree Swallow’s disappearing population in the North American region.

Quadratics 4­-6 weeks

How are visual representations useful for expressing and understanding mathematical operations?

SCHOOL: Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School

In this unit, students will learn how to build catapults, collect data to determine quadratic equations, and  compete against each other while hitting targets. The catapult has variables of angle and speed of release that determine how far a projectile will travel. The parabolic path is defined by a quadratic function. In this activity, students design and build a catapult that can launch a small bean bag a few feet. To analyze motion, students will design a simple event timer using an arduino microcontroller. They will be using a video capture to fill in the other points. The release of the catapult starts the timer, and the landing completes a circuit on an improvised switch. They can measure the time of flight, the distance covered and maximum altitude as they change the variables of angle and release speed (controlled by how far the catapult is pulled back).

Students shall first explore the behavior of the catapult system in order to form an intuitive understanding of the variables. They predict what the graph of the projectile flight might look like. They collect data using the arduino and a video from a trial, then plot the data. They attempt to build and adjust the variables of the quadratic equation to match the observed path. Finally, they use the mathematical model to predict or adjust the landing point in order to hit a target.

Strengths ­Based Goal Setting

What do I need to do to set myself up for success?

SCHOOL: Bronx Arena High School

This task is designed to influence goal setting as part of your work in high school. Through this task, you will begin to build skills of self ­advocacy and strengths-­based goal setting. By building these skills, you will also be building good habits that will eventually enable you to be successful in any goal you set. If you stick to these habits and use them to modify your graduation and future plans as you grow and progress, you will graduate from high school with a plan for the future.

Growth Mindset Challenge

Do you think intelligence can change?

SCHOOL: Bronx Academy for Software Engineering

Is intelligence fixed? Are some people born smart and some people not? In this challenge, students learn about the neuroscience behind “growing intelligence” and how the brain is just like the muscles in your body– something that can be strengthened. Students also learn about the difference between a Fixed and a Growth Mindset. They assess themselves in two areas: Mindset and Success. The information they collect will be used to start setting goals for successfully completing high school and the next steps beyond.

Modeling Math Through City Building

How do we represent scaled models both two dimensionally and three dimensionally?

SCHOOL: Brooklyn International High School

For the project students become Urban Planners, not only planning and designing, but also constructing a specified amount of urban space. At the conclusion of the project, students will be able to:

  • Articulate their planning and design process and how their constructions relate to past or current NYC urban infrastructure.
  • Successfully be able to scale (up and down) between a model and the actual size of structures.
  • Reflect on the collaborative nature of the project and a discussion of personal strengths and areas for growth.
  • In U.S. History class, students will be learning about NYC landmarks and how they represent either urbanization and/or the immigrant experience from the late 19th century - early 20th century.

In Math class, the focus is primarily on ratio, proportion, and scaling but can be adapted as need be to accommodate ongoing project design and/or construction elements.

The project should last approximately 6 weeks. The project, if taught in an interdisciplinary way, can be done with 2 classes (approximately 40-45 students).

The Mathematics and United States History classes meet for a combined 8 hours/week. Both math classes will combine to create one large representation.

The culminating project will be a permanent museum-like display in the school with the title card of the project description and links to an audio explanation of both the design and construction process, as well as a student reflection.

Rube Goldberg Project

How can I use knowledge of energy transfer to make a change in society?

SCHOOL: Brooklyn International High School

In this project we are going to be using our engineering abilities to construct Rube Goldberg Machines. Together the senior English and Science classes, with the assistance of the Beam center, will be collaborating and problem solving using simple machines, forces, and energy transfers to send a message using a Rube Goldberg Machine. In this project, groups will choose a health topic that they feel is necessary for their friends, family and the community to know more about. Using the canvas of a Rube Goldberg machine they will construct a public service announcement that will educate and inform people to start making healthier decisions in their lives. The process will involve multiple stages of planning where the understanding of energy transfer and the uses of simple machines to complete small tasks will be emphasized through a series of interactive lessons in science class. Health topics, PSA design and planning will occur simultaneously during English class. Videos of the PSA “Rube Goldberg Machine” will be presented to the community to spread the word on making better choices. As a final performance task for their science class students will write a photo essay describing their experiences with trial, error, failure, and success and will facilitate a discussion on energy transfer.

Math and Music: Creating Geared Rhythm Machines

How can I use the Euclidean Algorithm to create polyrhythms for a geared rhythm machine?

SCHOOL: Brooklyn International High School

Students will work on this interdisciplinary music project in Math, Science, English, History, and Visual Arts classes.  The geared rhythm machine component will be a focus in math and science class.  In English, History, and Art, students will be writing songs, learning about musical genres, considering social justice issues, and creating album art.  The solo math and gears component could take 3 to 5 weeks.  Our school serves primarily English Language Learners, so that time frame might be longer than what other populations may need. This project will help students build persistence and problem solving skills.  Students will be working with the concept of gears and how they work, rhythms and polyrhythms, and how to create polyrhythms using the Euclidean Algorithm as they build their machines.  Students will demonstrate what they’ve learned by creating a podcast to summarize their work, and then presenting their project to a teacher at school who will engage in a conversation with them about what they have learned. This is to prepare students for their Senior (Capstone) individual portfolio presentations. We are partnering with BEAM center to create the project and learn how to teach students to create the gears digitally, then print them.

Light & Code: Interactive Mapping of Historical Causal Relationships

How can I use coding and technology to better illustrate complex historical concepts and patterns?

SCHOOL: Bronx Academy for Software Engineering

In this project, students are going to be using their coding abilities to illustrate the movement of several historical movements and patterns (e.g the spread of the Bubonic Plague across Europe, the growth of Islam under the Abbasid Caliphate, etc). Together the freshman Global Studies class, with the assistance of the Beam Center, will be collaborating and problem solving using arduino boards and LED lights to create a historical visualization in conjunction with a powerpoint presentation. The purpose of the project is to take an interdisciplinary approach to content and to have students draw on their coding knowledge in order to supplement their learning in other classes. By familiarizing the students with this strategy, in the future we hope to create endless applications of this technology in our classrooms at BASE. For the purposes of this iteration, students will illustrate a causal relationship using light and code. Students will solder a flexible strand of up to ten colored LED lights and program the strand in order to illustrate one of five concepts that we have studied this year.   

The Great Web of Things

What tools can we use to better interact through literature?

SCHOOL: Bronx Academy for Software Engineering

In this project we will study intertextuality, or the great web of literature that connects across styles and genres. Students will take 1­3 sentences or lines out of a text. Students will write those lines onto a piece of canvas. Using electric paint, string, or other conductive surfaces/objects, students will accent and emphasize words that connect with other texts. Students will link the conductive surface/object to a line (read by student), sentence (typed by student), of scene (shown on Ipad) from another class text. When audience members/participants engage with each emphasized word and art exhibit, the linked material will play. Students will create interactive pieces that blend text, sound, and video. The purpose of our project is to learn that:

  • removing text from its original context enhances and/or changes its original meaning;
  • that literature is a web with an idea that rests in the middle and that language tethers texts together;
  • to learn that all acts of interpretation present a power relationship between author and reader;
  • and to learn that reading is an interactive, multidimensional experience.