Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers | PARCC
Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers

Grades 3-11

Performance-level descriptors (PLDs) describe what student performance looks like at four levels: partial command of the content; moderate command; strong command; and distinguished command. In English language arts/literacy, the performance levels at each grade level are written for the two assessment claims of reading and writing.

Reading Claim

For the reading claim, the performance levels at each grade level are differentiated by three factors:

  1. Text complexity
  2. The range of accuracy in expressing reading comprehension demonstrated in student responses; and
  3. The quality of evidence cited from sources read

This is an innovative departure from how ELA/literacy performance level descriptors have been written in the past, but reflective of the Common Core's emphasis on a student's ability to find text-based evidence for generalizations, conclusions, or inferences drawn and consistent with PARCC’s Cognitive Complexity Framework for ELA/Literacy.

The Cognitive Complexity Framework guides item development and recognizes that text complexity and item/task complexity interact to determine the overall complexity of a task.

Download the framework:

Writing Claim

For the writing claim, PLDs are written for the two sub-claims:

  1. Written expression
  2. Knowledge of language and conventions. Factors differentiating the performance levels for writing include how consistently and fully students develop ideas, including when drawing evidence from one or more sources, how well they organize their writing, and their command of grammar and language usage

Performance Level Descriptors

The PLDs are available below to download and review by grade level, grade band or as a complete package.

Performance Level Descriptors by Grade



Performance Level Descriptors by Grade Band


Performance Level Descriptors: All Grades




Please note: The word "extensive" was deleted from the previously posted PLDs as a result of lessons learned from the field test.  Similar small edits may occur during the performance-level setting process.  


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