28 March 2013

Proficiency Scales: What Lies Beneath

In my last post, I shared a bit about a new frontier with proficiency scales as an evaluation tool. And, okay, I rambled a bit, too. But you have to expect that sort of thing if you're a reader here. It's not for the faint of heart.

Jennifer asked a good question about whether there's a difference between a proficiency scale and a rubric. I don't know that there is one, in terms of the nuts and bolts. The main difference I am seeing is in their overall purpose...as if a proficiency scale is a subspecies of rubric. Maybe if we poke at the idea a bit more, turn it over a few times, we'll be able to better answer her question. So, let's build out this idea of proficiency scales and see what we learn.

One way to start is by translating the big ideas from the standard into something more concrete for students. This is not a new idea. The image below comes from a document I posted here more than five years ago. (Jeez, I feel old...)

It's not terrible. A few of you will no doubt point out that the standard referenced is no longer in place. (Washington adopted new science standards in 2009...and will most certainly jump on the NGSS bandwagon at the earliest opportunity.) But the basic idea is one that is common to many classrooms: "I can..." statements for students.

We can do better, however. Why not place these sorts of statements on a proficiency scale so students can see which ones are for scaffolding, which are for mastery of standards, and which indicate performance above the standard? At the recent ASCD conference, a group from Grayslake Community High School District in Illinois presented something similar to this.

I moved things around, switched up a bit of the language, and made a few additions. The (old) standard is on the left. I used the previous statements and fit them under the "Approaching Standard" and "At Standard" columns. I pulled the "Above Standard" statements out of the NGSS---for now. I understand that this would have to become the "At Standard" expectation in the future. I've left off the Level One (Not at Standard) option. I don't think it's necessary. If you can't even meet the targets for approaching standard, then you aren't on the map yet.

There are a lot more statements we could add here. (It's just a model.) But I like the basic idea. It gives you a place to tie the work you do in class---to be explicit in pointing out the connections to the learning targets. And, it also provides some structure for thinking about where to fall back for remediation...or push ahead for enrichment. It opens some discussion about how to move from one level to another---you can get your ZPD on, if that's your thing.

In the next post, we'll look at how a proficiency scale can worm its way into the assessments we build. For now, if you want to download the models shown above and play with them, be my guest.

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