SBG | Step 2 – Proficiency Scales

SBG Step 2: Proficiency Standards
SBG Step 2: Proficiency Standards
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Every standard can comprise of multiple skills students must master. Proficiency scales help break down those standards into individual skills to help track students progression to mastery.

Hi! I’m Kim Strobel with Strobel Education and I’ve been walking you through why we need a Standards-Based Grading system, why the current system that we use is broken, and how we can consider moving forward with this. 

In the last video I was discussing that step one is prioritizing the standards and really being able to narrow down – hey, which 10 or 15 standards at that grade level, within that subject area, are priority which means a student is not going to leave this classroom without knowing, understanding, and mastering those standards. 

The other standards are important, but we know that more and more and more, is not more; that we actually need to narrow down and focus in on the standards that are most important and then designate a certain amount of time, instruction time, towards meeting those standards and making sure that students master them.

The second piece to Standards-Based Grading is developing proficiency scales. A proficiency scale is basically just a rubric, right. And what proficiency scales do is they clearly articulate learning progressions for each of those priority standards.

So the work that I do in schools after we’ve unpacked the priority standards, we’ve decided which ones are going to be priority, is we then take those 10 or 15 priority standards per subject area, and we totally unpack them so that we can actually figure out what are the simple skills of this standards and then what are the more complex skills of that standard. And we plug those simple and more complex pieces into a proficiency scale.

Let me give you a quick example. If the standard is “can students tell and write time to the nearest five minutes using AM and PM on a digital or analog clock”, if that is the standard we have to unpack that because there are 15 or 20 different skills that you would need to be able to master in order to just master that standard. Some of the simple pieces of that would be do they know how to count by fives; if you can’t count by fives you’re never going to be able to tell time to the nearest five minutes. Do they know the difference between the AM and PM the hour and the minute hand? Do they know that the numbers on a clock represent five minute increments?

So there’s an entire skill set that needs to be in place in order for students to master that standard. And with a proficiency scale, what we’re able to do is to unpack that and really plug it into a proficiency scale that clearly articulates where a student is in the learning progression of mastering that standard. This is such a better way for us to assess students because then every single teacher is using that particular proficiency scale when they’re grading the telling time assessment right. 

Instead of teachers going back to their classrooms and saying “hey, I think this is worth one point and five through eight is worth three points”. We’re all using the same lens through which to evaluate a student’s performance on assessment.

So step two – developing proficiency scales – is very powerful work for teachers to do and it really helps us align our grading practices so that they are much more consistent.

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