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Proficiency Scales and the CLI Model

Many of our school districts have begun work with proficiency scales, a tool introduced by Robert Marzano and Marzano Research to determine levels of student learning. Teachers have seen success in their classrooms when sharing proficiency scales with their students and allowing students to track their progression from level-to-level; therefore, allowing students to take ownership of their learning. One benefit of including proficiency scales in your curriculum, instruction, and assessment work is that both the teacher and student can use them.  Let’s take a closer look at what proficiency scales are, their purposes, and how they work within the CLI Model.

Proficiency scales, typically a four-point scale, include related curricular targets and scores which are intended to clarify a progression of learning. They allow teachers and students to identify student performance. Please review this sample template. The use of proficiency scales is a decision to be made by your Curriculum Coordinating Council (CCC).  Keep in mind, that proficiency scales can be altered to meet the needs of your school or district.

Additionally, a proficiency scale can aid Subject Area Committee (SAC) members in identifying which curricular targets are a priority and must be on a common assessment. Therefore, creating proficiency scales fits perfectly as the first step of assessment work in year three of the CLI Model. This graphic organizer, revised from the Common Assessment Development Cycle graphic from Marzano Research, illustrates the assessment process that we use in our model.

By creating proficiency scales first, SAC members identify priority curricular targets (components) and use this information to better plan their assessments. Jan Hoegh, a consultant for Marzano Research, recommends the following questions as a way to identify what should be included on a proficiency scale.

What is the primary topic of the outcome? Outcomes are summary statements for a unit of instruction. They are meant to encompass all of the components listed as steps to achieving the outcome. Determine the primary topic of the outcome and use that information to develop your level 3.0 score. Sometimes, one of your components may fully communicate the primary topic of the outcome and can, therefore, be copied and pasted into the level 3.0 field of the proficiency scale.

Are there any components that don’t directly relate to the primary target? Some states include standards that are meant to be repeated from grade-to-grade or are more supplemental in nature. Although these standards are important and work well within an outcome, they may not directly relate to the primary target. If this is the case, they may be excluded from the proficiency scale.

Please remember, however, that even if a component is not included on the proficiency scale, it must still be taught and assessed. Everything that is included in your district’s guaranteed and viable curriculum is essential, and students are still expected to learn it. But, components of this nature may be evident in the final product without having specific items that measure them; they tend to be critical understandings or skills that contribute to the end result.

Are there any components that are pre-requisite knowledge or skills? Evaluate the remaining components to determine if they meet this criterion. If so, these may be included in your level 2.0 score.

Similar to other steps of your curriculum, instruction, and assessment work, please think of these questions as guiding questions, and understand they will not always provide the answers that you need to complete your proficiency scales fully. That does not mean that your curriculum was written poorly, but it does mean that you need to think about the end result and include information on the proficiency scale that will prove beneficial to teachers and students. Remember, the purpose of a proficiency scale is to clarify the learning progression for teachers and students and further allow them to identify where a student lies on that progression.

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