Using Proficiency Scales to Track Student Learning

Here is how I use proficiency scales with my middle school science classes. You'll also downloadable copies of each scale.

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According to Marzano a proficiency scale, in simplest terms, represents a progression of learning levels of difficulty. After reading Proficiency Scales for the New Science Standards* (Robert Marzano, David Yanoski, Dian Paynter) I decided to create proficiency scales for the 8th-grade science units that I teach.

I used the proficiency scale examples in the book to get me started and then added a few touches of my own. My scales have the following progression: 4 Exceeds, 3 Meets, 2 Progression, 1 Does Not Meet…Yet. Creating the scales has helped me organize each unit. The scales include the Power Learning Target, supporting learning targets, guiding questions, essential vocabulary, assignment trackers, and finally a place for student reflection using the Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning format.

Each student is given a copy of the proficiency scale at the beginning of the unit while we preview what’s to come. As assignments are completed the students track them and record whether they are formative or summative. That leads to a discussion about how the practice work connects to the end of the unit test.

At the end of the unit students complete the Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning reflection. That’s where they discuss what they think their proficiency level is using their work results as evidence. A copy is printed, and taken home to show parents, they sign it, and the student brings it back to school to place in their portfolio.

Using proficiency scales like this has really helped tie everything together. All of the assignments, projects and labs have to connect to the end of the unit assessment. The students always know where they stand and can identify strengths and areas for growth. I highly recommend trying them out.

Here are some resources that will help you get started. At the bottom of the post you’ll find the proficiency scales I create for middle school science. These proficiency scales are always “works in progress”. I hope you find them helpful.

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Proficiency Scales Resources

  • This resource is for instructional coaches, but the information is useful for anyone interested in proficiency scales.
  • What is proficiency-based learning?
  • Here is a nice resource from the North Dakota Regional Education Association.
  • Proficiency Scales vs. Traditional Grades: One Teacher’s Perspective
  • Here is the link* to the Marzano book I referenced earlier in this post. If you make your purchase using that link I earn a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site.

Proficiency Scale Downloads

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