Proficient or not proficient…that is the question. In learning, that’s all that matters, right? If you are proficient at something, move on. If not, continue to practice and improve until proficiency is achieved.
In my standards based classroom, I use a 4 point / level scale for summative assessments. Formative work is never graded or scored, I just give feedback for growth. But should there be just two levels instead of four? Proficient on my current scale is a three. A four is distinguished, while two is approaching proficiency and one is emerging. But why do I need all these descriptors when all that really matters is whether they can do what I am asking them do to in the language?
I have thought about this long and hard the past few weeks and here is my answer. Because I have to give letter grades at the end of the grading period, I need these different levels. I must use the standard A, B, C, D, and F to communicate proficiency no matter how I would share it in a perfect world. Now, my scale does not perfectly correlate to these levels, but I do need a way to determine whether the student is performing above, at, or below the expected level of mastery of the standards. The part I am unsure of is whether I like it or not.
Is proficient not enough? What does proficient mean to you? I define it for my students as the level of language production / interpretation I expect from a Spanish 1 or 2 student. To achieve the level of distinguished (4) you would have to go above and beyond what I expect. Is this right? If distinguished is where we would ideally like all kids to be, should that be the level of proficient? If so, does the standard need to be rewritten to elicit the optimal responses? I realize I will always have some students that go above and beyond my expectations, so is this additional level necessary to show their achievement? Furthermore, do I need the lower tiers to show when they are approaching the proficient level rather than just emerging?
My mind will continue to ponder these questions as I make standards based grading work within a traditional system. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let the discussion continue!