You may already get how your learning objectives fit into a proficiency scale, but what about your students? Have you ever spent a lot of time planning a lesson or unit, and then realized, ugh… this is too hard or too easy, and now I have to change my approach! Nobody likes to waste time! Most of the questions I get about proficiency scales focus on organizing the content. We discuss tips like examining your learning goals, looking for higher order thinking skills within your objectives, and aligning standards from previous grade levels. (The free guide I’ve put together walks you through all of this! Sign up by email!) 

So this cute blue shape is a bell curve. Bell curves are used a lot in statistics. When students take standardized tests at the end of the year, (state tests, national test, or cognitive abilities tests) the bell curve helps to understand how student performance is distributed. This kind of scale is used when you’re looking to compare students to a standard of performance for their age group. When you assess children for special needs based on cognitive deficiencies or giftedness, they are compared to kids their age in the nation or the state. The 50th percentile represents average. Giftedness is usually qualified between the 95th – 97th percentiles, depending on your district. Students who need cognitive modification, may fall far below average, which might be the 10th-15th percentile or lower. When I think about my class distribution on a scale, this model really helps me. My top 10% usually are children who are either very high, maybe qualify as gifted, so they learn really fast. They will always need some kind of extension because they’ll learn everything that you have to teach within the first couple days. The lower 10th percentile are those few kids that need really more intensive interventions. Not just modifications, like helping them focus, keeping them organized, making sure they have supplies ready, giving them visual reminders, or implementing behavior plans. Those things can be small modifications that don’t affect their cognitive ability or potential, but that lower 10th percent are kids who really are below average cognitively, and they will need special intervention. The 50th percentile are your average kids. They will usually start at a 2 or 3 on your proficiency scale. 

Some are going to need more repetition and lots of practice opportunities. They might fit in your 2 category. Your 3s are kids who are going to master the grade level content with no extra effort. Your usual lesson plans will do. 

“These were GREAT. It made it much quicker to post standards in my room. My students also liked seeing how they could kick up their work a notch, and those that needed to see if they were quite on standard. Thank you so much for putting this together!” – Elizabeth B. January 20, 2020


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You might modify how you plan lessons, introduce topics, give directions, ask questions, modify practice activities, homework or pre-made assessments.


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