One of the most transforming and challenging bit of professional development I’ve ever received was when my district asked us to create SCALES for our learning goals. What is a scale? and who is Marzano? Robert Marzano’s work in  The Art and Science of TeachingA Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction, highlighted some principles of education that most teachers know, but easily forget in the business of everyday duties. One of the chapters specifically talks about tracking student progress in a learning goal by breaking it down into consecutively more difficult pieces. In another work he suggests that implementing this strategy can increase student performance more than any other strategy you could try! 

You Oughta Know About Marzano Scales

He also suggests a meaning for each scale.  Scale 1 designates a very beginning level of exposure to a skill or concept. Scale 2 represents someone who is still working on mastering a concept, but has some basics down. (I like to use skills from previous grade levels for scales 1-2 whenever possible. I can quickly check on what they were supposed to learn!) Scale 3 shows mastery of grade-level expectations, and Scale 4 could be either an advanced knowledge, in-depth explanations, or an ability to apply the knowledge to more complex situations.

Here’s an example of a posted Learning Goal and Scale. 

Having a scale begs the question, how do I decide which students are where? When I introduced a new topic and scale, I asked students to show me where they thought they were by holding up fingers. Then I would take a mental note and try to segment them into 2-3 smaller groups for practice activities and instruction. I didn’t feel very confident about this method and it was very messy and difficult to track. I wanted something more concrete and poured a few hours into making an assessment for each scale. (See below.)


When I introduced the Assessment as a pre-assessment, they enjoyed the fact that there was no pressure to know everything right away. They completed as much as they could, and I graded it so I could share their progress with them. The next day I would return it so they could see how far they’d gotten. Depending how much time I had, I would either return it individually, let them peruse it for a few minutes, then move onto the daily lessons; or I would return it in small groups based on performance level (1s together, 2s together, etc.) and meet with them to go over the test and skills. I would usually spend time going over the next skills so they would have an immediate goal to focus on in class. I would only fit in a meeting with each group about once a week, but it was better than nothing. The kids seemed really motivated to progress and felt like they were ‘cheating’ because they got to see the test in advance.

I used the same exact test as a post-assessment, and the kids really loved being able to see the scales they’d already mastered and skip ahead to finish the test faster! Those who had gotten really far only had to complete scales 3-4. Those who had more to learn, had more work to do, but this was okay because it also helped me to manage the environment. I would have 1-2 “When You’re Done…” activities up on the board for the kids I knew would be done quickly. I made sure there were quieter areas of the room for the kids who would need the whole period to finish.

I didn’t feel like I was letting the kids “cheat” because first of all, there were usually 2-4 weeks between the time they took the assessment as a pre-test, and a post-test. It was very unlikely they were going to remember the problems. Secondly, kids learn through repetition and practice, and the more they get to see and hear the learning goals and examples, the more likely they will be conscious of their learning. When kids are conscious of their learning, they are much more likely to take ownership of it! THIS IS THE GOAL! Teach kids to realize that they have charge of their learning, not just me! 
I can’t tell you how proud and happy they were to SEE their progress and feel like they had more than one chance to master it!!

Each student should complete the test for one math standard in one sitting, doing as much as they can independently. Then the test is corrected and scored. The first score is not for grading purposes. It is only to give you a starting place for planning and differentiation; and the student some acknowledgement for what they already know. The first score simply tells you how many scales (sections) the student has mastered. They don’t necessarily need to have 100% correct to “pass” a section. It’s up to the teacher, who knows the child, to decide what passing looks like. Scoring them can be tricky if you have a child who masters scale 2, but not scale 1, like the student above. I would have him color in the scale 2 box, but not the scale 1 box on his Portfolio sheet.

After the students receive their scores they can look them over and record them on their Student Portfolio sheets. The sheets provide a brief statement of each standard, coloring boxes for each scale, and a goal setting space on the back. You can decide whether or not you have time to write goals and reflections, but it does help the students become more conscious of what they’re doing well in, or need to be more attentive to. I had my students keep all of their Portfolio pages in a binder, and we would add each test as it was completed. The Portfolio pages were created to be binder dividers for each cluster of math standards.

On the back side of the Portfolio page, the student above could think about what he found difficult about scale 1, and write one sentence about what he would like to learn. He might set a goal to be able to do these kinds of problems in the next few weeks, or to pay extra attention to problems like this in class. She might set a goal to ask more questions or practice these problems more.

After the pretest students can be grouped for instruction and differentiation. I like to use color-coded spreadsheets for easy sorting. You can find some FREE ones pre-formatted with color-coding and links to the Common Core standards for quick reference. Visit Mrs. L’s Leveled Learning Store and click on your grade level in the Custom Categories tab, or scroll though the list of products. The sets of Student Portfolio pages are also FREE and can be found here.

The teacher decides when students have been given ample time to learn the content from each standard, and then the same exact test is given again as a Post-test.  I waited anywhere from 2-4 weeks to give the post-test. Students should be given as much time as they need to complete the entire test. Depending on your students, you may or may not require all of them to complete scale 4. This is also the time when your students  have the opportunity to complete and correct any mistakes they made on the pretest. Students will pick up right where they left off. Since some have a lot to learn, and others don’t, it’s good to plan a silent activity for individuals who finish early.

The post-test is scored and graded this time. Here is a suggested grading scale. An explanation of the grading scale is given in more detail here.

4.0 – 100% A+
3.5 – 95%   A
3.0 – 90%   A-
2.5 – 80%   B/B-
2.0 – 70%   C/C-
1.5 – 65%   D
1.0 – 60%   D-
0.0 – 50%   E

After the post-test is graded, students can go back and color in more of their scales to show what they’ve mastered. They may also revisit their goals to record whether they “reached [their] goal,”  “made progress,”  or are “… still working on this.”  Giving some reasons may also help students become more aware of their learning. These Assessments and Student Portfolio binders are excellent for parent conferences and administrator evaluations! I found that I didn’t have to spend as much time explaining what we were doing in math class. Each child’s progress is so clearly and simply documented. Find FREE samples of every Assessment, Portfolio, and Posters on my FREEBIES page.

Click Here to see a Video Tutorial using Scales.

                             Thanks for stopping by! 
Thanks to Jasmine from Buzzing with Mrs. McClain for hosting this blog hop!
and Jackie Sutcliffe from Real Learning in Room 213.


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