Constructed Response: Rethinking How We Use Proficient Samples of Student Work

Picture this… A 10th Grade English teacher holds up a sample research paper and says “this is a ‘C-‘ … this is the minimum that you have to do in order to pass…” It would never happen! The English teacher would never use a C- as a model and quite frankly, the English teacher is not looking for a C- in any way, shape or form. Yet, many times when we use proficient samples of state released assessment, we do just that.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a huge advocate of using examples of work to show children the expectations of the final work product. I am grateful that the state provides us such samples to work with. Through the released samples we can get a clear picture of the grade level expectation that is sometimes vague when written in the standard form. But, we have to rethink how we use those samples.

Most constructed response questions are scored on a four-point rubric. The ‘3’ is considered proficient. The ‘3’ however can’t be the goal… because in reality the ‘3’ is the C-, the minimum that a student can write to be considered proficient. It (the ‘3’) may be a goal for our struggling students, but certainly not for our typical students. We have to model samples of work that exceed the standard by clearly showing children how to not only answer a question thoroughly and provide evidence to prove the answer, but also how to take it to another level applying higher order thinking skills: analysis, judgment, evaluation, conclusion etc…

So the next time you look at a ‘proficient’ response… think C- and go from there. For me, I would model using the ‘4’ and discuss as a class how we can improve it.