Continua

What is a "continuum?"
A continuum is a tool for scoring student performance tasks and providing clear, constructive feedback to students.  Each competency has its own continuum that describes in detail the progression toward mastery in student-facing languageContinua are designed to make each step toward mastery clear and understandable to students and families. Performance levels - which directly correspond to grade levels - are the "stepping stones" toward college and career readiness.  

Each competency is made up of a group of related skills, and that skills are the dimensions of analysis (horizontal) for each competency.  Skills describe the discrete skills and knowledge for which growth and progress can be measured for each competency.

Why did you develop continua?
We developed continua as an intentional shift away from traditional rubrics that typically describe what's missing in students' work, and that lack a learning progression.  Continua enable educators to show students exactly where they are on the continuum toward mastery, where they are headed, and what they need to do to get there.  This design is consistent with our principles of mastery-based learning and positive youth development. The continua help educators identify and build on strengths in student work, communicate expectations clearly and equitably, and provide continuous and timely feedback to guide students in their learning progression toward mastery. 

Four Key Characteristics of our Continua

Where did the language come from? 
The language of the continua comes directly from the standard sets from which our competencies are based (Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science, and so forth). These standard sets include language for "grade level standards" or "performance descriptors" that describe what students need to know and be able to do at each level. We have taken this language and converted it to student-facing, example-rich, "I can" statements with the help of our peer educators, and with feedback from several experts in the field.


Why is there no "Level 9" or "Level 11" language on the continua (except for Math)
We're glad you noticed.  

First, the practical.  If you're trying to score student work, here's how it works: Level 9 means that a student has met all of the criteria described in "Level 8" and shows substantial progress toward "Level 10" work that is evidenced in the student performance task.  The same rule applies for Level 11.  Here's more on the Scoring Rules.

Now, to the (somewhat) philosophical.  There are three key reasons we structured the continua in this way:
  • Alignment: All of the standard sets on which our competencies are based (Common Core, Next Generation Science, C3 Framework, etc) shift from individual grade level descriptors in K - 8 standards to grade level "bands" in high school. For example, C3 Framework for Social Studies provides a "9-12" band (which we split up into 9-10 and a "11-12" bands).  Common Core provides a "9-10" band and a "11-12" band for all ELA standards.  Our structure mirrors this structure.
  • Trust: Attempting to create new language between grade levels or grade level bands has been described to us by some experts in the field as "dancing on the head of a pin." And after much consideration, we agreed. We trust our educators to use the language that is provided in the continua, draw on evidence from students' work, and apply their judicious discretion to score student work fairly and help students identify where they are on the continuum and what they need to do to progress.  We developed a Team Calibration Protocol to help with this (available for download on the Scoring Tasks page).
  • Diversity: Learning is not always linear, and diverse learners make growth and gains in diverse ways.  Leaving the language "open" between high school grade levels allows for more flexibility in how students progress, in how quickly they progress, and in what specific skill sets or understandings they develop when.  There's no scripting this process - so we will err on the side of honoring our diverse learners and their unique learning pathways.  
This "learning is not always linear" line of reasoning is also the rationale for our grade calculation protocol, where students are permitted to have some work (a maximum of 22%, to be precise) at one grade level behind and still earn credit for a course (note that 0% of work can be two grade levels behind).  Interested in digging deeper?  Explore our Scoring Rules and Grade Calculation Guidelines and Protocols.