XIV. Planning and Preparing
Before the First Year of School Begins

     Before teachers can be expected to plan and prepare effectively, certain decisions must be made at the school or district level and certain practices put in place. Those decisions and practices include the following:


     Generate measurement topics and their related proficiency scales for academic subject areas:


     As described in section I of this manual, measurement topics are the core of the academic curriculum, instruction, and assessment within an academy.  Most academies begin their design of measurement topics using the Marzano Research Critical Concepts (marzanoresearch.com). However, this is not mandatory. Schools can develop their own measurement topics as long as they adhere to the proficiency scale structure, described in section I.


     Generate measurement topics and their related proficiency scales for cognitive, metacognitive, and life skills (e.g., SEL skills, behavioral skills):


     An academy should also have measurement topics and proficiency scales for cognitive skills, metacognitive skills, life skills and other cross cutting skills they might wish to include (e.g., SEL skills, behavioral skills, civility skills). As recommended above, this should be a school-wide or district wide initiative and is described in section IV of this manual.


     Create an initial scope and sequence for all measurement topics and their related proficiency scales:


     Measurement topics in academic and nonacademic areas. A key consideration relative to the scope and sequence of measurement topics is whether the sequencing of these topics is left up to individual teachers or is a school-wide or district-wide decision. In general, it is better if there is uniformity from teacher to teacher.  Therefore, sequencing should be a school-wide or district-wide initiative. This noted, in some subject areas it might be both reasonable and beneficial to allow teachers flexibility as to how topics are sequenced.



     Become familiar with some basic features of the EMPOWER platform:


     There are a number of things teachers in an academy should be aware of relative to the Empower system. We recommend that all teachers be proficient in Empower's scoring tools at minimum. With that, they can record evidence, make summative decisions and provide the data needed to run progress reports. 
     After that, we recommend diving into the Instructional tools.
     Here is Empower's Teacher Quick Start Guide.  

     Empower site admins have a complementary set of tools they should be familiar with at a minimum. Those include the tools used to create and manage measurement topics and proficiency scales (discussed below) and the tools used to manage users. Additionally, be sure you are familiar with not only how to find more Empower resources including the FAQ and other helpful articles and videos, but also how to contact your Empower Client Success Manager and the Helpdesk
     Here is Empower's Admin Quick Start Guide



     Load proficiency scales into the EMPOWER platform:


     Empower has a specific format for loading proficiency scales into the system. As an academy, the Critical Concepts can be loaded into your site right out of the box. You will need to customize them as discussed in previous chapters in this book and you may want to create other scales as well. As a site admin, the Standards Editor is the place to do that. Learn all about it in this video. You can even change the labels and colors.


     Create initial resources and assessments for score 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0 content for each proficiency scale and load it into the EMPOWER platform:


     Classroom assessments as are described in section II of this manual. Assessments should be designed that address score levels 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0 of the content in each proficiency scale. However, as described in section II, there are many situations in which assessments are designed for one level only on a proficiency scale. EMPOWER has specific tools that can be used to design assessments for proficiency scales. 


     Distribute nonacademic skills throughout the curriculum.


     Determine which subject areas, grade levels, or courses will be responsible for teaching and assessing cognitive skills, metacognitive skills, life skills, and other cross disciplinary skills. This is described in sections I and IV of this manual.

During the First Few Weeks of School

     During the first few weeks of school, teachers should spend a fair amount of time focusing on the following:


     Engage in activities that help establish a sense of comfort, safety, and order:


  • Make the physical layout of the room comfortable

  • Establish standard operating procedures (SOPs) with students

  • Use strategies that enhance “withitness

  • Acknowledge adherence and lack of adherence to rules and to SOPs

  • Exhibit objectivity and control


     Engage in activities that help establish a sense of belonging and esteem:


  • Engage in verbal and nonverbal behaviors that indicate affection for students

  • Engage in activities that provide information about students’ backgrounds and interests

  • Engage in activities that encourage students to talk about themselves


     Develop a code of conduct:


     The code of conduct in each classroom should be a derivative of the shared school-wide vision described in section VIII about agency.  A classroom code of conduct incorporates the sentiments of the school vision, but articulates the specific goals and behaviors for that particular class.


     Introduce students to the concept of proficiency scales and the concept of competency-based education:


     Proficiency scales are foundational to all academy work. The essential characteristics of proficiency scales are described in depth in section I and II of this manual. Students should be made aware of the meaning of the various levels of a proficiency scale. Most importantly, students should have the awareness that assessments, scoring, and grading are always done in the context of a proficiency scale. Also, students should know that at any point in time, what they are doing is probably related to some type of proficiency scale and that teachers will continually making reference to those scales. Finally, students should be encouraged to continually acquaint themselves with the content of the proficiency scales on which they are currently working.



     Introduce students to the scope and sequence of measurement topics that will be addressed over the year:


     It is important for students to know the scope and sequence of the measurement topics over the span of a year. They should also be made aware of the fact that many of the measurement topics have a vertical alignment. That is, if they are interested in a specific topic at their grade level like probability, they can study advanced content beyond their particular grade level and follow that topic up through increasingly more complex levels of understanding.



     Introduce students to the concept of competency-based instruction:


     Probably one of the more foreign concepts to students will be that of competency-based education. Competency-based education should be discussed with them in depth with an emphasis of some of its advantages such as: they can take time to learn the content before they move on; they can demonstrate their competence in a variety of ways; they can study advanced content, and so on. Competency-based education should also be discussed in terms of some of its challenges such as: they must take some responsibility for their own learning; they must continually work on developing their knowledge, or they will fall behind, and so on.


     Introduce students to some of the basic features of the EMPOWER platform:


     There are a number of features of the Empower platform that students should be familiar with so they might use them at will, effectively and efficiently. These include access to the Target Browser to monitor their progress; workspaces to manage and interact with digital instruction delivered by their teachers or create their own from scratch; dashboards and meters to monitor their growth, pace, and past work; and social tools to interact with their peers, parents and instructors. 
     This video teaches all about Empower's student portal and can be used to introduce students to their Empower page or it may want to be adapted depending on the ages of the students. 

Unit Planning and Routine Weekly Planning

     Even though academy students are moving through measurement topics at their own pace, and students might be working on different measurement topics at any given point in time, teachers should still plan and utilize “units of instruction.” Specifically, each measurement topics (with its accompanying proficiency scale) will be embedded in a unit which might address more than one such topic.


     At the beginning of the school year, the whole class will most likely participate in each unit. However, as time goes on some students will have addressed measurement topics on their own and not need instruction from the teacher.  When engaged in unit planning, teachers should address the following issues

  • Which measurement topics and proficiency scales will be included in the unit

  • What type of whole class instruction will be provide for the content in each proficiency that is included in the unit

  • What type of instruction will be addressed virtually

  • Whether that whole class instruction will involve strategies for direct instruction, strategies for practicing and deepening content, and strategies for knowledge application

  • The type of centers that will be set up



     To illustrate, the format for unit planning, consider the plan in Table 1 for the measurement topic of central tendency.

Daily Planning

     On a daily basis, teachers should briefly consider all aspects of instruction by asking and answering the following questions:


     (I) Proficiency Scales: Today, do I need to help clarify content in specific proficiency scales?


     (II) Assessment and Feedback: Today, do I need to collect any assessment evidence for specific students or specific proficiency scales?


     (III) Proficiency Scale Instruction: Today, do I need to provide instruction regarding the content in specific proficiency scales?


     (IV) General Instruction: Today, do I need to provide instruction that helps students refresh, revise, and integrate their knowledge regarding specific proficiency scales?


     (V) Grouping and Regrouping: Today, do I need to change my groups or move students to different groups?


     (VI) Engagement: Today, do I need do anything to help students pay attention, stay energized, or become intrigued?


     (VII) Comfort, Safety, and Order: Today, do I need to do anything to help provide students with a sense of comfort, safety, and order?


     (VIII) Belonging and Esteem: Today, do I need to do anything to help provide students with a sense of belong and esteem?


     (IX) Efficacy and Agency: Today, do I need to do anything to help provide students with a sense of efficacy and agency?


     (X) Metacognitive Skills and Life Skills: Today, do I need to do anything to teach or reinforce specific metacognitive skills or life skills?

©Robert J Marzano

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