Click on a school level below to see one 2017-18 content scale sample in math and another in English Language Arts.
In the Des Moines Public School standards-referenced grading framework, content scales are tables that hold four performance levels. The performance levels describe "how good is good enough" for a student to show understanding of meeting a standard. Level 3 represents demonstrating proficiency, meeting the standard, or meeting the goal. (Standard is the same as learning goal.)
First, these content scales are created by district educator leadership teams at the secondary level; at the elementary level, the scales are taken from Marzano Research Lab materials and have been revised by teacher teams. The scales connect directly to specific topics determined by looking carefully at the Iowa Core and national standards. Teachers first ensure they understand the scales, then they show the scales to students, ensuring they understand what's expected for the different levels, and both teachers and students refer to the scales when learning is going on in the classroom. (These scales are called either content scales, topic scales, or proficiency scales--all three terms refer to the same thing.)
Next, common assessments are created by looking at these content scales and determining questions that relate to Levels 2, 3, and/or 4. Then, after practicing and working to understand the topics and connected concepts and skills, students take these assessments. Next, those assessments are scored using the content scales. The scores and feedback provided by the teacher and the content scales allow students opportunities to relearn or move ahead in learning. Students might also give evidence of learning in ways other than the common "paper/pencil" assessments described above, such as through a performance, a product, a reflection, or even a conversation with the teacher. Such student evidence would still be assessed against the content scales.