If you're a teacher, you probably already write assessments each class and put an objective on the board.  Are you ready to take assessment to the next level?

Criteria for success, from The Skillful Teacher by Jon Saphier, is a tool used in most, if not all, of our classrooms. It helps us take assessments and objectives and make them actionable and real to students. We get so many questions about criteria for success; I wanted to address it so other teachers can use it too. Plus if you're visiting or teaching a sample lesson with us, it's good to know.

Disclaimer --  this is just an intro. Assessing students is a huge, complex topic. You should definitely pick up The Skillful Teacher if you want to hone your craft.

Learn about the Five P’sStudents_writing_CFS

In The Skillful Teacher, Saphier explains five P’s that work together to make criteria for success an effective tool in your classroom.

  • Public – Just like handing out a rubric at the beginning of an assignment, CFS shouldn't be a secret. Students should know exactly what's expected in their work from the beginning.
  • Precise – the one element that makes CFS useful to kids is that they identify specific individual qualities of mastery, rather than general principles or skills. The criteria should be written in a plain language that is kid-friendly. They should be able to read the CFS and identify if it is present or not.
  • Prior – Prior means it is shared when the assessment task is described at the beginning of the lesson/unit/assessment/assignment. Saphier describes how CFS helps kids. “This enables students to focus on what is important during the learning experiences and to participate in assessing whether they are building the foundations for success in the end.”
  • Printed – The criteria should be written down for students somewhere. We post it on the board next to the objective, but it can also go at the top of handouts, the top of an assessment or the beginning of a packet for a unit assessment. For a lesson, we suggest a simple bulleted list.
  • Present in Models of Work – In the case of larger assignments, students should see examples of the CFS being achieved as they get started on a task. It should be present and annotated in any exemplars you use.

How it’s Used

You may have used your own version of CFS already, but didn't know it. When we make rubrics as teachers, we create a type of CFS. Imagine simplifying that for kids on a daily basis.

Most of our teachers use short bullet lists or checklists to share the CFS with students. They put it on the white board next to the aim for the day and on handouts students use. Students then have it in front of them to use as a short rubric for their classwork.

Criteria for success can also come in the form of a rubric or checklist for more extensive projects. A performance task, for instance, might have a much longer list of requisite elements. You could even add it to a student work packet and have students use it to self-assess as they work.

TEAM_CFS_Example Here's an example of some ELA aims and criteria for success from one of our middle schools (click to view)

Bring It in Your Classroom

If you want to implement this in your own classroom, you can. I suggest starting with the five P’s and building from there. Here are the next steps:

  1. Start with your assessment and standards. Figure out for yourself what students need to do to show mastery. If you’re properly backwards planning already, you’re doing this.
  2. Break down the individual components of the assessment piece. Are kids writing an introductory paragraph? What exactly do they need to get 100 percent? The exact elements are the criteria for success. It may be something like:
    • Your first sentence contains a hook to catch your reader’s attention
    • You summarize the background knowledge in the second 2-3 sentences
    • You end the paragraph with a perfect thesis statement
  3. Post this bullet list next to the objective on the board and include it on the printed notes or assessments students will be using during class.
  4. Review the CFS with students before getting started with the lesson (just like you would the objective)
  5. Especially in the beginning, have students check off elements of the CFS they meet.

An Early Elementary Example

Ensuring all your kids get it can be this easy:

In this video, the teacher uses her clipboard to quickly check off which students “got it”, or reached the criteria for success. This is also a great way to check for understanding and hold kids accountable for learning.

This is obviously an early elementary example. In later grades, students should be able to use the kid-friendly language to figure whether they mastered the objectives for themselves. You’ll hold them accountable and understand student mastery through the formative assessment at the end of the lesson.

How do you set your kids up for success? Are there ways you use criteria for success I missed?

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