Prove It

A report aired on Colorado Public Radio on March 15 about an elementary school in Colorado Springs that is part of the Next Generation Schools. The goal of the project is to creat more relevant, authentic learning experiences.

Parents at the school know that grades and test scores are part of the system students use to move on after high school. Scott Fuller, the Next Generation Coordinator for the district, hit the nail squarely on the head when he said that the system is changing, mostly because future employers don’t equate grades and test scores with success anymore. “Colleges are starting to shift what they equate with success, and are moving more towards ‘prove it to me. Prove to me that you know that. Portfolios, interviews, what have you done with this to apply it.'”

All of our students will eventually become employees, hopefully in a career rather than a job. That may happen directly out of high school, after a credentialing/certification program, a two-year course of study, or a baccalaureate/graduate program.

So in my perfect world, our assessments would no longer rate students as “novice,” “nearing proficient,” “proficient,” or “advanced.” They would describe student work as “competent,” “proficient,” or “mastery.”

Competent – having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully.

Proficient – competent or skilled in doing or using something.

Mastery – comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment.

In other words, it isn’t about how well you know something, it’s all about how well you can do something.

While I was working in the career-tech world, we learned about the differences between apprentices, journeymen, and masters. A master electrician/plumber/mechanic/carpenter certainly earned more than the apprentices and journeymen. Companies hired employees with the expectation that while they started at the apprentice level, they could “learn how to learn” in order to become masters, thereby earning both themselves and their companies higher incomes.

In other words, companies hired mastery, not competency or proficiency.

Put another way, do you want your surgeon to be a master, or will you settle for competent or proficient?

Thankfully, there are people creating a process that will work in my world. Two amazing educators in New Mexico, Ferdi Serim and Mike Archibeque, have created LEVERS, LEarner Validated Educational Resources and Strategies. It is a system that creates learners who can demonstrate they have learned how to learn, who can plan and manage their own work, and can make high quality products in a team.

I was blown away by their presentation at the recent ILC conference in Denver. They have captured how to develop future “employees”, learners who have exactly the skills that employers are looking for. Not just kids who possess high levels of knowledge, but who also have the abilities to apply what they know in real world situations.

Read more about it at

They, Scott Fuller, and many others like them are creating systems so our kids can Prove It. We need to listen to them, and follow their lead.

And so it goes…

2 thoughts on “Prove It

  1. Having worked at the nexus of education and the professional media fields (film, TV, animation and digital production) for decades “on both sides of the fence” as both a University and High School educator and also in a professional major studio management, training and recruiting position, I wholeheartedly agree with this approach! By working closely with professionals and recruiters in targeted industries and professions, one can also continually “fine tune” how best to create opportunities for learners to engage in activities, projects and experiences that both develop their skills and create convincing and authentic evidence of their mastery. Bravo; ‘much needed.


  2. This is education as it should be. Before schools students were educated by working in the real world with real world experts. There was no question as to the connection between what they were being taught and real life. Their skills were learned and proven with artifacts. At one time those artifacts may have been crafted by hand and hammered out on an anvil. Today, it may be typed out on a keyboard. The learner knew the objectives and understood where they were in the process of reaching their goal. This is not bubble sheet assessment. This is Authentic assessment that demonstrates mastery.


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