The Readiness Rubric
This episode with Katie Moder introduces a series I’m putting together about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and district implementation. I will have interviews with administrators, teachers, and coaches from Fond du Lac School District over the next few months to help paint a picture through their experiences. I think it’s going to be really interesting and really helpful to lots of educators!
One of the ideas Katie shares from Fond du Lac is their use of a readiness rubric. You’ll find that rubric posted with this episode on my website, but what is a readiness rubric and what steps can you take to create one for your building or district?
What is a rubric?
First, a rubric is an assessment tool. It lays out clear achievement criteria but does that in a way that informs the user and helps them see what they need to do to climb the ladder toward success. I really like this article, Rubric for Rubrics, created by Educational Testing Service because it breaks down what content should be included, how to ensure clarity, and then how to use a rubric. The best part is that it uses rubrics to describe how to construct rubrics!
Of course, we all like to see examples of quality rubrics. Lisa Yokana shared this sample rubric with Edutopia that will get you closer to what you would create for the classroom. But what about a readiness rubric for a district and for UDL implementation? And, what is readiness?
Readiness is a term that is both defined and misused across education. Readiness is defined as being prepared for or willing to do something. In the case of a UDL readiness rubric, you’re identifying indicators that help users determine whether the behaviors (e.g., how instruction and the environment are designed) and structures (e.g., policies, procedures, the culture) in a building are such that UDL can survive and flourish there. The misuse of the term readiness comes when readiness becomes a gateway for advancement. When the sentence “You aren’t ready” is given, the intent is “You don’t belong in a higher-level group,” or “You aren’t going to move from here.” This intent can be seen in how the criterion are written but is clearly (and incorrectly) communicated during the post-assessment conversation. The rubric is only one part of addressing and communicating readiness. The follow-up conversations and planning are where this really sits.
How to you remove that gate and provide a path? The message of readiness should be “You’re here right now, but you have the power to move to the next step,” or “You are here right now, but let’s look at what you can do to move to the next step.” Again, this shows up on the rubric, but is really seated in the follow-up conversations. You need to prepare for these kinds of conversations.
The former interpretation of readiness is a fixed mindset; the latter has a growth mindset. The spirit of UDL is always built on a growth mindset so you will need to ensure that your readiness rubric is intentionally built using a growth mindset.
So, what are the next steps you should take? First, you need to identify the “big things” you think need to be in place to support the growth of UDL in your buildings. Fond du Lac focused on Principal support (the support the principal is already providing to staff), Teacher support (the beliefs, understandings, and willingness in place that support the implementation of UDL), Teacher retention (what is the rate of turnover in the building), and Other building initiatives (how many other initiatives are there and what is their emphasis). You might determine that there are other “big things” to add. These should reflect structures and actions necessary to see the growth of UDL as a framework to benefit all learners (versus a framework to benefit specific students – which is NOT how UDL should be applied). Look at your mission, vision, and your district plan. These documents were likely constructed with focus and care and should give you a starting point. If you find that you are identifying other “big things,” that’s a great indicator that what goes on day-to-day and what is in your mission, vision, or district plan is not aligned.
Next, you have the job of determining your criterion. Making sure they are parallel is really important. They talk about writing parallel criterion in the Rubric for Rubrics piece, but I’m going to emphasize it again here. What you provide as evidence or measurement in one descriptor needs to have an associated term in the other descriptors. For example, when you look at the Fond du Lac example under Other building initiatives, you see “UDL implementation is not a priority due to multiple initiatives.” At the other end of that continuum, you read, “UDL implementation is a top priority initiative.” That is an excellent example of a parallel criterion.
Finally, please, please, please involve building-level educators in the creation of your district-wide readiness rubric and ensure equity when it comes to sharing opinions and information. Your design team needs to be representative of those who will apply it. Without that voice, there can be a serious lack of engagement and buy-in. You can have a small group do some initial brainstorming to get ideas down (e.g., the big ideas and some of the criterion), but hold off on any major editing. Don’t even look for spelling or punctuation errors (now that’s a hot button!)! When you expand the group, explain your intent and process for the document and welcome your colleagues in. You can further your design for equity by using tools like Google Jamboard to create an anonymous page where people can place sticky notes with their thoughts and feedback as you move through the design of the rubric. Having open conversations is best, but sometimes you need to have a space where title, years of experience, gender, and race are not at the forefront of the ideas shared. There are your first few steps! If you’d like more information, you can contact me through www.theudlapproach.com/contact!
Here’s to moving forward with UDL implementation from the district level so all learners can become expert learners.