What is Proficiency-Based Learning?

What are Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements?

Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements (PBGRs) are a set of content knowledge and skills based on the Common Core State Standards and Vermont state standards that  have been determined to qualify a student for earning a high school diploma. Vermont’s Education Quality Standards (EQS) require that schools’ graduation requirements be rooted in demonstrations of student proficiency, as opposed to time spent in classrooms.

In a proficiency based system, students earn their diploma by demonstrating mastery of skills and content. Mastery can be demonstrated through multiple venues, including (but not limited to) teacher-designed assessments, written papers, presentations, portfolios or projects. The specific requirements are determined by local policy, but must represent the content standards adopted by the Vermont State Board of Education in the curriculum areas of:

  • literacy
  • mathematical content and practices
  • scientific inquiry and content knowledge
  • global citizenship
  • physical education
  • health education
  • artistic expression
  • transferable skills

Why are Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements (PBGRs) important?

PBGRs assure that when students show mastery in the essential skills and knowledge of diverse content areas and consequently receive a high-school diploma, they are prepared for the college, career and citizenship opportunities ahead. PBGRs are also required by law. The Education Quality Standards (EQS), approved by the Vermont State Board of Education in 2014, require schools to have PBGRs to determine progress and graduation readiness for students graduating in 2020, and for each subsequent graduating class. This means that the diplomas of the class of 2020 will be issued based on proficiency.

What are Transferable Skills?

Transferable skills are often called “soft skills”, “habits of mind”, or sometimes called work habits. These are the skills needed in addition to content area skills and knowledge that students will need to be “college and career ready.”

They are:

  • Clear and effective communication

  • Self direction

  • Creative and practical problem solving

  • Responsible and involved citizenship

  • Informed and integrative thinking

The Links Between the Transferrable Skills and Academic Performance

The link between the transferrable skills and a student’s ultimate academic performance is significant.  We want students to be responsible in the learning process, to put forth regular and consistent effort, and to take advantage of practice opportunities so that they know their strengths and areas to improve.  

According to Ken O’Connor, author of How to Grade for Learning, “Grades are broken when they do not accurately communicate achievement…teachers have no way to communicate separately about the behaviors that they think are important, and so the behaviors are blended together with achievement.  “Reporting achievement separately from behaviors means that everyone can know as accurately as possible what a grade means in achievement terms.” (O’Connor 18)

What will be the course of studies under the PBGR’s?

To complete the proficiencies necessary for graduation students will have to complete the following courses:

English (4); Social Studies (3) - World History, American Studies I & II; Mathematics (3); Science (3) - Earth Science, Biology, and Chemistry, Physics/Physical Science; Physical Education (4 quarter long classes or two quarter long classes and up to three seasons participation in sports); Fine Arts (1); Health (2 quarter long classes); Industrial Arts or Family and Consumer Science (1 quarter long class); Individual Interest (10) - electives

How are students graded in a proficiency based system?

In a proficiency based system, all students must meet all standards and must achieve at the “proficient” level. At TVMHS to perform at and attain proficiency is to achieve at a high level, a level that we can say with confidence that students are college and career ready.

A term that you will hear quite often in a proficiency-based system is “teacher pace.” This term can be defined as being on track to complete each course’s requirements in the allotted time.  For example, a student who completes all the requirements for English 9 in a semester would be said to be working at teacher pace. The advantage of this system is that students who are motivated can complete their PBGR’s more quickly and would have time for enrichment or to demonstrate that they can perform at a level above proficient. For a student who is not on teacher pace it allows us to provide added support and practice so that they too can demonstrate proficiency.

Students will be graded on a 1-4 scale:
1= no evidence of proficiency
2= approaching proficiency
3= proficient
4= exceeds proficient

It is our expectation that students would sometimes receive grades of 2, particularly as the begin to learn a new skill or are beginning a new class. As students move through their courses,  we would expect these 2s to change to 3s, ultimately achieving proficiency in each graduation requirement. We believe that with the supports we are putting in place and the responsiveness that a proficiency based system allows we can avoid students receiving a grade of 1.

Will students have GPA’s and receive class ranks?

Since students have the ability to achieve at a higher level and the classes in which they meet these proficiencies will still be weighted, we will be able to calculate the cumulative academic progress (CAP - which replaces a GPA) but this will only be used to determine class ranks.

Will students receive honor roll recognition?

Highest Honors = all 4’s
High Honors = 3’s and 4’s
Honors = 3’s