Proficiency Based Learning

For an increasing number of students, report cards with traditional letter grades are a thing of the past. Instead of A's and B's, their report cards might have 2's and 3's. This new look is a result of Standards-Based grading, which is based on Proficiency-Based Learning. This is an approach in which students receive scores for both academic achievement AND student work habits separately.

Standards-based report cards have been most commonly used at the elementary level, but in many districts across the United States, including District 9, middle schools and high schools are adopting them, too. In states like Oregon that have adopted a version of Common Core State Standards, school districts have moved to standards-based grading to show how students are meeting the standards.


Principles of Proficiency-Based Learning
Over the past decade, the movement to adopt proficiency-based approaches to teaching, learning, and graduating has gained momentum throughout the United States, as more educators, parents, business leaders, and elected officials recognize that high academic expectations and strong educational preparation are essential to success in today's world. Schools use proficiency-based learning to raise academic standards, ensure that more students meet those higher expectations, and graduate more students better prepared for adult life.

Common features found in proficiency-based systems:

  • All learning expectations are clearly and consistently communicated to students and families, including long-term expectations (e.g. graduation requirements), short-term expectations (e.g. specific learning objectives for a course or other learning experience), and general expectations (e.g. performance levels).
  • Student achievement is evaluated against Oregon's State Standards.
  • All forms of assessments are standards-based. Success is defined by the achievement of expected standards, not relative measures of performance or student-to-student comparisons.
  • Formative assessments measure learning.
  • Progress during the instructional process, and formative-assessment results are used to inform instructional adjustments, teaching practices, and academic supports.
  • Summative assessments evaluate learning achievement, and summative assessment results record a student's level of proficiency at a specific point in time.
  • Academic progress and achievement are monitored and reported separately from work habits, character traits, and behaviors such as attendance and class participation, which are also monitored and reported.
  • Students are given multiple opportunities to improve their work when they fail to meet expected standards.

-- Adapted from Great Schools Partnership