Frequently asked questions about proficiency-based learning.
What is proficiency-based learning? Proficiency-based learning requires demonstrations of competence in specific skills and knowledge that meet established criteria. BFA teachers have worked collaboratively to identify the learning targets for each course representative of indicators based on graduation proficiencies. Teaching is much more explicit; learning is much more student-centered and personalized.
Proficiency-based learning shifts the focus of education toward the demonstration of knowledge and skills through a variety of experiences as a measure of success, and away from “seat time” and point collection for credits. Students provide and share evidence of their learning and growth throughout high school in order to demonstrate readiness for the next steps of their learning.
What are proficiency-based graduation requirements? Vermont’s Education Quality Standards require that high schools create graduation requirements that are attained through evidence of proficiency rather than seat time and credits. Proficiency-based graduation requirements (PBGRs) are a collection of skills and knowledge that teachers and administrators at BFA have determined to be critical in order for students to succeed in an increasingly competitive and unpredictable job market. They are rigorous and are intended to prepare students for careers and college. The chosen PBGRs represent skills and knowledge students will use for the rest of their lives. Each of the graduation requirements represent a broad skill, such as reading. Each proficiency is broken into 5-7 discrete skill sets called indicators. When all of the indicators have been deemed proficient, the broader graduation requirement is considered proficient.
Are there other schools moving to proficiency-based graduation requirements? Yes. All schools in Vermont are required to move to a proficiency-based system. Each school has the power to decide how to implement this change. It is a real opportunity for schools to make the shift to proficiencies meaningful for their particular students and community.
Does a student have to meet all the indicators of every graduation requirement? Yes. There are two types of PBGRs: Content and Transferable Skills. Students must meet all of the indicators for the content areas (literacy, math, science, etc.). For the transferable skills, however, a student must demonstrate proficiency in each of the priority indicators.
What are transferable skills? Transferable skills are traits that are needed to be successful in all aspects of life in high school and beyond. At Franklin West Supervisory Union we have identified five key Transferable Skills: Clear and Effective Communication, Self-Direction, Creative and Practical Problem Solving, Responsible and Involved Citizenship, and Informed and Integrative Thinking. We believe that these are as important as academic skills to the success of graduating students. Students must demonstrate evidence of these skills in at least three contexts in order to achieve proficiency.
How will learning look different? Students will have much more control over their learning. There will be more choices and options for students because there is now no requirement to take certain courses. While many students may still choose a path that includes mostly traditional courses, others may take advantage of activities they do outside of school, over the summer, and in the community to demonstrate proficiency in a particular indicator. The most obvious difference is that students can work at their own pace; when students can show proficiency in an indicator with evidence, they can move on to something else. This may take an entire year or it may take much less time.
How will students be assessed? Students will submit evidence of proficiency to a teacher certified to teach in that content area. The teacher will review the evidence using a learning scale and if the evidence meets the criteria, the teacher will verify the student as proficient. A software system called LiFT will keep track of which performance indicators have been verified and track student progress toward meeting the graduation requirements.
What about College? Colleges see many different types of transcripts already, from foreign countries, various states, charter and private schools, as well as home-schooled students. Colleges request school profiles from all schools that clearly outline the academic opportunities and the grading system. According to Great Schools Partnership, who spoke directly with colleges and universities, “69 New England Institutions of Higher Education State that Proficiency-Based Diplomas Do Not Disadvantage Applicants.” In addition, the New England Board of Higher Education has published guidance on the acceptance of proficiency-based transcripts. Learn more about proficiency-based transcripts in college admissions.
What about a GPA? BFA will calculate a GPA for students using their Levels of Proficiency for any Indicator that they have had the opportunity to gather evidence. We will calculate and share student GPA after the first semester of their junior year. We believe that this is the first time a student might require a GPA as scholarships start to become available. We do not want to calculate GPA during the first two years while students are working toward proficiency and send a false, and potentially negative message, about their progress.