Proficiency Based Learning I
With this post I will begin a key series which discusses the complexities of proficiency-based learning as I understand it here in the state of Maine.
In the common language of education, there are two kinds of standards which are often conflated and confused. Unfortunately we often address them together, but they are different and distinct.
On the one hand, there are content standards which are used mostly in classroom curriculum creation in order to categorize content. The Common Core content standards exist for most disciplines, and it has helped many schools. Around the state these schools will voluntarily use the Common Core in order to organize curriculum and assessment. They provide a good framework for understanding and organizing the content of a classroom. They often include statements about skills, but they are nonetheless content driven.
The second set of standards are what I call Graduation Standards which depend on content standards. Graduation Standards are skill-based and not necessarily dependent on content standards. For example the graduation standard regarding becoming an effective communicator is an essential standard for graduation. Students should and must meet that standard to earn a diploma.
As the educator, I would hope all classes in someway address the need for students to become effective communicators. That makes the idea of “An Effective Communicator” a graduation standard rather than a content standard. Graduation standards are those things we want all students to be able to do, to be proficient in doing.
When we talk about proficiency based grading and assessment or proficiency based learning, we should always keep in mind whether those are in reference to content or graduation standards.
There’s a difference.