Proficiency Based Learning? What is that?

Proficiency-Based Learning also referred to as PBGR, is a key component of flexible and personalized pathways set forth in Act 77. Act 77 was passed four years ago and is now being implemented across all FWSU schools.  All Vermont public schools must provide students with flexible and personalized pathways for progressing through grade levels and to graduation. Act 77 matches Target 1 of the FWSU Action Plan. All students in grades 7, 8, 9, 10 must have Personal Learning Plans in place this year. Students can only advance when they demonstrate the attainment of skills and knowledge, irrelevant of time spent in a classroom. PBGR must be fully in place for all students graduating in 2020, or this year’s 9th grades students.

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A proficiency-based system, characterized by personalized learning and flexible pathways, allows students both choice in how they learn and how they demonstrate that learning. It emphasizes the development of transferable skills in relevant opportunities as the backdrop for learning and applying academic content. Faculty provides high quality, differentiated instruction, formative assessment, and appropriate and early, targeted, and intensive intervention (MTSS) to ensure the success of all learners.

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The Vermont Agency of Education has provided examples to help us all better understand what a proficiency-based system is all about. A system must have clear expectations for learning:

  • Proficiencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students;
  • Learning outcomes emphasize proficiencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions. (Patrick & Sturgis, 2013)

Student progress is measured and supported:

  • Assessment is meaningful and a learning experience for students;
  • Students receive timely, differentiated support and feedback based on their individual learning needs;
  • Students advance upon mastery, not seat time; learning is the constant and time is the variable.

Learning occurs with the student at the center:

  • Students take ownership of their learning;
  • Learning can happen anywhere and anytime.

pbgr

FWSU has been working toward building this system for several years. Our students in our middle schools are developing plans or have already developed them. Our high school students in grade 9 (and in lower grades as well) are focusing on proficiencies this year as they begin the journey towards graduation. Last month, at the first ever FWSU Collaborative Board meeting, of all of the local school boards came together to learn and discuss what this means for students and parents. This video captures the work and results that Act 77 promotes.

We still have much more work in front of us at FWSU. But our teachers, students, board members and administrators are all working hard to achieve the goals of Act 77.


Target 1.  Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning: FWSU students and staff design and engage in proficiency-based personalized learning that integrates collaborative inquiry, problems-solving, and creativity.

Indicators of Success for this Target:

● Students and staff create original works as a means of personal or group expression.

● Students and staff create personalized learning networks to communicate and collaborate with others.

● Students and staff collaborate to design authentic questions and solve problems.

● Students join with staff in directing their educational experiences as independent, goal-oriented, and reflective learners.

● Students make decisions about personalizing their learning to facilitate the demonstration of proficiency.

● Teachers customize their instructional strategies using a range of information about individual learners so that learning opportunities are matched to learner needs, strengths, and interests.

● Teachers provide learners with multiple pathways for meeting standards so that students achieve proficiency in essential areas of learning.

● Teachers build relationships and offer relevant learning opportunities that incorporate multiple perspectives.

Action Step – Design, model, and highlight innovative, personalized social and academic proficiency-based learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem-solving, and creativity for students and staff.

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