As BFA Fairfax moves toward Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements with the Class of 2020, we have had to answer the following question:
In the past, our policy was based on a bottom line course grade. If a student was failing a class, they were not eligible to participate. Since growth is always possible in a proficiency-based system, it does not seem reasonable to withhold access to co-curricular activities based on initial difficulties with content. On the other hand, there needs to be evidence that the student is engaged in learning and that academic difficulties are not based on a lack of student effort.
At BFA Fairfax, we have developed a set of “Learner Traits” that we will use to determine our students’ eligibility for co-curricular activities. The Learner Traits are a subset of Vermont’s Transferable Skills, an important component of Act 77 and the shift to Proficiency Based Graduation.
Specifically, we look at:
- Clear and Effective Communication: Can the student collaborate effectively and respectfully?
- Self Direction: Does the student demonstrate initiative and responsibility for learning?
- Creative and Practical Problem Solving: Does the student persist in solving challenging problems and learn from failure?
- Responsible and Involved Citizenship: Does the student take responsibility for personal decisions and actions?
- Informed and Integrative Thinking: Does the student use technology to support and enhance their learning?
We identified these areas because, in addition to being valuable assets for every student in every class, they also reflect qualities we hope to see in all of our players on all of our teams and activities.
Teachers gather regularly evidence for each of these areas and record progress in our gradebook, PowerTeacher Pro. Some areas are observed through day-to-day activities and others are assessed collaboratively by the student and teacher on a regular basis. Student work in a group in class provides evidence of their collaboration. Completion of daily assignments is an indicator of initiative and responsibility. A student’s work in completing a long-term project or assignment might be a measure of their persistence and/or personal responsibility. Finally, their daily appropriate use of technology would provide evidence for the last category.
A student’s level of proficiency in each of these areas will be viewable on our grading platform. Students and parents will be able to see their progress and work on areas that need improvement.
Our goal as an educational system is to provide students with the skills they need to be successful in life. The Learner Traits provide data for important skills that are worthwhile in classes, on sports teams and in the workforce. The development of these Learner Traits is an important step on our path to proficiency.
John Tague is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Middle/High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @jtague252