A change to proficiency-based grading has changed students’ approach to studying and learning.
At Woodstock Union Middle School and High School in Vermont, letter-based grades were changed this year to proficiency grades of beginning, approaching, proficient and distinguished. The change is related to upcoming statewide revisions in graduation requirements. There is also an interest in more personalized learning.
Teachers in a proficiency-based system rely on Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards and state Education Quality Standards for defining the skills students are expected to master. “I can” statements show students what they are expected to do in order to show mastery. A “Distinguished” rating says that the student has mastered the skill, moved on to the next level, and is comparable to an “A” grade.
The ultimate goal is to have all students become proficient in certain skills by graduation, beginning with the class of 2020. Local school boards will set the requirements guided by state and national standards.
According to Page Tompkins, executive director of the Upper Valley Educators Institute, proficiency-based grading allows students to be graded on progress in the subject matter using objective criteria, unlike letter systems which also combine skill with attendance, participation, and extra credit. “It doesn’t provide a picture of what does the student know and what are they able to do,” Tompkins said. “Grades are often (left to the) judgment of a particular teacher.”