Proficiency-Based Education

Teachers know “proficiencies” are coming to dominate as the buzzword that is attracting the attention of educational leaders and policy makers. (Some might characterize this as a distraction of attention from important issues an needs, but I will proceed without comment on that speculation.) One of the disputes I have with how this is being implemented (and I have several– no necessarily on the concept, but with how it is being done) has to do with how we define “proficient.”

As I observed teachers and principals and curriculum leaders who are are converting their assessment and evaluation to “proficiency-based” methods, I see and hear them using the term “proficient,” but there seems to be little agreement about what it means to be proficiency, and there is little discussion about what it can mean. s I think about eh question, “What does it mean to be proficient?” (thinking that is supported by my reading of the instructional design literature), the answer seem to lie on a continuum:

continuum of proficiencies

It does seem clear to my that we are hoping to capture students’ capacity to use what they have learned in different setting when we assess proficiency. Further, we are hoping to capture the ease with with they can use what they learned.

The transition to proficiency-based grading necessitates, then that we decrease the lessons we hope to assess and that w give students more opportunity to practice thinking and using the intellectual tools we give them. Continuing with a curriculum the comprises a laundry list of ideas that is a sample of what experts know that numbers about as many days as we have in the school year is contrary to what we hope to do with this model of teaching.