Proficiency-Based Education

Proficiency Based Learning in RSU 64

Through the Future Search process of 2011, RSU 64 developed the following vision:  Inspiring All Students to Excellence, and the guiding belief that educational opportunities are designed to recognize student abilities, passions, interests, and learning styles and to reflect desired learning outcomes.  To meet these objectives, RSU 64 has embraced the concept of Proficiency-Based Learning (PBL).  While this approach to education has seen a lot of media attention, you may be wondering what does this really mean for you and your student(s).

At the heart of proficiency-based learning are students demonstrating mastery of knowledge and skills. These skills and knowledge are often referred to as standards; other common words include performance indicators, learning targets, competencies, etc. With this approach students know what is expected at the start of a unit and understand what it means to demonstrate success on each target. No longer do students (and parents) have to guess what is going to be on the test, it is shared with them right from the beginning.

Redesigning curriculum in this model takes time. Faculty in Grades K-12 collaborate in grade levels or departments to design instruction and assessments that will help students achieve proficiency in the district’s adopted standards.

With such a focus on specific knowledge and skills, we now have an opportunity to improve how student achievement is reported to parents and students. Rather than guess what a number/letter means on a progress report or report card, parents and students will be able to dig deeper and find exactly what skills need more practice. Additionally, work habits, such as participation, preparedness, and attendance, can receive their own grade separate from academic achievement.  Our Student Information System (SIS), Tyler Technologies, will be one tool that is used to communicate proficiency and track a student’s progress over time.

We are also focusing on is our system of support for students. We know that not all students learn in the same time or the same way, therefore it is important for the district to have a plan to help students. The high school is has a Student Success Center that provides additional support to students and an online learning environment, through Edmentum, that allows students to access credit recovery programs during the school year.  The middle school will continue with their RTI lab, during which students receive additional help from teachers, and the elementary students will continue to work with educational technicians and interventionists when they need help.  The Educational Program Delivery Committee, a sub-committee of Future Search, is working to develop a plan for students who need support.

Below are a few links you may want to explore.

RSU 64 staff have created a quick guide brochure on the topic of Proficiency-Based Education. You can download a copy of it here, or get a printed copy from your school office or the Curriculum office. Below is a copy of the text within the brochure.


Proficiency-based learning refers to systems of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education.

A standard is a statement of an essential knowledge or skill students must know and be able to do. In RSU 64, each content area has the same standards K-12 with differing performance indicators at each grade span.

Performance indicators translate a standard into more specific instructional statements. In RSU 64, performance indicators help to define grade level expectations.

learning target is a statement of the objective of the daily lesson that everyone can understand.

Formative assessments are evidence of student learning that are collected frequently and inform the teacher of what the student needs next to continue progress toward the standard.

Summative assessments show evidence of student achievement on specific standards and/or performance indicators and are completed at the end of the instructional phase.

Ten Principles of Proficiency-Based Education

  1. All learning expectations are clearly and consistently communicated to students and families, including long-term expectations (such as graduation requirements and graduation standards), short-term expectations (such as the specific learning objectives for a course or other learning experience), and general expectations (such as the performance levels used in the school’s grading and reporting system).

  2. Student achievement is evaluated against common learning standards and performance expectations that are consistently applied to all students regardless of whether they are enrolled in traditional courses or pursuing alternative learning pathways.

  3. All forms of assessment are standards-based and criterion-referenced, and success is determined by the achievement of expected standards, not relative measures of performance or student-to-student comparisons.

  4. Formative assessments measure learning progress during the instructional process, and formative-assessment results are used to inform instructional adjustments, teaching practices, and academic support.

  5. Summative assessments evaluate learning achievement, and summative-assessment results record a student’s level of proficiency at a specific point in time.

  6. Academic progress and achievement are monitored and reported separately from work habits, character traits, and behaviors such as attendance and class participation, which are also monitored and reported.

  7. 7. Academic grades communicate learning progress and achievement to students and families, and grades are used to facilitate and improve the learning process.

  8. Students are given multiple opportunities to improve their work when they fail to meet expected standards.

  9. Students can demonstrate learning progress and achievement in multiple ways through differentiated assessments, personalized-learning options, or alternative learning pathways.

  10. Students are given opportunities to make important decisions about their learning, which includes contributing to the design of learning experiences and pathways.

RSU 64 Performance Levels

4 – Exceeds the Standard
Student has independently and consistently performed above the expected complexity level reflecting the necessary content.

3 – Meets the Standard
Student has independently and consistently performed at the expected complexity level reflecting the necessary content.

2 – Partially Meets the Standard
Student is making progress towards the expected complexity level that will reflect the necessary content.

1 – Does Not Meet the Standard
Student is performing at a foundational level and requires support when working at the expected complexity level.

NA – Not Assessed
Not enough evidence is available to assess this standard for this reporting period.

Proficiency-based grading is based on a four-point scale and uses multiple methods to determine the proficiency level of the learner. A body of evidence is reviewed for report card scores. The numbers are not averaged. The numbers are there to communicate what the learner knows and can do at that moment in time.

Where to Get More Information

  • Ask your child what the learning target was today

  • Talk to the classroom teacher

  • Speak with the guidance department

  • Make an appointment to meet with the principal

  • Check your child’s progress in the Tyler Technologies parent portal