The goal of proficiency-based education is to ensure that students acquire the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and careers and the centerpiece of achieving proficiency is a clear focus on learning and instruction.
In proficiency-based education, students who have not met standards receive additional academic support to help them achieve proficiency. When a student demonstrates proficiency in the expected standards, they move on in their education. The standards include content area knowledge and skills as well as those of the Maine Learning Results Guiding Principles, which include critical thinking and problem-solving.
Implementing the requirement that high schools award proficiency-based diplomas starting in 2018 places student demonstration of skills and knowledge at the center of instruction, assessments and reporting. School administrative units (SAUs) can work together or with other SAUs to develop their system for awarding of proficiency-based diplomas. Additionally, SAUs may add to the expectations for proficiency described in the content area standards and Guiding Principles
There is extensive guidance for developing educational systems that support student proficiency. The literature that describes proficiency-based education systems includes the work of Dr. John Hattie, professor and director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia and Dr. Michael Fullan, Canadian educational researcher and former dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Hattie’s synthesis of over 800 meta-studies is the result of 15 years of research. His recent publication Visible Learning for Teachers points to the top 10 influences on student learning. Fullan reminds school leaders to build a system of support for all learners. Fullan asserts that raising the bar (for all students) and closing the gap (for lower performing groups) is dependent on choosing four drivers that have been demonstrated to be effective at achieving measurable improvements in results for students.
As educators build proficiency-based systems, they must continuously evaluate how well their educational programs and pathways provide each student with the opportunity to learn and make progress toward demonstrating proficiency of Maine’s learning standards. The guidance offered by Hattie and Fullan can provide educators and community members with criteria against which they can evaluate and enhance proficiency-based education.