PBE, Uncategorized

Traditional Vs. PBE

Continuing with the PBE thread, let’s talk about the differences between a traditional system and a proficiency-based system.


  • Created in 1840 by Horace Mann.
  • The goal of education was to turn out loyal citizens to join the workforce.  This has changed; the goal is now that all students graduate college ready.
  • Focus on four major areas — Reading, writing, mathematics, and social studies.
  • Later revised so that students go to school from age six – eighteen with eight years of elementary and four years of secondary education.
  • Focus grew to include science, health, physical education, visual/performing arts, world languages, as well as ELA, mathematics, and social studies.
  • All students begin school at the same time and move through school together; it doesn’t matter to what degree students learn (particularly K- grade 8 where a C or D is good enough to move on).
  • Assembly-line delivery system
  • 100 point scale (Credits-> Carnegie Units->Graduation )
  • Grades are averaged generally based on categories — quizzes, tests, projects, homework, attendance, effort.
  • Students are measured against one another — Top Ten, Valedictorian, etc.
  • All students receive the same instruction at the same time
  • Teacher-directed learning / teacher centered classrooms
  • Time is the same for all students while learning is the variable — some students “get it” and some don’t.
  • The only learning that is recognized takes place in school
  • Teacher focus is on activities/lessons/units

Proficiency-Based Education 

  • Still being created largely by individual districts or by districts within an educational collaboration (WMEC).
  • The goal is to help students understand their strengths and work on their challenges.
  • Students must take courses in all eight content areas and are expected to demonstrate proficiency / excel in ELA, math, science, and social studies, and to meet minimum proficiency in all other content areas (PE, health, world languages, and fine arts.)
  • Mandatory attendance begins at age seven but programs begin at age four.
  • Students demonstrate mastery of standards before moving on to the next standard or grade level.
  • Students have some choice in what they learn, how they learn, and in how they demonstrate what they’ve learned. 
  • Students track their learning / achievement.
  • There are four levels of learning — 4 Complex , 3 Master, 2 Foundational, and 1 Insufficient Evidence.  E — Exceeds; M — Meets; W — Working Toward, and NY — Not Yet.
  • Scores are reported out on learning targets (in PowerSchool) and on reporting standards (on the report card).
  • Students are measured against the learning — reporting standards and learning targets.
  • Students  receive additional support (interventions) and extra time if needed.
  • Learning can happen outside the school — community service, extra- and co-curricular activities.
  • Teacher focus is on supporting students to be proficient.

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