How is My Child Doing? Part 2

standardsIn Part 1 of How is My Child Doing?  I explained the process for breaking learning into goals in a proficiency-based education (PBE) system.  This is part of clearly articulating the learning.  In RSU 10 during the 2017-18 school year we created graduation standards, reporting standards, and learning targets for all content areas K-12.

I’ll create a writing assignment so we can look at the reporting standard, learning targets, and the rubric as an example of a PBE assessment.  

Reporting Standards

Here is an actual RSU #10 standard for writing; we’ll use the example of a How-To Essay .

ELA.W.3.2  Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

  • This is a third grade writing standard.
  • It is clearly stated and consistently taught in third grade across the district.
  • This reporting standard is in PowerSchool and students’ progress will be reported out on it there.

Learning Targets

For this standard, there are four learning targets —

a. Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.

b. Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details.

c. Use linking words and phrases (e.g., also, another, and, more, but) to connect ideas within categories of information.

d. Provide a concluding statement or section.

Each step (a – d)  is taught, students practice and receive feedback on each step.  Then students would put all the steps together to create a complete writing assignment — the essay.  A complete essay is the summative or final exam, and this score is put in the grading system.

word cloudRubric or Scale

A rubric or scale is given to students during the teaching of this standard. The rubric provides a guide for student learning and when marked by a teacher it measures where a student is in terms of his/her learning. 

Here is an example of a rubric/scale for a How-To Essay for this standard and learning targets.

Sample rubric

For our How-To essay, the rubric and learning targets match up in the following ways —

a. Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.  Organization,

b. Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details.  Organization & Elaboration

c. Use linking words and phrases (e.g., also, another, and, more, but) to connect ideas within categories of information.  Use of Language

d. Provide a concluding statement or section.  Organization

Audience and Purpose — Could be an example of a previous learning target , which may be a skill we want students to carry into other writing assignments.

The teacher would circle on the rubric where each student achieves.  

Test Grade vs. Rubric

In a traditional education setting, a test score gives information about how a student is doing in a subject.  In a proficiency-based setting, the rubric gives specific information about how the student is doing in each step (or learning target) of his/her learning.  The focus has shifted to reporting out on overall areas (like Math or Writing) to reporting out on explicit learning steps.

Yes, this is a lot of information, but you as a parent can choose how much information you want

Do you want to look at the reporting standard? > Go into PowerSchool or look on the report card. 

Do you want to know how your child is doing on each learning target (step)?  > Go into PowerSchool and drill down a bit (we will offer training on this in the fall). 

Want to know how a student did on an assignment/assessment?  > Look at the rubric.



How is My Child Doing? Part 1.

In presenting information about PBE, a comment was made to the effect of — “I used to know how my child was doing when I saw the grade [on an assignment or test].”test

In a traditional education setting, the image here might be a “quiz” and the score would probably be 80%  meaning the student had two wrong and eight correct out of ten problems.  This is a fairly straight forward example.


How about if we take an essay — essay sample

This score is just what we parents love to see — our child is doing well!  But, as a PBE educator, I would ask you — “In what is your child doing well?  What is being graded here? The overall writing? Format? Ability to revise?

In PBE, the learning for students is broken down.  Here’s the process —

  1. Standards are created for all subject areas.
  2. Teachers teach the standards.  
  3. The standard is broken down into the learning steps .
  4. The learning steps target exactly the skills, knowledge, or processes that a student needs to learn, or master, or achieve. 
  5. Teachers teach the learning steps (called learning targets), create assignments, practice sheets, homework, and assessments for each learning target.  Students complete the work and teachers offer feedback to improve student achievement.  Students revise until they demonstrate the learning, master the skill, or understand the process.

The Tenets of PBE

This post illustrates several of the tenets of PBE

  • Clearly  articulated learning goals (reporting standards > learning targets).
  • Use of formative assessments to inform teaching and learning.
  • The ability to revise and submit until the learning is solid.


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.

Proficiency Based Defined


Proficiency-based education (PBE) has been around for a long while.  In our district, since 2005. It has been known as mass customized learning, standards-based grading, competency-based learning, and finally, proficiency-based education.  Maine Department of Education (MDOE) refers to this system of learning as PBD — proficiency-based diploma — which is almost as inflammatory (and unfortunate) as MCL (mass customized learning).  Let’s break this down a bit . . . 

What is proficiency-based learning?


PBE “refers to systems of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting that are based on the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn”



I’m sorry, what? 

First, we make it very clear what students must learn. Teams of teachers and the director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment create graduation standards, which are the big, global learnings that all students must achieve.  The team then writes standards, which are clearly stated learning goals, and then these are broken down into steps called learning targets.  The curriculum tree shows you how all of these are related.

Second, we share what students must learn with all teachers, all students, and all parents.  Teachers provide feedback to students about what they have achieved / learned, and on what they still need to work.  We encourage students to do more practice work, homework, and we reteach in new ways.  We allow more time for those students who need it.   We also allow retakes on assessments, so they can demonstrate that they’ve learned.


Finally, the report card reflects exactly what students have learned, and where they need to work a little harder or have more time and support to achieve.


Is that all? 

No.  I’ll think I’ll make this a series of blog posts.   Are you along for the PBE ride?


Summer & CIA

CIAIt’s summer! While many educators are slowing the pace a bit and maybe picking up a-guilty-pleasure book — rather than educational reading — things over in the curriculum, assessment, & instruction (CIA) world are a heatin’ up.  


What’s Up at MDOE?

Maine Department of Education (MDOE) created a new report for us to complete this year.  It’s called the Comprehensive Needs Assessment / Consolidated Plan (CNA/CP). There is an overarching plan for the district, which spans all PreK-12 grade levels in all buildings, and then each elementary school completes a School-Wide CNA/CP.  The plan for the district was 80 pages when I submitted it. The school plans were 50-60 pages each. We’ve been working on these plans since March and submitted them early on 6/22/18.


And, grants. . . 

Secondly, all grants are due — also to MDOE.  This means I have to report out on the performance of each of Title 1, Title II, Title IV, and Title V, and then I have to create the application for each Title for 18-19. All of that is due on 8/1/18.

bedside books

So, do I have any summer fun?

 Okay, summer in the CIA world is not a down time, but I do have a few pleasure books sitting on my nightstand — Educated, Between Breaths, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine .


What do you do for summer fun?


Featured Content — Curric/Assmnt

Curriculum — Currently we are revising the big four content areas — English language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.  All areas are aligned with the Maine Learning Results, and we are working to pull in the Literacy Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.  The members of each Vertical Team are also choosing graduation standards and freshman standards.  Work on the horizon includes reviewing the Maine Guiding Principles and creating a PK-12 system for determining proficiency in these knowledge and skill areas.

Assessments — The next step will be to create common rubrics for the freshman standards.  This will allow teachers to create their own summative assessments but the scoring will be consistent