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.

Blog Post — On Worksheets

This post again combines my job as director of all things curriculum, instruction, and assessment with my family life.  As I said before, I have four children — two are grown, married with children, and living in their own homes; two are at home with my husband and me.  IMG_3041My eleven-year old daughter is zany, artistic, loving, funny, beautiful, smart, and very musical, and she needs additional time and support to be successful academically.  We spend a lot of time doing homework — A LOT of time!!!  Now in seventh grade, she has brought home more worksheets this year — note that it is late November — than all other years combined.  What’s important to note is that what would take my son 15 minutes to finish, might take my daughter one hour.  See what I mean by spending a lot of time doing homework?

Last week we were sitting at the table struggling through an Absolute and Relative Location two-page worksheet.  Each page contained ten questions.  She had to plug in a location, to which the Google page spit back the latitude and longitude, and then she had to write down this information.  She had to do this ten times over.  Then as if that weren’t enough, she had to go back and for each location give three relative descriptions.  It was mind-blowing torture.  She, of course, asked the ubiquitous question, “When am I ever going to use this, Mom?” To which I had no reply because I’ve never used this in my adult life.  Never.

noLGBTQflagAs we continued to slog through, she ran to her computer and pulled up a Google image page and showed me the LGBTQ flag with the No symbol through it.   I figured she needed a worksheet break, so I asked her about this image, and she was pretty upset that anyone would fly or post this image as it would be mean to those struggling with identity (yes, those were her words).  I asked her what she thought she might do about that.  She had already pondered this and wanted to send an email to her teacher and the principal asking if they could put up an LGBTQ flag.  She wanted students to know they are welcome at her school.

She dictated and I typed  the email (typing is another skill that requires a great deal of concentration and can be frustrating for her).  She choose the image below and asked if they could hang something like this in the hallway near the entrance of the school .  She was so nervous, excited, and anxious about hitting send.  At this point, I didn’t have the heart to return her attention to the worksheet.gay flag

The next morning, she came flying downstairs to tell me that her principal had responded, thought it was a great idea, and wanted her to go see him after lunch.  She asked her social studies teacher to help create and supervise a Civil Rights Team at her school.

What I find so interesting is that this teacher hasn’t helped my daughter to connect this interest and passion to the social studies curriculum.  How amazing would it have been if this could have replaced the current event article that she had to report out on via Google form, or if an individual project was crafted for my child connected to  locations that are struggling with this issue and have my daughter look at why or what is happening in the culture. Nope.

Next week there will be another worksheet hot off the copier that will list two topics, ask her to choose one, look it up, and report out on it.  She will spend hours writing down information on this worksheet, and she will turn to me and ask, “Mom, why is this important?”  I will have no answer.  Again.