Tips and Tools for Implementing Proficiency-based Teaching and Learning

By Medford School District

As a district we began examining our grading and assessment practices back in 2009.  We met as a K-12 team and started a study of Ken O’Conner’s book How to Grade for Learning, for the purpose of creating a philosophy statement about assessment and grading.  It’s amusing, as we thought when we first began that we would be able to meet 1-2 times as a group, but it turned out to be a yearlong adventure.  We were pretty grounded by the end of that year and we stated our beliefs in the philosophy statement and created a 5 year roll out plan for implementing proficiency-based grading practices.

Then came House Bill 2220- the Oregon Law that said that we needed to report out at the student’s current grade level based on the student’s progress toward becoming proficient in a continuum of knowledge and skills (i.e., the state standards).  As a district we embraced the challenge and our 5 year plan became our new 2 year plan.  We have learned so much along the way and continue to learn every day.  You know the old saying, “If I knew then what I know now…” well it definitely fits our journey.

We began this school year implementing 100 % proficiency-based teaching and learning in our 7-12th grades.  We created a new proficiency-based report card, progress reports, and a new grade book program.  We have our own programmers in our district so we have really been able to customize the grade book to fit the practices we have implemented.  Academic content is reported out separately from process (homework, participation, etc.)  or behaviors that were typically mushed together in grades of the past.

So has it been smooth sailing?  Absolutely not.  Staffs are still struggling with the changes as are parents, students, and our school board.  We are constantly communicating, checking in with our teachers’ PLC’s (Professional Learning Community), and working with our IT department to work out the bugs of the new program.  It has been an enormous change for our district and community, but we are still committed as we truly believe that for the first time we are becoming much more focused on what it is students need to learn and what they need to demonstrate about their learning.


One response to “Tips and Tools for Implementing Proficiency-based Teaching and Learning

  1. Like many I was a “Zero Man” during my 18 years as a high school science teacher who believed I had to assign points to everything or the students wouldn’t do it and I mean averaged everything.
    I am now a 3rd year principal of a K-6 elementary of 630 kids. For number of reasons my school is ahead of the game in terms of preparing for the changing times ahead in education. My Superintendent wants me to pilot Standards-Based Grading at my school. Next year!
    Now that I’ve “drank the punch” and have a decent idea of what switching to SBG means I need to come up with an implementation plan. Here’s what I’m thinking:

    – Just do one grade level next year, preferably kindergarten. Roll out K-3 in 14-15, and 4-6 (which have percentage grades, GPA’s etc) in 15-16
    – Pick 8-12 Standards for the first trimester, deconstruct into learning targets
    – Use the 1,2,3,4 scale that we already use to develop performance standards for each learning target
    – Prepare formative and summative assessments accordingly
    – Pay 3 kinder teachers 30 hours each for development time
    – Work with IT to get an electronic report card put together. Report card and performance standards with exemplars posted on school and teacher websites.
    -Announce/explain to kinder parents during registration and back to school night.

    Thoughts? How should I “sell” this to my teachers? There is a consensus that we don’t like the current report card format, but nobody, including my supe, realizes the work and detailed involved.


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