A large group of educators, students, and proponents of proficiency-based learning pose for a picture in a meeting room.

Proficiency-Based Learning

“One consistent finding of academic research is that high expectations are the most reliable driver of high student achievement, even in students who do not have a history of successful achievement.”
-Doug Lemov


Proficiency-Based Learning is a key component of flexible and personalized pathways set forth in Act 77 and the State Board of Education’s Education Quality Standards. Vermont public schools must provide students with flexible and personalized pathways for progressing through grade levels and to graduation. These resources can help educators and families understand some of the changes that are taking place in Vermont schools.

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Vermont Student Voices

What is Proficiency-Based Learning?

Proficiency-Based Learning and Project-Based Learning Connections

Vermont Agency of Education Briefs

​Proficiency-Based Grading Practices and Transcripts

Vermont Stories: The Road to Implementation of Proficiency-Based Learning

Proficiency-Based Learning Commentaries/Articles

Proficiency-Based Learning Resources

Organizations that Support Proficiency-Based Learning

Vermont Student Voices

What if Every Learner Was Empowered to Choose Their Own Path?

Building a Big Dream in a Tiny House: Reflections from a Harbor Freight Fellow

How One Aspiring Aviator is Making Do with Social Distancing

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What is Proficiency-Based Learning?

The focus of proficiency-based learning is on students’ demonstration of desired learning outcomes. Students gain the skills, abilities, and knowledge required in an area of study, along with those necessary to be successful in college, career and civic life. Proficiency-based learning is designed to identify and address gaps to provide equitable learning opportunities for every student. This is in contrast to traditional systems which advance students based on seat time. Read more about “What is proficiency-based learning?”.

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Proficiency-Based Learning and Project-Based Learning Connections

Project-based learning is a “teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge” (PBL Works). Learn more about the approach and how it aligns with proficiency-based learning through the ongoing Project-Based Learning document series. Readers are encouraged to interact with the documents following the order found in this Project-Based Learning Document Sequence and listed here:

Foundations of Project-Based Learning: Facilitator’s Guides

Four Foundational Elements of Project-Based Learning to use as a framework for the professional learning experience and subsequent materials: (1) a driving question anchored in academic content, (2) a student planned original concept that responds to the challenge, (3) active learning and guided inquiry opportunities, and (4) a culminating event or public product that is presented to a public audience.

Members of the Agency of Education’s (AOE) Proficiency-Based Learning Team designed and delivered a professional learning (PL) series – Foundations of Project-Based Learning – to support Vermont educators in developing the knowledge and skills needed to begin shifting their instruction to a Project-Based Learning (PjBL) approach. More information on the PL can be found online. Information on and recommendations for delivering a similar PL series on PjBL can be found below:

Want to learn more? Email Kyle Anderson for information about upcoming professional learning related to the topic of PjBL.

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Vermont Agency of Education Briefs

At the Agency, we recognize that many school systems have moved beyond discussing the "what" and the "why" of proficiency-based learning.  Others, however, are still in the initial stages of implementation. Regardless of where educators are along this continuum, it is important to revisit these questions at different points in time to help ensure a shared vision for the future. These briefs can be used to provoke important conversations among educators. Questions to consider include: How do these documents align with our thinking? How are they different? What might be missing?

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Proficiency-Based Grading Practices and Transcripts

Vermont Resources:

  • The Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) Panel Video provides information about this digital high school proficiency-based transcript from the perspective of Vermont students and educators. Additionally, an overview of the transcript is provided by a member of the MTC team.

Screenshot of The Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC Panel Video

​​​Mastery Transcript Consortium Frequently Asked Questions

  • Proficiency-Based Grading and Transcripts: Responding To Parent and Community Concerns: This document was created in order to respond to common questions related to proficiency-based grading practices and transcripts.
  • Research Brief: Proficiency-Based Grading Practices: The information in this document should be used to inform rather than dictate decisions related to grading practices in a personalized and proficiency-based system. Focus questions with related research are provided. Specific sections of this document could be selected for discussion based on the specific needs of a school community.
  • Vermont Proficiency-Based Grading Practices: This document provides current examples of proficiency-based grading and reporting practices in Vermont. The intent is to share resources and materials so that leaders and educators in school systems can support one another on the path to proficiency.

Additional Resources:

  • Off to College: A Student Interview With Jay Gardoqui: Technology is allowing students to share their interests and expertise with college admissions officers in new ways. The audition video below was submitted as part of an application to DePaul University’s Sound Recording Technology program.

Off to College: A Student Interview With Jay Gardoqui: Technology is allowing students to share their interests and expertise with college admissions officers in new ways. The audition video below was submitted as part of an application to DePaul University’s Sound Recording Technology program.

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Vermont Stories: The Road to Implementation of Proficiency-Based Learning

Vermont educators are working hard to implement educational systems that are personalized and proficiency-based. Below are blogs in which educators share their stories about this journey.

CVU Learns: One School's Journey to Standards Based Learning is a blog written by educators, Stan Williams and Emily Rinkema, unless otherwise noted. Posts include relevant topics such as Assessing to Develop Skill, Not Identify It and Proficiency, Personalization, and a Cocktail Napkin: or, how PBL became PPBL.

Transparency: Operating with a Clear Instructional Vision to Put Policy into Practice is the first in a three-part series written by Andrew Jones, director of curriculum at Mill River Unified Union School District in Vermont. A set of educator specific proficiencies and performance indicators drafted with teacher input are described. The goal is to use these proficiencies and indicators to guide the overall implementation of proficiency-based learning. 

Supporting Teachers with Making Sense of Proficiency-Based Learning is the second in a three-part series from Andrew Jones, director of curriculum at Mill River Unified Union School District in Vermont. This post explains how a district-wide teacher learning system supports ongoing efforts to implement K-12 proficiency-based learning practices.

Providing Flexible Pathways and Personalized Learning Options for All Students is the third in a three-part series from Andrew Jones, director of curriculum at Mill River Unified Union School District in Vermont. Educators at Mill River are looking for ways to completely rethink what it means to learn and go to school. The Trailhead Project that is described in this post leverages the unique characteristics of each school to provide dynamic learning opportunities for students in this district.

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Proficiency-Based Learning Commentaries/Articles

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Proficiency-Based Learning Resources

Suggested Readings/Resources 

Proficiency-Based Learning (Competency-Based Education) Across the United States

The map below, created by iNACOL,  indicates competency education is advancing across the country. Even in many of the states with little or no interest in exploring competency education, there are educators pursuing a better way to organize education so that students receive the instructional support they need. 

A Snapshot of K-12 Competency Education State Policy Across the United States

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Organizations that Support Proficiency-Based Learning

Note: Competency and proficiency-based learning are used interchangeably in the resources above.

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Questions?

Email Pat Fitzsimmons or call (802) 828-5986.

Contact Us

Vermont Agency of Education
Secretary Daniel M. French
1 National Life Drive, Davis 5
Montpelier, VT 05620-2501

Web and Document Accessibility Policy​
Public Records Requests

Phone: (802) 828-1130 | Fax: (802) 828-6430
aoe.edinfo@vermont.gov
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