Regional School Unit 24

PBE Myths & Facts

Common Concerns about 
Proficiency-Based Education:
Facts and Myths
 
  
Please refer to the facts and myths below that address questions that RSU 24 is receiving regarding its Proficiency-Based Education system, as well as other facts and myths that are being brought up around the country.
 
If you have any questions of your own regarding the RSU 24 PBE system, please contact your child's Principal, and/or Nicole Chan, Director of Curriculum at nchan@rsu24.org
 
 
 
FAQ's - Facts and Myths
 
Colleges and Universities are not familiar with Proficiency-Based Education transcripts
 
MYTH! College and University admissions departments see a large variety of transcripts on a regular basis - some from 100-point traditional systems, some from 4-point traditional systems, some from PBE/Standards-Based systems, some from foreign countries, some from home-schooled children, etc. etc..  Time and time again, admissions departments speak of the importance of the School Profile clearly communicating the instructional and assessment system at a school.  The good School Profile is the "de-coder" for admissions counselors to read a transcript - as long as the two clearly articulate school expectations and systems along with student performance in accordance with those expectations and systems, a student will have a fair shot at admission to their program of choice.
 
 
 
A cumulative GPA will be included on a student's Proficiency-Based transcript.
 
FACT! Rolling Grade Point Averages (GPA) are still developed within a PBE system. A GPA for each course is formulated by aggregating the final standing on each performance indicator into one cumulative score on a 4.0 scale. These course GPA’s also provide data for a cumulative high-school GPA which is also provided on a student’s official transcript.
 
 
 
Proficiency-Based schools do not want to report class rank because it doesn't fit with their philosophy.

MYTH!
This statement is actually true, but most proficiency-based high schools continue to report class rank because it is a statistic that many admissions offices still seek from applicants. Philosophically, class rank doesn’t fit with the proficiency-based education model because it is computed by comparing an individual’s performance against the performance of their peers. Class rank gives no indication of the level or degree of learning that has taken place. In proficiency-based systems, student learning is measured against a standard of performance set forth in a well-defined rubric. Although the tide is starting to turn, this philosophy is not yet widespread in higher education, and as a result, class rank is still a standard reporting measure that proficiency-based high schools calculate and report.
 
 
 
 
In a Proficiency-Based system, students should be achieving 3's to become proficient, so this must mean 2's are "failing".

MYTH!
There is no "failing" in a proficiency based system. According to the RSU 24 Assessment Guide, a score of a 2 is labeled "Emerging".  This means, that there is an "emerging demonstration of the required knowledge and skills.  A student independently completes simple pieces of the task, and needs assistance with more complex ideas and processes".  Although students in all classes are working towards 3's in their performance indicators in order to show evidence of knowledge and skill at a Proficient level, RSU 24 promotes a growth-minded philosophy, which means that in our classrooms a 2 means "not quite there yet" and does not have any indication of failure.
 
 
 
"Highest-score" calculation settings are used to define overall proficiency levels for each performance indicator based on the summative body of evidence.
 
FACT! Sumner Memorial High School uses Mastery Connect to track evidence of learning over time within each performance indicator in a course.  Over time, teachers collect summative evidence (evidence of learning) on a skill or topic of understanding, and the overall proficiency level for that performance indicator will be reflected by the highest level of performance that a student achieved - the other attempts will not be averaged in and/or pull a student "down".  In life, an analogy might best be described by the student who takes three times to pass his/her driver's license test.  This student, on the third try, receives the same license that another student might have received on his/her test the first time, and he is not penalized by the prior two attempts (for example, receiving a "half-license" as the average of the three attempts that only allows him/her to drive 8 AM - 5 PM).
 
 
 
There are still opportunities for students to be celebrated for their high academic achievement within a proficiency-based system.
 
FACT! RSU 24 believes that students should certainly be recognized for their academic achievements and distinction.  Though traditional models of academic recognition (Honor Roll, etc.) do not mesh with proficiency-based philosophies because they often compare one student's achievement to another student's level of proficiency or progression, each of our schools will continue to develop recognition traditions that celebrate all students who have achieved growth and reached proficiencies and/or distinguished levels of proficiency.
 
 
 
In a Proficiency-Based system, Habits of Work & Learning (HOW&L) scores don't matter.

MYTH!
Although behaviors are separated from academic performance within a PBE system, they are still assessed and reported as meaningful pieces of information about student performance.  Habits of Work & Learning (HOW&L) scores are often linked to content-area understanding and convey information regarding Executive Functioning skills that are needed beyond K-12 education such as "initiative and independence", so they are an important focus for teachers.  HOW&L scores are reported on a student's official transcript, and are diligently looked at by admissions counselors to help determine a success rate in post-secondary education.  HOW&L performance is also linked to Co-Curricular eligibility within RSU 24 as it is in many other PBE systems around the state and country.
 
 
 
Proficiency-Based systems try to suppress or ignore competition.

MYTH!  
By tracking assessment, the PBE approach recognizes and encourages striving for higher achievement. While it is true that the students will undoubtedly encounter some amount of “back-stabbing, every-person-for-themselves, cut-throat competitive” attitudes out in the world after school, we believe that kind of competition is unhealthy and ultimately unproductive, and as such should not be stressed or fostered. Rather students should be urged to instead urged to ever outdo themselves and reach for personal bests while working with their fellow students to help them do the same, just as a good coach will emphasize having the players work together to make the team the best it can be, recognizing and applauding instances of outstanding individual performance but at the same time not encouraging any player to think that they are better than all of their team-mates nor rewarding such “prima dona” attitudes. We believe this approach will help students best to develop secure, confident perceptions of who they are and what they can achieve, which should actually better prepare them to lead happy, productive lives in the face of any “me-first” competitive attitudes they may encounter.
 
 
 
 
References:
 
Guskey, T. (2014). Class rank weighs down true learning. Retrieved from: https://drive.google.com/a/rsu24.org/file/d/0B1PAwkwbUXNUdHVSVVFaNVl1WlE/view?usp=sharing 
 

Stack, B. (2016). Separating the facts from the myths in the competency-based high school transcript. Retrieved from: http://www.competencyworks.org/understanding-competency-education/separating-the-facts-from-the-myths-in-the-competency-based-high-school-transcript/