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Why Proficiency-Based Grading?

Proficiency-based grading (also known as mastery- or competency-based grading) focuses on assessing students' mastery of specific skills or knowledge areas rather than relying solely on traditional letter grades. This approach is considered more accurate and equitable for middle school students for several reasons:

  1. Clear Learning Targets: Proficiency-based grading provides clear learning targets or standards that students are expected to achieve. These targets are often broken down into specific skills or knowledge areas, making it easier for students to understand what they are expected to learn and master.

  2. Focus on Mastery: Unlike traditional grading systems that emphasize points and averages, proficiency-based grading prioritizes mastery of skills. It assesses whether students have fully grasped a concept or skill before moving on to the next level. This means that students have a solid foundation before progressing.

  3. Individualized Assessment: Proficiency-based grading allows for more individualized assessment. Each student is evaluated based on their own progress and understanding of the material, rather than being compared to their peers. This approach recognizes that students learn at different paces and have unique strengths and weaknesses. 

  4. Continuous Feedback: Proficiency-based grading provides continuous feedback to students and parents throughout the learning process, and regular updates on their child's progress and areas of strength or improvement are communicated throughout the grading period. 

  5. Opportunities for Growth: Proficiency-based grading focuses on the idea of growth and improvement. It allows students to demonstrate their progress over time and provides opportunities for them to revise and improve their work. This emphasis on growth rather than a fixed grade encourages a growth mindset, where students are motivated to take risks, learn from their mistakes, and continuously improve.

  6. Equity and Fairness: Proficiency-based grading promotes equity by ensuring that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed. Instead of relying on a single high-stakes exam or assignment, this system considers a range of assessments that allow students to demonstrate their understanding in various ways, which accommodates different learning styles.

The Benefits of Competency Based Assessment: 1. Improved clarity and transparency. 2. More seamless personalization of learning. 3. Helps shift towards a culture of assessment. 4. Students better understand their own learning profile.

Additional Reading:

Rick Wormeli makes the case for the WHY in moving away from averaging grades.

Rick Stiggins, a world-renowned assessment expert, lays out 5 assessment essentials. 

Read how Ashland Middle School moved into proficiency and standards-based assessment and reporting.

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