The Year of the Proficiency: An Introduction

This past summer, the U-32 administration hired a third party designer to produce glossy pamphlets that attempt to explain the Proficiency-Based Learning system, the major overhaul of the public education system mandated by Vermont state law under Act 77.

The colorful pamphlets include bright graphics and pictures of smiling students, similar to a college brochure. Flipping through it, one cannot help but notice the Bob Dylan quote on the inside cover: “‘The times they are a-changin’.’” The optimistic quotes make light of an urgent situation: three years after Washington County schools embraced these “changing times,” major changes are still being made.

The Class of 2020, the first to graduate with proficiency transcripts, are the guinea pigs of this experiment. If it fails, there will be dire consequences. Some students are asking the question: will I graduate?

This year, the Chronicle is reporting from a student’s view of proficiencies to find answers to the most pressing questions. Here are a few other important unanswered questions U-32 students still have about proficiencies:

  • What will the school’s policy be if a student is not proficient in all 41 standards required in order to graduate? Will students be held back until they can demonstrate proficiency in all areas?
  • How will colleges interpret proficiency transcripts and will they put these students at a disadvantage during the application process?
  • How are outside-the-classroom opportunities such as Dual Enrollment or athletics assessed on the proficiency scale?
  • How many times do students need to demonstrate proficiency before they receive a “proficient” or “advanced” on a graduation standard? Is this standardized between all departments?
  • How does the school communicate each student’s progress towards graduation?
  • For students that are struggling in certain classes, how are teachers helping those students reach proficiency?
  • How does the Washington Central model of Proficiency-Based Learning compare to other districts’ systems? As a state, what is and is not working?

Up Next: Part 1: Can you be “Advanced” without AP?