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Disrupting Educational Inequity with Proficiency Grading

What is Proficiency Grading?

Proficiency Grading is an assessment system based on the idea what is most often called “mastery learning,” a process that involves: setting clear objectives, providing students with opportunities for practice, checking for understanding, reteaching in different and new ways if needed, and, finally, giving students more than one chance to demonstrate the attainment of a learning goal.

ARISE utilizes proficiency (or standards-based) grading because we believe it is important to assess students knowledge of the subject matter and ability to demonstrate core academic skills as the key indicators of their proficiency in a class and, therefore, the foundation for their grades. Additionally, proficiency grading gives teachers the most accurate sense of how students will perform in future academic endeavors such as upper grade classes, Proficiencies, and college courses. Proficiency grading allows teachers to focus on knowledge and skills.

However, we also understand that students enter each class in a different place academically. A majority of students starting 9th grade at ARISE are not at grade level in math or English. Therefore, it is inequitable to evaluate them on the same objective standards right away. As teachers, we need to do our best to assess them based on both proficiency as an objective measure and proficiency in the context of their academic starting place.

This is tricky, even paradoxical - but it is the only fair and just way to grade our students when they come to us in such disparate places in term of skills and knowledge. We have established the following grading principles to help teachers navigate the complex task of proficiency grading at ARISE:

  • We expect each student to try their hardest and be the best student they can be
  • High challenge, high support classrooms lead to maximum academic progress and student success
  • Differentiation of instruction is essential for all students to grow and progress
  • Grading is a tool for establishing high expectations but not the only way to do so
  • Students should be allowed multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency in various ways
  • For assessments (especially major assessments) of Learning Targets multiple opportunities for achieving proficiency are required through revisions and/or retakes (See Resubmit Policy)
  • Grades should reflect WHAT students know and can do but also HOW they are engaging in learning as part of the ARISE community; therefore we include our Core Values as a significant element of student grades
  • Homework should be meaningful, purposeful, of high quality, and aligned with Learning Targets Source: MasteryConnect Vimeo Page