Author: David Ruff

Six Fixes for Proficiency-Based Learning

August 28, 2018 by
david ruff

David Ruff

Two realities almost always arise when we engage in systemic change. First, while the change is framed as universally beneficial, it’s almost always disruptive and frequently gives rise to new and additional concerns. Second, implementation never goes as smoothly as planned. This certainly has happened in Maine as the state has embarked on a courageous journey to shift from an unfair and inadequate learning system to one that is equitable and just.

It is very good news that as this shift has been underway, Maine teachers have remained steadfast in their commitment to better learning for students. Early indications from this change are all good as four-year high school graduation rates in Maine have increased from 80% to 87% over the past seven years, college enrollment rates have increased from 60% to 64%, and college persistence rates have increased from 75% to 77%.[1]

Having noted this, we have to face a reality of the current K-12 public education system in America—it is unfair and designed to inequitably rank and sort students. The US public education system inequitably favors students who start better prepared, who have additional external support, and who are not impinged by non-school demands on their time. In the face of these and other significant obstacles, teachers make heroic efforts every day to treat students fairly and provide myriad learning opportunities to overcome these concerns. While many student success stories result from these significant efforts, these daily acts of heroism fall short of what is needed to close our pernicious equity gaps and ensure each and every high school graduate is well-prepared for the rigors of college and work, and the privileges and opportunities of civic life. (more…)

Thoughts on Grain Size

May 27, 2014 by
david ruff

David Ruff

As schools across the country engage with and implement proficiency-based learning, one of the first steps educators are taking is to

identify the skills, knowledge, and dispositions students should know and be able to demonstrate in order to either progress in their learning or graduate from the K-12 system. Certainly, there are significant resources for this, including state standards, the Common Core, and various other national sets of standards. However, few of these resources are shaped to best support instructional and organizational implementation of proficiency-based learning.

First off, we need to clarify the different uses of standards within curriculum, assessment, and student level accountability.  There are many standards that can help teachers shape the learning experience in the classroom—the actual curriculum that is enacted. Many of these standards are worthy of being assessed, formatively and/or summatively. However, only a handful are worth using for student-level accountability. Essentially, what standards will we require students to demonstrate in order to graduate? (more…)

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