SVSU parents push back on ‘proficiency-based learning’

This article by Patricia LeBoeuf originally appeared Oct. 17 in the Bennington Banner.

BENNINGTON — The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union may reconsider aspects of proficiency-based learning as a result of feedback from several concerned parents at a community meeting Tuesday night, officials say.

“We haven’t had time to really get together and talk about that,” said Derek Carson, public information coordinator for the SVSU, when reached Wednesday morning. “We’ll certainly look at that as a possibility.”

Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union

In a meeting Tuesday at Mount Anthony Union Middle School, parents heard details on a new proficiency-based learning grading system and responded by saying it was confusing and even counter-productive.

A group of about 40 parents and community members attended the meeting at Mount Anthony Union Middle School, which included four 15-minute sessions designed to answer the most common community questions surrounding proficiency-based learning. The catalyst for the event was a packed Mount Anthony Union School District Education Committee meeting in June, where parents and students alike said they hadn’t received clear answers about changes related to proficiency-based learning.

But even after the sessions Tuesday night, some parents complained, saying their questions still weren’t answered.

Many parents expressed concerns about the four-point grading system at the kindergarten through eighth-grade level, with some calling it confusing and counter-productive.

Students are graded on a four point scale, going from 1 — beginning toward the standard “at this time,” to progressing to a 2, to meeting the standard at 3, to excelling at the standard at 4.

One woman in attendance, who did not identify herself, said that her daughter got perfect scores on two exams, but was told she could not get a 4. “That’s the problem I’m having, currently,” she said. It needs to be clear to kids what can be done to get a four — or if no one can get a four, she said.

Another woman said she found the proficiency-based grading standards she’d seen to be vague. Her daughter, she said, received a grade on the 1-4 scale for the “responding” standard in art class. “What does that mean?” she asked.

One woman in attendance, a math teacher, said her daughter was graded in a few subjects on the 1-4 scale. “I found it confusing,” she said. “Mastery learning — you can do that without having a 1,2,3,4 grading system.”

RELATED: Proficiency-based learning not proficient

Laura Boudreau, assistant superintendent for the SVSU, heard the woman’s thoughts at the session she hosted: “What is Proficiency-Based Learning?” Community members could attend three out of the four sessions in the time allotted.

Proficiency-based learning is a system in which the learner drives their own learning, enabling them to have “voice and choice” in their education, she said. “It’s a shift,” she said.

The decision to grade based on a 1-4 scale was based on research. “We didn’t just say, ‘Oh, let’s do four points,'” she said.

Multiple attendees said they disagreed with the system.

“From a parent perspective, 1,2,3,4s are not working,” one woman said. It’s also not working for kids who are all bringing home 3s, she said. “And crying about it,” replied another woman.

Proficiency-based learning is being implemented in connection with Act 77, the state’s Flexible Pathways Initiative.

Read full story at the Bennington Banner.

(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)

Image courtesy of Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union

3 thoughts on “SVSU parents push back on ‘proficiency-based learning’

  1. What a great concept, offering children what they need to succeed, sounds like a great argument for school choice. Vermonts left is owned by the teachers union so it probably isn’t going to happen. I guess the liberals love the promised votes and campaign cash.

  2. Clarity is impossible in Vermont’s chameleon-like academic assessment process….by design. Not only is it virtually impossible to determine whether or not students can read, write, add, subtract, multiply and divide to grade level, no one is held accountable for education instruction or its results.

    Little known to most Vermonters, as the education monopoly consolidates its Act 46 power over parents and taxpayers, starting last spring the Agency of Education replaced the former Grade 11 Smarter Balanced Assessments with an “inventory of career and college readiness” assessments “self-selected” by the students (e.g., SAT, ACT, Armed Forces Aptitude Battery, Advanced Placement exams. Etc.).

    Again, Grade 11 assessments are now “self-selected by the students”. Participation is not mandatory. In other words, comparable school and district academic accountability standards for Vermont’s high school students no longer exist.

    So… if you’re part of the education special interest lobby controlling one of the nation’s highest per student education revenue streams, with little or no accountability, what’s not to like? If, on the other hand, you’re a student, parent or taxpayer looking for an efficient, cost effective education system, or a business owner in need of an educated work force, forget about it.

  3. “Laura Boudreau, assistant superintendent for the SVSU, heard the woman’s thoughts at the session she hosted: “What is Proficiency-Based Learning?” Community members could attend three out of the four sessions in the time allotted.” Ummm – 3 out of 4 sessions in the time allotted? This isn’t clear – are they all the same session? If they are different sessions, why didn’t they alot enough time so one could attend all of them? The sessions don’t seem to have answered the questions – perhaps parents just aren’t smart enough to understand, should just shut up and let the highly trained educators take care of everything. What could possibly go wrong? Oh yeah, literacy in America is lower now than it was in 1915. Hmmmm.

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