How to Engage in Proficiency-Based Learning

If you are a high school or college student, you are probably very familiar with the term “proficiency.” It is relevant for several different situations, including assessing the result of a particular standardized test, as well as when it comes to complying with posted learning standards.

Additionally, at the end of the year, you may be allowed to evaluate whether one educator is proficient or not in the job that they are doing. With this in mind, it is essential to know that measurements for proficiency relevant to education are determined by the specific school/college, state, course, etc.

While it is essential for assessing whether a student or an educator is up to the required standards, there are several issues related to the concept of proficiency. Let’s take a look.

Alignment and Misalignment

As a student, you have probably found yourself in a situation where the questions on the test were not related to what you were taught in class. This is one of the most common problems because proficiency doesn’t assess what was taught but rather what was on the test, in which case you may get so-called “false negatives.” This affects your grade and the reputation of the school, as the proficiency levels for the course/class will be deemed lower. 

The best example of this is when students are tested according to new standards that their state is just adopting. However, they were taught and were sure that the exam material would be relative to the books and standards valid before the adoption.

High and Low Standards

It is also quite common for specific schools and colleges to lower the proficiency standards to look better to the public and avoid press critique. Once again, this isn’t ideal, as students are given appropriate tests for those a few grades below them. For this reason, all states and educational institutions must implement similar proficiency standards to ensure that such manipulation is minimized. 

Learning and Reporting

The last but perhaps the largest issue is that those evaluating one student’s success grade the test without considering all the other factors. For example, the percentage proficient may not be as relevant if the knowledge body that one student has acquired wasn’t tested.

It is a fact that you may learn many skills and get confident with different methods of problem-solving without those skills or methods ever being tested and deemed as proficient. Thus, while we understand that Common Core State Standards and similar measurements are almost mandatory, our opinion is that it shouldn’t be the only factor when determining students’ academic success.

Concluding Thoughts

The current standards lead students to engage in proficiency-based learning, which certainly isn’t best in the long run. It is hoped that schools and colleges will adopt more flexible standards in the upcoming years and don’t focus solely on the tested proficiency but also on acquired skills and comprehensive knowledge.

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