Beginning in fall 2013, the Maine Department of Education will be producing a series of webinars on a variety of topics related to the design and implementation of proficiency-based learning. In the meantime, the Great Schools Partnership has produced the following webinars on the Proficiency-Based Learning Simplified model.

1. Developing Effective Graduation Standards and Performance Indicators

“The sheer number of standards is the biggest impediment to implementing standards,” Robert Marzano concluded in a study of state and national standards. While the CCSS have provided more clarity and guidance for educators than ever before, school leaders and teachers still need to make critical decisions about what standards to prioritize and how to assess student learning growth and proficiency.

In this webinar, participants will learn about the fundamental components of an effective proficiency-based teaching and learning system. Because in a proficiency-based classroom, teachers target standards as their instructional foci, participants will also learn how to identify graduation standards—those skills and concepts that are at the heart of a discipline—as well as the performance indicators students must achieve to demonstrate proficiency of those graduation standards.

2. Using Essential Questions and Learning Targets in Unit Design

Learning standards provide a detailed outline of the most critical knowledge and skills that students should acquire, but how can educators make sure they are moving students closer and closer to proficiency in the units and lessons they design? And how can teachers engage students in monitoring their own learning progress?

In this webinar, participants will learn how to develop the basic instructional building blocks of a successful proficiency-based curriculum: essential questions and daily learning targets that will not only keep students interested, focused and motivated, but that will also provide the foundation for effective formative assessment. Incorporating principles from Understanding by Design, participants will leave with a practical and efficient process for ensuring that day-to-day lessons and instruction build toward mastery of essential learning standards.

3. Best Practices in Grading & Reporting

Grading with accuracy and consistency is an ever-present challenge for school administrators and educators. Grading has a long history of controversy, which suggests just how much is at stake in this daily practice. That said, the research on effective grading is proportionally rich, although many grading systems remain out of step with what we know works in measuring student learning. Even within a single school, grading practices are often dramatically uneven and contradictory.

This webinar will help participants adopt and use grading practices that are more consistent and coherent and that are focused on helping all students achieve proficiency and meet high learning expectations. While altering grading systems may require changes in record keeping, assessment practices, software and report cards, a thoughtfully considered process can help your school transition incrementally and without confusion. The presenters will share a selection of practical strategies from schools that have moved to more authentic and meaningful grading practices, including exemplar guidelines, timelines, policies, communication materials and anecdotes.