PBL Resource Page

Proficiency Based Learning

As you have likely heard, school districts in Maine are required to graduate students with a proficiency-based diploma in the coming years.  For RSU #1 this will occur in 2021, or with our current 7th grade students.  Both lawmakers and educators have long realized that our public education systems need to prepare students for a world we can’t yet imagine, rather than the industrial world under which our current system was created and still operates.

What is proficiency-based learning (PBL)?  Simply put, PBL is a system that identifies a critical set of knowledge and skills (standards) in each subject area that students absolutely need to acquire before they graduate from high school. Think of a Boy Scout or Girl Scout who is working on earning badges.  

Each badge has a specific set of knowledge, skills or things that need to be accomplished before the scout can move on up the scouting ranks.  This is proficiency-based learning!

RSU #1 teachers have worked in grade level or subject alike teams to sort through the set of standards that are law in Maine, the Maine Learning Results. The goal of this work is to become clear about the specifics of what students should know and be able to do by the end of a grade level or course. This work has largely been accomplished in reading, writing and math K-12, and other subject areas 6-12.

So, what is different in classrooms that operate in a proficiency-based system?  One of the biggest differences is that students in the current system progress simply by sitting in class. Even students who fail often promote to the next grade. In a PBL system students progress only when they have shown that they have learned critical information.  Does this mean all information in every subject area?  

Absolutely not!  The set of critical information is that which has been locally identified to be that basic set of knowledge and skills most all students will need in order to be college and career ready as they move through the grades and eventually graduate. 

There are focus areas that already occur in most classrooms, but that take on added importance in a PBL system.  PBL is more learner centered, more real life oriented, more focused on critical thinking and problem solving, more project-based and much more driven by the needs of an individual learner than that of the whole group. In addition, a much more robust system of supports will be in place for those students who struggle.

RSU #1 is transitioning into a PBL system.  Because we have had the luxury of time, we have made, and continue to make, decisions about which pieces of PBL are most relevant to teachers and students in our local district. To that end, Morse High School will be doing a pilot year with the current 8th grade class.  8th grade students will not be accountable to being proficient in order to graduate.  But, many of the practices of a PBL classroom will be in place. More information about this will be forthcoming from MHS.

If you have further questions, please email Judith Harvey at jharvey@rsu1.org.


Maine Learning Results

Standards Resource page - How Learning Standards Work Chart & other links

Getting to Proficiency (written specifically for parents)

Videos of Proficiency Based Learning in action in Maine schools

Burlington, VT high school teachers present to their school board

Competency Based Learning (CBL) in 60 Seconds – CBL same as Proficiency Based Learning

Meeting Standards in a Student Centered, Proficiency Based Classroom

Glossary of Education Reform

How Does Proficiency-Based Learning Work?

What Are Learning Standards?

What is a Proficiency-Based Diploma?

Collegiate Statements of Support 


Our Mission

To support and challenge students to develop and apply the skills, knowledge, and character to be responsible and productive learners, citizens, and leaders in a global society.