One of the primary goals of a proficiency-based grading system is to produce grades that more accurately reflect a student’s learning progress and achievement, including situations in which students struggled early on in a semester or school year, but then put in the effort and hard work needed to meet expected standards. If you ask nearly any adult, they will tell you that failures—and learning to overcome them—are often among the most important lessons in life.
Casco Bay High School for Expeditionary Learning is a small public high school in Portland, Maine, with a student body that reflects the increasing diversity of the city. Since it was founded in 2005, Casco Bay has used a proficiency-based approach to teaching, assessing, grading, and reporting. At Casco Bay High School, grades are intended to support and enhance student learning. To earn credit at Casco Bay, students need to demonstrate that they have acquired expected knowledge and skills by meeting ten to fifteen clearly articulated learning standards for each course. To create a learning culture focused on proficiency rather than student-to-student comparisons, Casco Bay does not rank students or weight GPAs.
For a detailed description of Casco Bay’s approach to grading, you can read the Casco Bay High School Family Grading Guide or watch the following videos about Casco Bay made by Expeditionary Learning:
→ Why Use a Standards-Based Grading System?
→ Understanding Grades in a Standards-Based System
→ Habits of Work Prepare Students for College—Standards-Based Grading
→ Descriptive Feedback Helps All Students Reach Proficiency—Standards-Based Grading
→ School-wide Structures for Standards-Based Grading
At Casco Bay High School, habits-of-work (HOW) expectations—such as Behave ethically and treat others with respect, Persevere when things are hard, Seek challenge and solutions, or Meet deadlines and established criteria—are monitored, graded, and reported separately from academic standards. For Casco Bay teachers, students, and parents, strong habits of work are as important as the knowledge and skills students are expected to acquire. The list below describes the habits of work traits that the Casco Bay faculty teach and assess. Teachers may provide additional criteria to define what a particular HOW trait looks like in their course or content area.
- Behave ethically and treat others with respect
- Accept responsibility for personal decisions and actions
- Work actively and cooperatively to achieve group goals
- Perform a variety of roles within a group
- Fulfill individual responsibilities within the group
- Complete homework; prepare for class
- Use class time effectively
- Meet deadlines and established criteria
- Persevere when things are hard
- Complete revisions when necessary
- Access appropriate resources to solve problems
- Participate effectively and positively in class
- Make sure class members feel safe and comfortable
- Demonstrate Stewardship
Pursue Personal Best
- Be willing to try new things; take constructive risks
- Seek from setbacks and feedback
- Seek challenge and solutions