Great Schools Partnership

State + Local Standards


“The chief problem is that there is simply too much to teach—arguably two to three times too much—and too many options for what can be taught.” —Mike Schmoker and Robert J. Marzano, Realizing the Promise of Standards-Based Education

Proficiency-Based Learning Simplified is designed to help schools create efficient and effective systems that will ensure all students graduate prepared to succeed in the college, careers, and communities of the 21st century. For this reason, our model is focused on prioritizing and assessing the most critically important knowledge and skills, while also balancing high academic standards with the need for flexibility, responsiveness, and creativity in the classroom.

For proficiency-based learning to be effective, schools and teachers have to prioritize. They will need to determine what knowledge and skills students absolutely need to acquire before they graduate from high school, what content knowledge students need to learn in each subject area, and what essential benchmarks students need to meet as they progress through their education.

State standards provide the foundation—the grade-level learning progressions that teachers use to design their curriculum—but schools determine how standards will be implemented, including which standards must be met. In an ideal world, every student would meet every standard. But the reality is that teachers may not have the time to address every standard as comprehensively as they might want to, and not every student will master every standard. Proficiency-Based Learning Simplified recommends that schools prioritize the most essential knowledge and skills, and then work backward to design the curriculum. By using prioritization and the principles of backward design, schools can certify achievement of essential standards and significantly increase college and career preparation.

In this section, school leaders and teachers will find detailed guidance on developing a practical and prioritized system of learning standards.

For more information on teaching and assessing the transferable skills, see our Transferable Skills Project Page.

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