Proficiency Based Learning and Grading

  • Principles of Proficiency-Based Learning

    Proficiency-based learning begins with the standards that students are expected to achieve by the end of the grade-level.  The standards used by District 9 are based on the Oregon State Standards.  In this system, the standards-based grading indicates a students’ progress towards proficiency in these standards.  

    Common features found in proficiency-based systems:

    • All learning expectations are clearly and consistently communicated to students and families, including long-term expectations (e.g. graduation requirements), short-term expectations (e.g. specific learning objectives for a course or other learning experience), and general expectations (e.g. performance levels).
    • Student achievement is evaluated according to Oregon's State Standards.
    • All forms of assessments are standards-based. Success is defined by the level of  achievement of expected standards, not measures of performance or student-to-student comparisons.
    • Formative assessments (such as quizzes, quickwrites, practice problems) measure smaller components of a standard and occur within a unit or learning cycle.
    • Progress during the instructional process and formative-assessment results are used to inform instructional adjustments, teaching practices, and academic supports.
    • Summative assessments (such as projects, reports, unit tests) occur at the end, or at key sections, of a unit or learning cycle and evaluate students’ proficiency of a standard at a specific point in time.
    • Academic progress and achievement are monitored and reported separately from work habits, character traits, and behaviors such as attendance and class participation, which are also monitored and reported.
    • Students are given multiple opportunities to improve their work when they fail to meet expected standards.

    -- Adapted from Great Schools Partnership


  • Standards-based grading, is a method for teachers to measure and communicate how well students are progressing toward meeting the learning goals for their grade level as determined by Oregon State Standards. Learning goals, sometimes called learning standards, are the academic skills students should know or be able to do for their grade level by the end of the school year.

    Standards-based report cards give a grade or mark for each learning goal or standard, so students receive multiple grades or marks in each subject area. In 7th grade math, for example, you'll see the subject broken into several standards, such as operations/algebraic thinking and fractions. You'll see a list of math knowledge and skills your student should know or be able to do, as well as a grade or mark showing how your student is doing.

    In District 9, Work Habits are labeled as Student Success Standards (K-5) and Employability Standards (6-12) and are graded separately to provide an accurate picture of your student's academic achievement.Student Success Standards and Employability Standards include aspects like completing tasks on time, being prepared for class, managing oneself and being a good citizen.


  • Providing grades for academic proficiency and work habits separately gives parents more detailed information about the areas in which their student is at grade level or is in need of improvement. The traditional grading system combines many elements, test scores, quizzes, completed homework, classroom participation, coming to school on time, extra credit, and averages the semester's work into a percentage that correlates with a letter grade. This form of reporting does not give you an accurate description of whether a student is at grade level or not. 

    For example, one student might bring home a B because she did all the work, turned in all her homework, and participated in class but did not quite understand the concepts. Another student might bring home a B because she was successful at all the tests and quizzes but did not do any of the homework and did not participate in class. Each student earns the same grade but for very different reasons. This grade does not tell parents very much about what the student knows, or how the student can apply that knowledge.


  • District 9 students are graded on their proficiency of Oregon State Standards with these descriptors: 

    Academic Marks for Formative and Summative Assessments


    Advanced - Exceeds Standard

      Enhanced demonstration of knowledge and skills at grade level 



    Proficient - Meets Standard - TARGET

      Demonstrates knowledge and skills at grade level standard


    Developing - Below Standard

      Partially demonstrates knowledge and skills at grade level 



    Beginning - Far Below Standard

      Minimal or no demonstration of knowledge and skills at grade 

      level standard


      No evidence has been submitted


    One big change with standards-based grading from traditional letter grades is that teachers grade work by proficiency levels, not percentages. It's more useful to know that your student has met a standard than that he/she has a B with 84 percent. Another change is that each grade or mark on the report card represents a skill or knowledge standard that your student has had the opportunity to learn. Teachers grade to specific standards and not to overarching content areas.

    Students are measured against grade level standards and may earn "1's" when the standard is introduced. As students develop skills and demonstrate proficiency, their marks will improve. The target is "3" or proficiency. A "4" exceeds the grade level standard.


  • The number of standards on our report card can be overwhelming. Some important terminology you need to know is:

    • Formative assessments are practice. These might include assignments, homework, quizzes, etc. The grades or marks represent 20% of the average calculated into the student's report card or Progress Period marks.

    • Summative assessments are a final demonstration of a student's meeting the standard. These grades or marks represent 80% of the average calculated to create a student's academic grade on their Report Card or Progress Report.

    • Course Grade. The course grade is an average of the grades or marks your student earned on the standards within the course.

    Many schools using standards-based grading also allow quiz retakes and late homework, which can feel strange to parents, but the goal is for students to master the grade level standards. In EPSD9 your student is also encouraged to retake any summative assessments to demonstrate proficiency. We work on a quarter system (K-5) and a semester system (6-12), so retakes and make-ups need to be completed right away. As well, students may be asked to complete some additional formative work to demonstrate they are prepared for another attempt at the summative assessment. Students can retake a summative assessment up to 3 weeks from the date the teacher posted it in the electronic gradebook. 

    This may be confusing at first but keep in mind that a 3 or "proficient" isn't the same as a B. It means your student has met state standards, and that's good. The new State Standards have raised the academic bar. Even students who have previously received A's, B's and C's can earn a 2 or "developing proficiency" mark, which can be a shock for some families. It is more important to know if your student is struggling with a concept rather than not knowing because of stellar work habits.

    A score of “4” may be difficult to understand at first. If your student earned A's on traditional report cards, they may have received them for meeting the teacher's requirements, not necessarily for excelling at or going beyond grade level expectations of the state standard. With our proficiency system, 4's may be harder to earn (and 3's should be celebrated). However, earning 4's is achievable in each class, teachers' lessons offer opportunities for students to excel and reach a score of a 4. As the grading system becomes more familiar, you'll get more comfortable. The important thing is that your student is learning and making progress. Celebrate learning, and the grades or marks will follow.

    The course grade is an average of the grades or marks your student earned on the standards within the course. That means “0-4” marks for formative (20% weighting) and summative (80% weighting) assessments are averaged and converted to a letter grade for Fifth through Twelfth graders according to this scale:


    Standards Averaged

    Reported Grade


    3.50 to 4.0



    3.0 to 3.49



    2.5 to 2.99



    0 to 2.49