Proficiency-Based Learning

Proficiency-Based Learning graphic

What's on the Rhode Map ahead?

A representative group of educators and stakeholders convened to discuss and draft a vision of what personalized and proficiency-based learning looks like over the next 3-5 years in Rhode Island. The vision includes:

  • Student learning opportunities focused on student needs and interests.
  • Students learning through student centered pathways that are flexible in time and place.
  • Multiple sources of data used to personalize intervention and/or acceleration opportunities.
  • Student mastery demonstrated through a variety of assessment measures.

Shared implementation of these visionary strategies will ensure all students are college and career ready and able to succeed in a global environment.  This work is ongoing and will require the collaborative effort of many stakeholders across the state to fully realize this vision.

Proficiency-Based Learning Vision (DRAFT - Dec. 2013)

What does Personalized, Proficiency-Based Learning in a Digitally Rich Environment look like?

If you give a kid...  Student Voice and Choice:
At Their Own Pace 
What is Blended Learning? 

What is this digital shift, and how do we make it happen?

Let's stop talking about teaching with technology and let's start talking about TEACHING.

  • Teaching effectively is not "innovative" or "new"
    We have been researching and refining how to personalize learning for decades. 
  • Technology is not pedagogy
    It is nothing more than a tool that should only be implemented when it increases efficiency and effectiveness.
What is the digital shift, and how do we make it happen? (29:59)
Four Video Playlist (above video in shorter segments)
Self-Paced Course

How might my classroom be redesigned to better meet my students' needs?

  • How might we create a 21st century learning experience at our school?
  • How might we redesign our approach to curriculum development and delivery to center around the needs and desires of our teachers and students?
  • How might we redesign our high school to elevate student engagement and academic outcomes?

Design Thinking for Educators - Download Free Toolkit

Rhode Map GraphicSupporters graphic

Collaborating Organizations and Partnerships

Rhode Island Coalition 

New England Partners

National Partners

Professional Development OpportunitiesProfessional Development graphic

Interested in learning more about Proficiency-Based Learning (PBL) or creating a robust digital environment in your school?  This calendar is maintained by various professional organizations in partnership with RIDE.

Personalize and Proficiency-Based Learning
in a Digitally Rich Environment Coalition Group

This statewide collaborative group of practitioners and educational stakeholders are working to accelerate personalized and proficiency-based pathways in a digitally rich environment.  Members are ambassadors and champions of student-centered learning and instructional innovation.  

  • Interested in being an ambassador and joining the Coalition? Let us know!

Collective Impact and Opportunities & Barriers - April 9, 2014 

Formalizing the Coalition - February 24, 2014

Professional Development COordination Meeting - JANUARY 27, 2014 

Performance Assessments

Rhode Island includes performance assessments as one of the requirements for demonstrating readiness for graduation. Performance assessments include common tasks, comprehensive end of course tasks, diploma assessments, and other “authentic” assessments. Performance assessments allow students to demonstrate, at a more comprehensive and increased cognitive level, the application of content learned through coursework.

“An authentic assessment is simply performances and product requirements that are faithful to real-world demands, opportunities and constraints.  Students are tested on their ability to do the subject in context, to transfer their learning effectively.” - Grant Wiggins, 2006

Performance Assessments 

Performance assessments are multi-step assignments with clear criteria, expectations, and processes that measure how well a student transfers knowledge and applies complex skills to create or refine an original product.  Performance assessments are an important measure for determining graduation readiness and should be administered across all content areas and grades. Performance assessments make up student portfolios and comprehensive course assessments and are a central component of student exhibitions (known as Diploma Assessments). 

Performance assessments are included in the RI Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) as an important type of summative assessment and one that is required for graduation determination.

See the CAS guide pages 13-14 [PDF].

RI Strengthening Proficiency Based Graduation (SPBG)

SPBG is an initiative funded by Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the RI Foundation that provides intense technical assistance to educators to improve their assessment literacy and ensure the validity and reliability of performance assessments.

The project provides for two cohorts of educators to receive direct professional development, practice the skills of assessment development, validation and calibration for scoring, and participate in a professional learning community.  A collection of validated performance assessments will be made available to educators across Rhode Island at the completion of the SPBG Institute.

RI Performance Assessment Resources

  • The GATES Toolkit provides guidance in the development of a comprehensive system of performance assessments. The toolkit includes planning, implementing and sustaining strategies and guidelines. It also includes examples of different tools used to develop valid and reliable assessments. A professional network of educators developed the models and reviewed and tested the protocols for this toolkit. The Gates Foundation provided funding for the project and supported the development of the professional learning communities that continue today.
  • Quality Performance Assessments (QPA) is a Massachusetts based organization that is RI‘s partner in the Strengthening Performance Based Graduation (SPBG) project. They have developed several tools for evaluating the quality of local performance assessment systems and are currently working with Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island to support the development of quality performance assessments. 

Deepening Our Thinking About The Digital Learning Transition


  • Welcome to the Digital Generation (4:26), from Edutopia, reminds us of all the technological changes since the World Wide Web became widely available less than 20 years ago, and how different our children's lives are as a result.
  • Rethinking Learning: The 21sr Century Learner (4:00), from MacArthur Foundation, lets us hear from some of the most influential innovators in digital learning.
  • Join the Digital Learning Revolution (5:55), from Power On Texas, provides an overview of digital learning initiatives in seven districts involved in a digital learning project of the Texas Education Agency. 
  • Isacc Asimov on How Computers Can Revolutionize Education, Interview with Bill Moyers from 1988 (6:59).  The great science and science fiction writer could forsee the digital learning transition that is now taking shape 25 years later.
  • The Future of Learning (7:50) 
    In a rapidly changing world, today’s students must be armed with new knowledge and skills to navigate the complex future that awaits them. They must produce knowledge and learn to work and thrive in an increasingly connected economy. They must think, analyze, collaborate and act. Because our current structures are not built for this purpose, we must “unthink school to rethink learning.”
  • Future Learning Short Documentary (12:51) 
    Students are the future, but what's the future for students? To arm them with the relevant, timeless skills for our rapidly changing world, we need to revolutionize what it means to learn. Education innovators like Dr. Sugata Mitra, visiting professor at MIT; Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy; and Dr. Catherine Lucey, Vice Dean of Education at UCSF, are redefining how we engage young minds for a creatively and technologically-advanced future. Which of these eduvators holds the key for unlocking the learning potential inside every student?
  • Big Thinkers: Sasha Barab (10:40)
    Edutopia's Big Thinker Series features Dr. Sasha Barab, creator of the Quest Atlantis program. Dr. Barab talks about the potential of videogames for immersing learners in rich contexts where they get to apply what they are learning. Unlike most other forms of curriculum, the games they design offer entire worlds in which learners become central, important participants; a place where the actions of a ten-year old can have significant impact on the world; a context in which what you know is directly related to what you are able to do and, ultimately, who you become. In their work, they refer to the underlying pedagogy that informs the design work as transformational play.


  • Innovate to Educate:  System [Re]Design for Personalized Learning, pp 8-16.  This is a report from a 2010 Symposium of education and technology leaders organized by the Software and Information Association, ASCD, and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  The focus is on creating a personalized learning system for all students.  The table on p. 13 summarizes the contrasts between the current system and a personalizded one, and then five essential elements are summarized.
  • Pew Internet Commentary: Teens summarizes findings from a number of studies by the Pew Internet and American Life Project about how teens use technologies, including social networks, online videos, cell phones, etc.  It is a good reminder about the role of these technologies in the lives of our students. 
  • Ten Things Everyone Should Know About K-12 Students' Views on Digital Learning: (1 page summary of the full report)  Project Tomorrow Speak Up 2012 National Research Project Findings.
  • Designing the Future of Learning - 2Revolutions whitepaper describing its philosophy, taxonomy and insights gleaned.






Further Information about Changing the Culture of Teaching and LearningDigital Learning: any instructional practice that is effectively using technology to strengthen the student learning experience

The following schools and districts have defined their own goals for their digital learning transition and developed strategies for addressing the challenges.  Which ideas might apply in your school?

Public Schools 

District Case Studies - Power on Texas