PBGR Resources

Background Information (Great Conversation Starters):
Leadership in Action Brief:  Proficiency-Based Diploma
This brief information packet from the New England Secondary Schools Consortium (NESSC) does a great job of concisely laying out the history and philosophy underlying a desire to move to a Proficiency-Based Diploma.

“A Diploma Worth Having” by Grant Wiggins
This is a great article that lays out some of the history of the development of our current graduation requirements, along with the fact that there have always been competing versions of what students should know and be able to do.  It does a great job of causing the reader to reflect on what is really important and how that can be reflected in our high school graduation requirements. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar11/vol68/num06/A-Diploma-Worth-Having.aspx

This American Life:  Back to School
This episode of This American Life begins with a conversation about what students should learn in school, introducing the idea of “academic” skills which may be easily measured by tests and “non-cognitive” skills, which are better indicators of future success but less easily measured.  It pays particular attention to students who have dealt with trauma, how that often impairs school success, and what schools can do to help all students succeed.  Although not specifically about PBGRs, this opens up the conversation of what the goals of a high school diploma should be.
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Tony Wagner’s Ted Talk
In this talk, Wagner concisely challenges the label of “failing” schools, saying instead that our overall school model is obsolete, and gives some pointers on how to move forward.  From his extensive research, he identifies seven key skills for success in college, career, and citizenship.  He also explains how the culture of school is at odds with the culture of learning.  He paints a picture of the need for innovation and identifies play, passion, and purpose as means to develop innovation in our young people.

Examples of PBGRs in Practice:
The New York Performance Standards Consortium
The New York Performances Standards Consortium
According to their website,

“The New York Performance Standards Consortium represents 28 schools across New York State. Formed in 1997, the Consortium opposes high stakes tests arguing that "one size does not fit all."

Despite skepticism that an alternative to high stakes tests could work, the New York Performance Standards Consortium has done just that...developed an assessment system that leads to quality teaching, that enhances rather than compromises our students' education. Consortium school graduates go on to college and are successful.

In the search for standards, many had hoped that high stakes tests were a way to ensure quality teaching and learning. Increasingly, the public is becoming aware that this approach hasn't worked, leading instead to an increase in dropouts, the decline of teacher professionalism and the trivializing of curriculum.

Information about member schools, performance assessment tasks and rubrics, answers to frequently asked questions, and more can be found at their website:

Central Vermont Big Picture Academy

Mount Hope High School, Rhode Island
Mount Hope's Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements

Big Picture South Burlington

Vergennes Union High School
Here is a video and news story about Vergennes’ Performance-Based Graduation Requirements.

Harwood Union High School

Eagle Rock School

Research Reports:
New York Performance Assessment Standards Consortium Data Report:
This concise, compelling data report gives information about how the Consortium Schools work, including examples of Performance Tasks and Rubrics.  It also gives data to testify to the schools’ successes, including:
  • Their teacher turnover rate for teachers with less than 5 years experience is 15%, compared with 58% in other NYC schools
  • 86% of African-American male graduates from Consortium schools go on to college, compared with 37% nationally.
  • The ELL graduation rate is 69.5% compared with 39.7% for the rest of NYC schools.  (I know that neither of those numbers are ideal, but the Consortium schools have almost double the ELL graduation rate for NYC -- an incredible feat!)
  • The graduation rate for students with special needs is 50% from Consortium schools, compared with 24.7% for other NYC schools.

Ready for the Future:  The Role of Performance Assessments in Shaping Graduates’ Academic, Professional and Personal Lives by Laurie Gagnon
Excerpts from the report’s abstract:  “The perspectives of graduates offer a valuable source of understanding for educators and policy-makers on how to ensure high quality educational pathways that prepare all students for work and college...Overall, despite a few challenge areas, graduates who were interviewed say the study schools’ performance assessment systems contributed to their success in college and the world of work.  Performance assessments helped students who participated in the study to discover their own learning styles, to learn academic content and skills, and to develop critical thinking, communication, and real world skills.”

When Success is the Only Option:  Designing Competency-Based Pathways for Next Generation Learning


Resources for Getting Started:
Quality Performance Assessment:  Harnessing the Power of Teacher and Student Learning by Christina Brown and Pascale Mevs
Page 26 of this report lists steps to creating a system of high quality performance assessments.

Portfolio and Exhibition Toolkits from Rhode Island Department of Education:

Other Resources:
Competency Works
This consortium of organizations is working together to research and refine best practices for competency-based education.  They have a lot of resources, reflections, links, and examples on their website.

Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements and the Implications for Students with Special Needs- The Rhode Island Technical Assistance Project (RITAP)

PBRs- Something old is new again, a cautionary tale (Presentation by Matt Henchen at Dynamic Landscapes Conference last spring)

What Neuroscience Says About Personalized Learning by Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa

Common Core Math Practices

Additional Resources below:
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  347k v. 1 Sep 24, 2012, 8:03 AM Greg Young
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  120k v. 1 Sep 24, 2012, 8:03 AM Greg Young

NESSC One Page Briefing on Proficiency Based Graduation  Oct 1, 2012, 3:44 AM Greg Young
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  13k v. 1 Oct 1, 2012, 3:43 AM Greg Young
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  175k v. 1 Oct 1, 2012, 8:54 AM Greg Young
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  2741k v. 1 Oct 1, 2012, 8:57 AM Greg Young
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  229k v. 1 Oct 1, 2012, 3:42 AM Greg Young