Competency-Based and Proficiency-Based Learning


A Pathway for Competency-Based and Proficiency-Based Learning


dv1940017Schools, districts, and even states across the country are recognizing that in order to have a strong focus on learning, including curriculum, instruction, and assessments that meet each student’s needs, engages them all, and prepares them all for college or a career, then a redesign of education is required. Overwhelmingly, educational leaders have realized that the current system is insufficient for meeting the personalized learning needs of today’s students and innovative approaches to education need to be applied. In order to encourage educational equity and enable all students to achieve their full potential, more and more schools are redesigning their schools to become a competency-based or proficiency-based educational system. Schools implementing a competency-based or proficiency-based learning model are seeing the results first-hand:

  • Improvements in student achievement,
  • Attendance increases,
  • Disciplinary problems decreasing,
  • And Drop-out rates declining.

With the introduction of the new generation of standards, such as the Common Core State Standards, schools and districts are being confronted with the realization that traditional teaching systems are not up to the task of emphasizing the rigor, complexity, and higher level processing necessary. The progression of learning required at each stage of learning, alone, is enough to challenge typical teaching methods. Competency-based and proficiency-based learning is designed around mastery of standards by all students. Highly effective teaching, high expectations, support for all students, and continuous improvement by all generates a powerful force in which schools can become exemplary.students_p1

Competency-based and proficiency-based education platforms encourage comprehensive learning and greater engagement by providing more hands-on activities, choices for assignments, and requiring students to demonstrate proficiency before advancing to their next learning activity. Students help determine what they learn and receive instruction personalized to their needs that is focused on building competency and proficiency.


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[restab title=”Competency-Based and Proficiency-Based Learning with Learning-Focused” active=”active”]


For over 25 years, Learning-Focused has been at the national forefront of transforming the educational experience from simply test preparation to deep, long lasting learning. The Learning-Focused proficiency-based and competency-based learning model enables teachers to provide students with deep engagement in what they learn, personalization of how they learn, and choices for how they demonstrate what they have learned. The Learning-Focused model emphasizes the application of Higher Order Thinking skills in real-world situations, ensures that teachers provide outstanding instruction and constructive formative assessments, and integrates appropriate and early intervention to guarantee the success of all students.

PD_p2Implementing a proficiency-based and competency-based model requires redesigning classroom practices combined with exemplary professional development from Learning-Focused. While it is a complex path to take, the result is that it allows students to progress at an accelerated pace because teachers master the strategies and frameworks that ensure all students (including gifted students who are provided higher levels of challenge and struggling students who are provided additional resources and support) will learn the standards in personalized, meaningful ways in order to advance to the next level.

Schools with competency-based and proficiency-based learning models have a clear focus on the following ideals:[icon_list] [icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]Student Learning Outcomes Drive All Decisions [/icon_list_item][icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]Everyone Works Together Toward The Common Vision[/icon_list_item][icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]Everyone Embraces High Academic Standards (and Expectations) For All Students[/icon_list_item][icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]Teachers Engage Students With More Options[/icon_list_item][icon_list_item type=”bookmark”]Everyone Focuses On Creating A Sharing And Collaborative Community[/icon_list_item] [/icon_list]


[restab title=”School Goals”]By implementing a competency-based learning model, as a school you have chosen to:

  • Advance students through the curriculum as they demonstrate proficiency and competency of the learning goals.
  • Develop and use lessons that include explicit and measurable learning goals derived from your standards.
  • Develop and use lessons that focus on student application of higher order thinking.
  • Determine student proficiency and competency through meaningful and increasingly rigorous assessments intentionally distributed throughout lessons with a culminating assignment that is meaningful and a positive learning experience.
  • Provide students with timely personalized instruction, assignments, and support to meet their individual needs and accelerate their learning.
  • Provide learning activities that move students through all four levels of learning, developing the skills and knowledge to apply the highest levels of critical thinking to create new knowledge.


Whether Students Learn is the Focus, Not When Student Learn


One of the tenets of the Learning-Focused model is to plan lessons for learning, not for a specific amount of time or for a time slot. The Learning-Focused Lesson plan reminds teachers to plan for the concept, topic, or skill, not for the class period. Planning based on how students learn is the key differentiator of the Learning-Focused Lesson. When your plans are focused on whether students learn, instead of what is going to be covered or what worksheet students will complete, you can achieve a proficiency-based and competency-based learning outcome. Schools have found that using traditional unit and lesson plans, which are based on time in front of students, are ineffective for proficiency-based and competency-based learning models. Learning-Focused gives your teachers the planning framework, strategies and tools needed to provide individual students with personalized instruction, learning activities, assessments, and support when, where, and how they need it.[/restab]

[restab title=”Setting the Direction”]Schools that embrace the four dimensions of Learning-Focused put into effect the conditions of Next Generation Learning that enables proficiency-based and competency-based learning models to succeed when others do not. Exemplary schools overwhelmingly use one specific framework that defines how they will achieve their objectives and goals. This framework enables teachers to clearly succeed with their goals and meet today’s high standards.

Dynamic Engagement. Powerful Learning.


The Learning-Focused Instructional Framework provides the knowledge and skills required for truly effective teaching and deep learning by students. Exemplary schools use the standards, strategies and practices within each of part of a framework as a means to reach their goals. They ensure that teachers have the resources and professional development needed to provide the most effective lessons possible. They place a strong emphasis on having high expectations of students and challenging them with lessons and assignments that reflect those high expectations. With the Learning-Focused Instructional Framework, teachers will understand and apply measures that provide specific support for every student so they may become proficient. Most importantly, exemplary schools are exemplary because they are never satisfied with being just good enough.

  • Personalized learning is planned using an exemplary practices framework that is standards-based and driven by data to set learning goals, assess learning, and provide the most effective learning activities.
  • Students acquire world-class knowledge and skills through a mapped curriculum that sets achievement goals.

  • Opportunities for learning are not solely based on a text book, but through constructive learning activities that provide deep engagement.
  • Students demonstrate mastery of clear, high expectations with product-based and performance-based assignments.
  • Assignments and tasks allow students to direct their individual learning and shape their educational experiences.
  • Student learning moves through all four levels of learning so that they are expected to apply higher order thinking processes as part of demonstrating their learning
  • Comprehensive support of learning is provided to each student to address their individual development needs in order to ensure the success of all students.


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  • Schools work toward exceeding their goals with accountability and high levels of support that include on-going professional development, peer collaboration, peer observations, and exceptional resources.


In order to ensure that your time, energy, and funds are well spent, it is clear that successful implementation of a proficiency-based and competency-based learning model requires that each of the four dimensions are included in your plans. [/restab]

When you have chosen to embrace student learning and mastery of standards as the main focal point in your school, you are undertaking a monumental project. Who you choose to support your initiative makes a tremendous difference in your outcome. Learning-Focused is a proven leader for solutions and professional development of proficiency-based and competency-based learning.

[restab title=”Whitepaper”]Competency-Based and Proficiency-Based Learning WhitepaperDownload the Competency-Based and Proficiency-Based Learning Whitepaper.
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