Proficiency-Based Learning

Proficiency-based learning is a key component to providing flexible and multiple pathways for Rhode Island students and is a central tenet of the Rhode Island Secondary School Regulations. 


Proficiency-based education is a personalized approach to education that awards credit on the basis of a student’s demonstrated mastery of desired learning outcomes—regardless of how long that learning takes. In a proficiency- based model, the level of expectation for student learning is high for all students, with each student responsible for meeting common established learning goals— or, proficiencies. Proficiency-based systems typically include these features: 

  • Clear expectations for learning – explicit, measurable learning targets in both content area skills and cross-curricular skills; 
  • Meaningful  assessments where students receive timeline and differentiated support and feedback; 
  • Students advanced upon demonstrating proficiency, not based on seat time or instructional minutes;  
  • Personalized learning opportunities where students exercise voice and choice in learning and assessment options; and 
  • Learning outcomes emphasize proficiencies that include the application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions. 

Proficiency-based learning is designed to identify and address gaps in learning to provide equitable learning opportunities for every student.  To ensure that all students succeed in meeting learning targets, educators provide more personalized learning opportunities and supports and allow students to learn at varying times and places, assess their learning when they are ready, and progress at their own pace.

Rhode Island Learning Champions

Rhode Island Learning Champions

Building Resources to Support Proficiency-Based Learning 

The Rhode Island Learning Champions project, a collaborative effort of the Rhode Island Department of Education and the Great Schools Partnership, brings together outstanding Rhode Island educators and administrators to build the components of a proficiency-based learning system. The goal of this effort, funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, is to support high quality proficiency-based learning from K to 12 to ensure every graduate can think critically and collaboratively and can act as a creative, self-motivated, culturally competent learner and citizen in order to be prepared for post-secondary education, work, and life.

The RI Learning Champions recently completed Phase 1 of their work. In Phase 1, RI Learning Champions: 

  • Developed a supportive network of educators from across the state;
  • Explored the role of proficiency-based learning in classrooms, schools and districts;
  • Crafted a set of proficiencies, performance indicators and scoring criteria for the cross-curricular skills of Communication, Collaboration, Problem Solving, Research and Reflection and Evaluation; 
  • Crafted a set of K-12 proficiencies and performance indicators for ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies.  
*The completed set of proficiencies developed by the RI Learning Champions will be available in February 2018. 

RI Learning Champions Phase Two: Applications Now OPEN until January 29, 2018

RIDE is excited to start the process of identifying additional talented Rhode Island educators to serve as Rhode Island Learning Champions for Phase 2. This group of educators and administrators will work to design sample assessments aligned to proficiencies, performance indicators and scoring criteria.  They will also develop a community of practitioner-learners to explore and support Proficiency-Based Learning in their classrooms, schools and/or districts. 

The opportunity to become a Learning Champion is open to all educators, K-12, interested in working on assessment design in the areas of mathematics, English language arts, science, and social studies. Participants will receive a $500 stipend and substitute reimbursement.

The application can be found here and must be completed online by Monday, January 29, 2018 at 5pm.

Please contact Cali Cornell (cali.cornell@ride.ri.gov) or Kate Schulz (Kate.Schulz@ride.ri.gov) with questions.

Helpful Materials and Resources

Proficiency-Based Learning Resources

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Suggested Readings

Proficiency-Based Learning Articles and Readings

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