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Proficiency Based Grading: How It Will Affect Your Child

Over the next several months Utah schools will be implementing Proficiency Based Grading (PBG). What does this mean for kids that have attention issues and other learning deficits? It means that students’ grades will be based primarily on test scores and not on assignments or extra credit work. Most schools will assign homework, but it won’t be included in the compilation of final grades.

Homework will be used to introduce new skills, and to review problems and concepts. Grading will only be one part of a larger reporting system. Newsletters, digital portfolios, emails, open houses, phone calls and student-let parents conferences will also be integrated into the principles of PBG. Opportunities for students to demonstrate proficiency will be created by teachers through multiple modalities including: assignments, observations, portfolios, assessments, projects and discussions.

Students who are diagnosed with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) struggle with paying attention, completing tasks, and those with hyperactivity may have trouble controlling impulsivity. Many students with ADHD also have difficulty with aspects of executive function like goal setting, time management, task initiation, organization, and working memory. Proficiency Based Grading may be problematic for kids in this spectrum.

Proficiency Based Grading will require students to test well and have strong working memory skills. Working memory allows individuals to hold onto information, work with information, and use information long enough to learn and perform specific tasks. There are two types of working memory: auditory memory and visual-spacial memory. Working memory is like a temporary “sticky note” that allows students to remember and visualize numbers, and other concepts necessary to succeed in school. Many different subjects like math and reading are affected be weak working memory skills.

Kids’ that struggle with working memory feel frustrated and find it difficult to complete school work and other tasks. Poor working memory makes it challenging for them to retrieve information, hold onto facts and concepts, and make sense out of learned information. The part of the brain responsible for working memory is also responsible for maintaining focus and concentration. Implementing strategies to improve working memory will help kids feel more capable and confident. It’s critical that students with ADHD and other learning deficits have specific accommodations built into their 504 Plan or IEP assessments. Without accommodations and support, many students will find it difficult to thrive under the Proficiency-Based Grading format.

Why is it important for your child to have a 504 plan or IEP assessment in place? A 504 plan and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) are a blueprint designed to support kids and their parents and are covered by specific laws. They work differently but, in the end, the goal for both is the same, these plans list accommodations to help students find success in school. Many kids with learning deficits and attention issues don’t need individualized instruction or special education but might need support or services at school. A 504 Plan and an IEP specify how school administrators and teachers will provide support for a child ensuring that he or she will have equal access to the general education curriculum. On the assessment, there is also a location that lists student and parent responsibilities.

A 504 Plan is designed to remove barriers to learning and provide students with disabilities an opportunity to learn along with their peers with support and accommodations from educational professionals. An IEP provides information to help parents and educators have a deeper understanding of a child’s strengths and challenges. A child must have one or more of the 13 specific disabilities listed in the IDEA to qualify for an IEP. It outlines a specific plan that the school will follow to improve and build a child’s skills.

It’s important to recognize that children with ADHD and other learning deficits don’t need to try harder they need special accommodations, support, and understanding. At Thorup Tutoring we are committed to assisting you and your student through this process. Under the PBG format our academic therapists will pay close attention to the following:

  1. Identifying that grading is only one part of a larger reporting system.

  2. Tracking proficiency scales.

  3. Verifying that modifications are in place.

  4. Ensuring that multiple opportunities and additional time and support will be provided if needed, to meet proficiencies.

  5. Checking that feedback is based on clear criteria related to student’s level of performance that will inform the student and their family about what they do well and what additional work may be needed for a student to demonstrate proficiency.

Parents, over the next few months we suggest that you take the time to evaluate your child’s current situation and determine whether a 504 Plan or IEP needs to be written or updated in order to help he or she succeed under the new Proficiency-Based Grading system. If necessary, have an academic therapist from Thorup Tutoring review your child’s neuropsyche evaluation and current 504 Plan or IEP assessment in depth, type up a summary of suggested accommodations and accompany you to the meeting with the school team. We firmly believe that teaching children specific skills to manage their deficits and improve working memory is the key to helping them succeed in school and later in life.

About the author

Vikki Carrel

Academic Language Therapist, Multi-book Author, National Speaker

Vikki empowers people! She is an Academic Language Therapist, multi-book author and a national speaker. Vikki grew up in Salt Lake City, met her husband at the University of Utah, and has owned several companies across the United States. In 2010, Vikki and her husband moved back to Utah from Doylestown, Pennsylvania and she founded Vikki Carrel & Company, a speaking and training organization. Read more about the author

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