What is Proficiency-Based Education?

March 13, 2014

Maine Department of Education resources on Proficiency-Based education and Standards

Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 9.53.10 PMThe information below can be found by clicking on this link or on the title of this section.


What is Proficiency-Based Education?

Proficiency-based education refers to any system of academic instruction, assessment, grading and reporting that is based on students demonstrating mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn before they progress to the next lesson, get promoted to the next grade level or receive a diploma. In Maine, academic expectations and “proficiency” definitions for public-school courses, learning experiences, content areas and grade levels are outlined in the Maine Learning Results which includes the Guiding Principles, expectations for cross-disciplinary skills and life-long learning, and eight sets of content-area standards, including the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics.

The general goal of proficiency-based education is to ensure that students acquire the knowledge and skills that are deemed to be essential to success in school, higher education, careers and adult life. If students struggle to meet minimum expected standards, they receive additional instruction, practice time and academic support to help them achieve proficiency, but they do not progress in their education until expected standards are met.

The information below can be found by clicking on the link or on the word Standard.



A critical component of any proficiency-based education system is a clearly articulated set of learning standards that define what students are expected to know and be able to do. The following set of resources provides support for schools to identify and align standards in a proficiency-based system.

  • Standards in a Proficiency-Based EducationA description of the role standards play in a proficiency-based diploma.
  • Maine’s Guiding Principles. A link to the Guiding Principles and the five standards for the Guiding Principles. In 2018 students are required to demonstrate proficiency of the five standards of the Guiding Principles.
  • Eight Content Areas of the Maine Learning Results. A link to the eight content areas. These content standards include career and education development, English language arts, health education and physical education, mathematics, science and technology, social studies, visual and performing arts, and world languages. Schools are required to provide a program of instruction aligned to  the eight content areas. In 2018 students are required to demonstrate proficiency in the standards of the eight content areas.
  • The Proficiency-Based Learning Simplified (PBLS) Model. A model showing the relationship among the Guiding Principles, the content standards, performance indicators and unit-based learning objectives.
  • Sample Content Area  Reporting Standards. A set of example content-area reporting standards and performance indicators. These examples show one way that schools can organize content area standards to report proficiency of the standards for the purposes of awarding a proficiency-based diploma.
  • Standards Resources. A set of design criteria, protocols and other resources for creating content area reporting standards.

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