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Why the shift to proficiency-based grading?

Why the shift to proficiency-based grading?

Bringing the Brilliance: St. Anthony - New Brighton Schools roadmap for proficiency-based grading

This is the first part in a three-part series on proficiency-based grading. St. Anthony - New Brighton (SANB) Schools has been embarking on utilizing proficiency-based grading at St. Anthony Middle School (SAMS) and will fully implement it in all schools by the fall of 2025.
Part 1: What is Proficiency-Based Grading?

Part 2: Lessons Learned in SAMS Implementation

Part 3: Implementing Proficiency-Based Grading in SANB by 2025

“Rather than teach students to be curious about the academic content, to care about their progress as a learner, to invest in the health of the classroom community, to co-construct productive relationships with their peers or teacher, we teach them to care about points. We take children who come to school with an innate interest in learning and growing, and we teach them those things are only a means to the ultimate end: lots of points.” – Joe Feldman, Grading for Equity

What is proficiency-based grading?

Proficiency-based grading is a system that focuses on student learning, growth and mastery of skills rather than traditional letter grades. Many educators have embraced proficiency-based grading as an effective way to assess and track student progress, and it has numerous benefits for students and families alike. At St. Anthony - New Brighton Schools, we are in a multi-year adoption of proficiency-based grading, with full implementation by fall 2025. 

One of the primary advantages of proficiency-based grading is that it provides students, families and even colleges with a more accurate reflection of their abilities and knowledge. Unlike traditional letter grades, which are often subjective and include measures unrelated to specific learning objectives (like extra credit and turning in work late), proficiency-based grading measures what a student can do and how well they can do it. This system allows students to see where they excel and where they need to focus their efforts to improve.   

The focus on reporting on specific learning goals doesn’t mean that punctuality and other soft skills are not important - they just aren’t related to what we are measuring for student learning and should not be included in academic grades. However, we strive to find alternative ways to report on work habits and leadership skills. We firmly believe in ensuring students have skills to thrive emotionally and socially in adaptive environments and positively contribute as thriving citizens. Therefore, we also want to find ways to give feedback on these aspects of student success.

We know our students feel their best when they feel supported by their teachers and staff. Staff have an opportunity to introduce a growth mindset among students through the use of proficiency-based learning and grading. By focusing on mastery and growth of the standards and skills, rather than simply achieving a specific overall grade, students are encouraged to take risks, learn from mistakes and strive for continuous improvement. This approach creates a positive learning environment that encourages students to take ownership of their education and become more engaged in the learning process.

Proficiency-based grading gives families more detailed information about their child’s progress. For example, rather than only receiving a single letter grade, families can see a breakdown of their child’s proficiency in different areas, allowing them to better understand their child’s strengths and weaknesses and provide targeted support.

How this looks in a grade book may differ at each school building. There is no “one way” to implement proficiency-based grading on a report card. We know that there are components, such as GPA, that may still be needed at the high school level as students plan their post-high school options and differences based on what is developmentally appropriate for students to use. Each school will engage in a process to determine the layout of the grade book that is rooted in research and collaboration.

We’re so excited to be rolling out proficiency-based grading at all St. Anthony - New Brighton Schools! We’ve found that it is an effective way to promote student learning and growth. By focusing on mastery and growth, this system provides students with a more accurate reflection of their abilities, promotes a growth mindset and provides families with more detailed information about their child’s progress. 

Resources to learn more

There are several experts and researchers on effective and equitable grading practices from whom we have learned. Several, if not all, of them have written books that are well-known and respected among the educational community, but below are a few resources to check out if you are interested. 

In our next installment, we will look at what we have learned from implementing proficiency-based grading at SAMS, and how we will use that learning in our district-wide rollout. Stay tuned!

Contact our team with your questions:

Andrew Hodges
Director of Teaching & Learning

Kari Bodurtha
District Testing Coordinator
Jaimee Stanley
District Literacy Coordinator
Heidi Haagenson 
Teaching & Learning Coordinator


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