“Pretesting was very important to establishing my son at RPA. He only needs instruction once. He immediately gets it. So the concept of proficiency was very important, and that it was practiced and used. ‘If they know it, prove it and move on to learning something else.’ ”
Proficiency at RPA equals the demonstration of learning.
In traditional educational systems, students have a finite amount of time (generally one term) to achieve the predetermined academic goals set before them. Many are able to do so, but many others are unable. Other students are bored because they have easily achieved the goals and have nothing left to do.
At RPA, students take as little or as much time as they need to achieve their own academic goals. Each student, having chosen a unique class schedule, moves forward toward mastery of concepts. If students need more time to demonstrate their learning, they arrange this with their instructor. If they have finished, they move on to new challenges.
There are a couple of ways to consider proficiency grading. First of all, all students fall somewhere on a continuum in terms of their learning abilities. Some are high achievers in all subjects and some struggle with most subjects, while the majority fall somewhere in the middle. They do work at a steady grade level in most subjects or they bounce between doing well in some subjects and struggling with others.
RPA’s proficiency model works with each student at the point they place on the continuum subject-by-subject and class-by-class. As a result, a student who enjoys the humanities may be taking classes at an accelerated pace and earning As. That same student may struggle with math and may see a C or proficiency as an acceptable measure of their accomplishment (and interest). From RPA’s perspective, that student is achieving a balance between achieving proficiency in core subjects, while also having the opportunity to blossom where his or her true interests and talents are.
It’s also a philosophy. Students are given the time and support they need to achieve proficiency without the burden of taking classes over and over, and without the stigma of failing. Key to this is the emphasis RPA puts on students owning their education and defining the level of success they want to achieve, and it contributes to a learning environment that is academically challenging, while accepting students’ differences.