OSSU’s vision of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment is based on the following:


  • Student-Centered Learning
  • Proficiency Based Learning
  • Alignment to the Vermont Board of Education’s Education Quality Standards (EQS)
  • Alignment to Vermont state content standards
  • Alignment to School Board Ends


Student Centered Learning


  • All students can and will learn when they feel included, respected, and valued by their learning community.
  • Students are known as individuals and learners, and they are supported in developing positive relationships with each other and with adults in the learning community.
  • The curriculum, classrooms, and structures of the school recognize and honor student identities and interests.
  • The district and school communities have systems and structures that engage and include all students, families, and the broader community in meaningful ways.
  • The district and school actively work to uncover and eliminate systemic inequities based on demographic groups and identity traits.
  • Students are empowered and engaged by choice in their learning experiences.
  • All learning pathways (courses, internships, extended learning opportunities, etc.) are aligned to a common set of competencies.
  • Learning in different ways and at varied paces is expected and planned for in all settings, requiring differentiation, student choice, and personalized learning options to meet common outcomes.
  • Students make important decisions about their learning experiences and how they will demonstrate their knowledge and skills.


Proficiency Based Learning (PBL)


Proficiency-based learning refers to systems of instruction, assessment, grading and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education. If students fail to meet expected learning standards, they typically receive additional instruction, practice time, and academic support to help them achieve proficiency or meet the expected standards.

While the goal of proficiency-based learning is to ensure that more students learn what they are expected to learn, the approach can also provide educators with more detailed or fine-grained information about student learning progress, which can help them more precisely identify academic strengths and weakness, as well as the specific concepts and skills students have not yet mastered. Since academic progress is often tracked and reported by learning standards in proficiency-based courses and schools, educators and parents often know more precisely what specific knowledge and skills students have acquired or may be struggling with. For example, instead of receiving a letter grade on an assignment or test, each of which may address a variety of standards, students are graded on specific learning standards, each of which describes the knowledge and skills students are expected to acquire.

Advocates of proficiency-based learning argue that the practice is a more equitable approach to public education, since it holds all students to the same high standards regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status, or whether they attend schools in poor or affluent communities.


Establishing Standards/Proficiencies Best Practices


  • Learning outcomes are clearly articulated and consistently applied to all students, including those that are long-term (graduation competencies and performance indicators), short-term (learning targets), and habits of work.
  • A successful standards-based grading framework should establish clear categories and learning targets that properly assess and track student knowledge.
  • Rubrics are used and shared for each course’s learning goals and standards/indicators.
Proficiency Based Grading (PBGR)


Proficiency-based grading aims to improve student outcomes by changing the way teachers communicate and students demonstrate progress. Proficiency-based grading provides students, teachers, and parents with specific, actionable information regarding student mastery of specific concepts. Furthermore, the flexible time frames for completing tasks and the opportunities to relearn material help ensure that students learn foundational concepts before progressing to new content.

The system’s core concept is that student grades should accurately reflect achievement levels. Accordingly, in a standards-based grading framework, students do not receive an overall grade that averages their work performance over time that may also include nonacademic factors such as behavior. Instead, they receive multiple grades that reflect their proficiency relative to specific expectations. Teachers also encourage students to practice a concept or skill until they can demonstrate full mastery of each standard.



Grades and Reports Should Be Based on Clearly Specified Learning Goals and Performance Standards

  • All students will be graded using the same standards.
Evidence Used for Grading Should Be Valid
  • Students are assessed on what they are taught.

Grading Should Be Based on Established Criteria (Rubrics), Not on Arbitrary Norms

  • On a math assessment, students are graded on the math standards assessed, not arbitrary norms such as poor handwriting or missing names on their paper.
Not Everything Should be Included in Grades
  • Students are not graded as they are learning the information, but after the learning has occurred.
  • Students need to have adequate formative, ungraded practice in order to be successful on the summative, graded assessments.
Avoid Grading Based on Averages
  • Grading should reflect student performance as of the end of the grading period, rather than across the grading period.

Focus on Achievement, and Report Other Factors Separately

  • Students’ achievement should be the only aspect included in their grade.
  • Students’ math grades will reflect their math achievement. Work habits and responsibilities during math will be reported separately.




  • Student learning is enhanced by clear cycles of practice, feedback, assessment, and reflection.
  • All forms of assessment are aligned to a common set of competencies.
  • Assessment criteria and rubrics are shared with students in advance to help them understand standards and expectations.
  • Students are offered appropriate assessment choices.
  • Habits of work are assessed and reported separately from academic knowledge and skills.
  • The continual use of formative assessment provides opportunities for students to practice, self-assess, and give and receive feedback.
  • Summative assessments, evaluated against common scoring criteria, are used to evaluate a student’s level of achievement on competencies and performance indicators at a given point in time.
  • All forms of feedback (including grades) are used to adjust instruction and learning, to inform academic interventions, and to identify extensions of learning.
  • Students regularly reflect on their learning progress and are taught to evaluate and use feedback.
  • Students are provided with specific, clear feedback as early and often as possible.
  • Self-assessment and goal-setting are encouraged among students.
  • New evidence is allowed to replace old evidence in student assessments
Developing Summative Assessment Strategies


In developing summative assessments, teachers should distinguish between teaching activities through which students learn and practice, and summative assessments through which students demonstrate their knowledge.

  • Replace final exams with periodic, authentic summative assessments.
  • Require students to pass each summative assessment to complete a portion of the course.
  • Require students to pass all summative assessments to earn credit for the course.
  • Require students to complete alternate credit opportunities when they do not pass summative assessments.
  • Revise the summative grade, based on the most recent summative assessment results, especially for standards that appear multiple times over the course.


This graphic, below, illustrates how different learning targets/indicators/proficiencies are scaffolded in a hierarchical, systematic fashion:



Link to OSSU Graduation Proficiencies



Vermont State Board of Education – Education Quality Standards (EQS)



OSSU graduation requirements, curriculum and course offerings are largely based on complying with state mandates, specifically the EQS:

2120.5. Curriculum Content.

Each supervisory union board shall ensure the written and delivered curriculum within their supervisory union is aligned with the standards approved by the State Board of Education. Each school shall enable students to engage annually in rigorous, relevant and comprehensive learning opportunities that allows them to demonstrate proficiency in

a. literacy (including critical thinking, language, reading, speaking and listening, and writing);

b. mathematical content and practices (including numbers, operations, and the concepts of algebra and geometry by the end of grade 10);

c. scientific inquiry and content knowledge (including the concepts of life sciences, physical sciences, earth and space sciences and engineering design);

d. global citizenship (including the concepts of civics, economics, geography, world language, cultural studies and history);

e. physical education and health education as defined in 16 V.S.A. §131;

f. artistic expression (including visual, media and performing arts); and

g. transferable skills (including communication, collaboration, creativity, innovation, inquiry, problem solving and the use of technology).


Vermont State Content Standards


OSSU Graduation Proficiencies and Performance Indicators are developed by OSSU educators and are aligned to recommended Vermont state standards, based on the following content-based resources:

  • ELA Common Core State standards
  • Math Common Core State standards
  • Next Generation Science standards
  • C3 Global Citizenship standards
  • National Core Art standards
  • ISTE Technology standards
  • Jump$tart Personal Finance standards
  • National Health Education standards
  • SHAPE Physical Education standards


School Board Ends


Each of OSSU's town school districts, union school districts or merged/unified districts has an elected school board that sets administrative policies for its school. At this point, all boards use Policy Governance to establish Ends, or goals and outcomes. Please navigate to individual school board web pages to review board Ends.



Selected References:




Amy Masse', OSSU Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and Grants


Sean McCarthy: Data Manager


Or, your school building Principals, Teachers.