Monday Myths #3 Proficiency Scoring Leads to More Missed Work

02/20/2023 03:10 AM Comment(s) By Rich Westrick

Data show it’s the opposite….

One persistent myth around proficiency-based scoring and reporting (PBSR) is that without points to “motivate” students (we’ll debunk that myth in a future post), they simply won’t turn in assignments. However, in looking at actual data from a school using the PBSR system, it turns out that the number of missing assignments plummeted! Why is that?


It all boils down to two things: student invisibility and accountability.


What’s invisibility? In a traditional points-based grading system, missing work (including homework) is given a zero.

The teacher says, “Well, I’ve done my job. They got a zero. Let’s move on.”

The student says, “Well, I got a zero. I’ll try harder to turn in stuff in the future.”

The parent says, “You need to start doing your homework!”

…and everyone moves on. Teachers’ gradebooks can be riddled with zeroes and yet students remain invisible – if you don’t turn in your work, you are “punished” appropriately (a zero)…but that’s usually about it.


In SmartScore™, invisibility is not an option. Missing assignments appear prominently on the teacher’s gradebook and on the student’s Learning Snapshot. Assignments are missing until they are turned in. After all, if we assigned something because it’s our professional opinion that the work is important for students to gain understanding or skills, why would we let them off with a zero and move on? We looked at the number of missing assignments in an Oregon middle school that switched to PBSR. The amount of missing work was cut in half after switching to PBSR and SmartScore™. Don’t let students hide behind a zero to become invisible!


What’s accountability in a PBSR system? Just because a homework assignment isn’t worth points doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a consequence for not completing it. Whether this means after school or lunch time, or eligibility for extra-curriculars (see Monday Myths #2), consequences are important. Accountability is important. If the work is valuable enough for us to assign (and grade!), then it should be a priority for students to complete it.


Fact: When we remove invisibility and promote accountability, missing work plummets and student performance improves.

We would love to hear your comments and experiences. Please comment below.


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