Proficiency Based Learning (PBL) or Standards Based Learning (SBL)?

If you thought all of the great education debates were finished, our supervisory union has debated all year if we are going to adopt the term Proficiency Based Learning (PBL) or Standards Based Learning (SBL).

Although the former is more accurate to our intent–we wish to measure students demonstrating and not simply that standards exist–I cannot warm up to the term.  I think the term is too soft.  So, I did a bit of research as to its origins on

According to

1580s, back-formation from proficiency or else from Old French proficient(15c.), from Latin proficientem (nominative proficiens), present participle of proficere “to make progress, go forward, effect, accomplish, be useful” (seeproficiency ). Related: Proficiently.

Those soft French words–Romance languages in general–smack of someone is obfuscating what’s really going on. The entire catalog of edu-speak causes a general distrust among the public.

It is important that the public understands initiatives. They don’t have time for change, yet yearn for the system to work better than it currently is. The issues is trust–they want to trust that the change is, after all of the time and money and resources thrown at it–going to work.

The term standards is more direct. Again, from

1125-75; Middle English < Old French, probably < Frankish *standord(compare German Standort standing-point), conformed to -ard -ard

So gutteral. It feels real. As if we are holding people accountable. And that is what the citizenry craves. I believe that most people don’t mind spending money on a good education, but that we suspect that money is not being spent wisely.

Leave it to a word of German origin to cut to the core of the debate.


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