VUHS course has wider impact

VERGENNES — Although the Humanities course at Vergennes Union High School predates the Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirement (PBGR) effort at the school by two years, it has gained attention not only at VUHS, but elsewhere in the state.
In essence, PBGRs require students to do more than gather credits to graduate: They must show mastery of material. PBGRs also encourage student-directed projects. New Vermont standards require schools to incorporate proficiency-based learning and Personal Learning Plans. VUHS is ahead of that curve, and VUHS officials say Department of Education model PBGRs look like the school’s.
See related story: Class challenges VUHS students
Other VUHS courses have looked to the Humanities presentations and the way they are evaluated, said Social Studies teacher Becca Coffey, who has team-taught Humanities with English teacher Michael Thomas for seven years.
“A lot of times when PBGR tasks are talked about, they use this course as a model for that work,” Coffey said. “It’s interdisciplinary. It’s drawing on inquiry skills and research skills and personal learning goals.”
Coffey and Thomas have also presented their course and how it handles proficiency demonstration in a liberal arts course to the Vermont Alliance for Social Studies.
“A lot of people around the state see this as a good model. Now that the state wants us to go to proficiency-based learning, people are looking at how can we do that,” Taylor said.
VUHS Principal Stephanie Taylor, who sat in on one Jan. 22 roundtable, called the Humanities class “one excellent model of what a proficiency-based approach can accomplish.”
She said her job requires the same skills students used that morning, and cited the middle school’s development of Capstone projects as another good example of proficiency-based learning.
“Both represent a challenging and valuable experience where students expand on a personal interest through research, develop an informed opinion, and present to an audience,” the principal said in an email. “My hope is that we expand our capacity to place this type of learning within the community.”
Senior Tia Hunt, who took the Humanities class this past semester, would probably lobby for more students to have similar opportunities.
“This class, both bringing in the Social Studies and the writing, was interesting to me. And the individuality you were able to have and experience in this class were really amazing,” she said, adding, “I learned a lot about myself as a person, my personality, and as a writer.”

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