Background Info and Concerns

Concerns with proficiency/standards-based grading:

  • highly subjective
  • students are less competitive for college admissions
  • diminishes student motivation
  • barrier to students with special needs
  • not required to comply with Maine law

For those new to the issue, we would encourage you to familiarize yourself with proficiency-based education and, specifically, the implementation of proficiency/standards-based grading. There are many helpful resources that can be found on this website, including independent articles, as well as online through a keyword search. To get you started, here is a brief summary of our main concerns:

  1. Proficiency/standards-based grading is highly subjective and based on a teacher’s best guess about performance. It is defined by categories (i.e., 1=Beginning, 2=Developing, 3=Meeting, 4=Exceeding) rather than quantifiable performance (i.e., 0-100%). This results in inconsistent grading standards, with some teachers even saying a grade of 4 (Exceeding) cannot be achieved. This subjective system causes confusion for students, teachers, and parents alike, who cannot readily identify a path to academic success.
  2. Proficiency/standards-based grading is excessively ambiguous/subjective, which does not translate well into college applications. Since grades do not reflect measurable performance, but rather subjective categories, it will be difficult to accurately differentiate between many students who are “Meeting” the standard, putting our RSU-5 students at a distinct disadvantage when compared to students throughout the nation who use a quantifiable, percentile grading system.
  3. Proficiency/standards-based grading does not encourage students to reach their potential. When the most likely outcome for grades is “Meeting” the standard and the maximum grade (4=Exceeding) can only occasionally be achieved, there is little incentive to work hard and study beyond the bare minimum. This lack of incentive results in low motivation and a lower quality of education, overall.
  4. Proficiency/standards-based grading creates an additional barrier for students with learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia) and other special needs. Since grades are assigned subjectively and there is a wide margin between each category, this system does not distinguish well between high and low achievers. This lack of specificity makes it more difficult for educators to identify children with special needs, resulting in greater difficulty accessing vital services for needed academic success.
  5. Proficiency/standards-based grading was not required to comply with Maine requirements for proficiency-based diploma. There are many fine examples of schools incorporating proficiency based-education, without the implementation of proficiency/standards-based grading, including Yarmouth, Greely, and Cape Elizabeth.