RSU 5 Changes

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS! Meet up with us! Thursday, April 5th at 6:30 pm at the Freeport Community Library!

Proficiency/standards-based education and grading are in the news throughout the state. Check the posts and read some quick points about our concerns to learn more. And after checking out the info, please reach out to RSU 5’s Board to share your thoughts. This community feels the changes may have unintended effects that have not been properly researched. Feedback from teachers, parents, and the community is encouraged.

Concerns and background info.

As many of us are finding out, RSU 5 is rolling out “proficiency/standards-based education and grading” in the district, as quickly and, seemingly, as quietly as possible. The new system not only tries to address state law, but seems to take it a step further and revamp the whole grading system in our schools.

While it appears to be in response to a state law passed back in 2012 (LD 1422), that law was open to quite a bit of interpretation and left it to local school districts to interpret and implement. The law mentions that districts will need to grant proficiency-based diplomas that show students are proficient (a metric that is up to each district to define and measure) in 8 core areas, in order to graduate.

The districts, in planning this, got instruction from the Department of Education as to how to achieve this. Some districts appear to have understood this to mean that a core overhaul would have to happen in instruction, testing, and grading (to the proficiency-based 1 – 4 system). But that is not what was mandated by the state — back in 2012, or now — even as they’re currently talking about changing the requirements again (they were already modified in 2016). And now, there’s even a state representative working to try to repeal the whole law.

Some school districts jumped at the chance to develop their own answers to the new law. Yarmouth schools decided they would follow the spirit of the law (since much of it was loosely defined and left to interpretation) and incorporated the standards in their teaching, but are defining their own way to report on the levels of proficiency. For grading purposes and determining proficiency, they determined that an 80 percent or higher on 3 out of 5 cornerstones would be considered proficient — and still be able to address the law’s new requirements.

Greely High School in MSAD #51 had a similar response. They would ensure that students met proficiency standards, but there was no need to overhaul the whole grading system and add even more complexity and confusion to the system.

In Cape Elizabeth, while they are making changes, they have communicated that they don’t currently plan to change traditional grades, or their grading scale.

What those school systems seem to share, is the desire to communicate and have a dialog with their community about the changes. In fact, that was part of what the state’s DOE instructed districts to do — to have early and regular conversations with the members of their community (steps 5 and 6 under Community Engagement in the Self-Assessment document provided by the DOE).

We don’t intend to speak for all parents. What we want is the chance to speak. In a public forum. With teachers. With administrators. With the board. Online. These are our kids. I don’t think any one of us is wanting to hold them back or hold back progress. But an overhaul of a system doesn’t guarantee progress. And the overhaul, despite how it’s been promoted, doesn’t have to look like this — untested and still experimental. If it’s such a great system, then those who support it should welcome the discussions and the chance to explain how and why implementing it this way is what this district needs to do to stay competitive with our neighbors to the south, and more importantly, to truly improve education for our kids.

Want to join us and ask that the school board engage us in a real conversation about standards-based education and grading? Sign the petition and we’ll keep you updated!

Opinion piece on proficiency-based education and Maine law

Below is a link to nice overview that explains that Maine’s LD 1422 (passed in 2012) mandates a “proficiency diploma” for graduation — it does NOT mandate Proficiency-Based Learning/Proficiency-Based Education as the only means for districts to meet this requirement. You can view Maine’s statute here.

A key excerpt from the post (linked below):

This method [proficiency-based learning/education] is not part of the law, nor is it a recognized system validated through rigorous and objective research. Rather it is an amalgam of tools and methods that the department has embraced and advertised as necessary to put the law in place. It [Maine’s Department of Education] mounted an entire website devoted to it and sent out a slew of consultants to help schools adopt it. Bearing the education department seal of approval, this method has permeated almost every school and classroom in the state without legislative mandate or public discussion and debate. It has erroneously become viewed as having the weight of law.


The proficiency-based diploma: There was a better way