Auburn schools will use proficiency-based learning and traditional grades for some students

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AUBURN — Superintendent Katy Grondin announced Wednesday night that students in grades seven to 10 will be graded in two ways this fall: the traditional 0-100 and 1 to 4.

The 1-4 grades, which are part of the proficiency-based learning program, will not apply to juniors and seniors.

Proficiency-based education requires students to demonstrate they have mastered a defined set of skills before they can move on to the next set. Students must keep working with teachers until they can demonstrate mastery of each set of skills. The grading system gives a 1 for not proficient, 2 for partially proficient, 3 for proficient and 4 for exceeding proficiency.

After local parents protested the new grading system last spring, calling it confusing and bad for students, a task force studied the issue. Students, teachers and parents surveyed showed widespread opposition to it.

In June, the task force recommended returning to 0-100 grades, a recommendation the Auburn School Department would implement, officials said.

Since the task force disbanded in June, the Maine Legislature passed a law repealing the requirement that Maine high schools issue proficiency-based diplomas.

“I would like to know have you had any discussions about whether to continue with PBL and customized learning?” parent Laura Garcia asked. The surveys showed an overwhelming desire to return to traditional grades, and “teachers did not want dual grading.”

Auburn schools are returning to traditional grading to satisfy parents, “but we’re still going down the path of requiring students to meet targets,” she said. That means a student may pass a course, “but if they don’t satisfy a target, they don’t pass.”

“My concern is you’ve got a kid great in math, but they just can’t get fractions.” Garcia said. “They’re never going to meet that target. They don’t get a diploma.”

Grondin responded that the traditional grading and targets are both important.

“We recognize the importance of traditional scales and the importance of targets,” she said.

Neither trumps the other, Grondin said.

“You can’t (meet) all the targets and not pass your classes, just like you can’t pass your classes and not meet targets,” Grondin said. “They do go hand in hand.”

Garcia pressed on, asking if the School Committee has discussed continuing with proficiency-based learning.

Kendall said it has.

Garcia said as far as she knew, the committee had not.

“It’s important the community see you folks discuss the pros and cons, especially if you want to have trust,” she said.

Committee member Bob Mennealy said the committee should have that discussion in view of the change in state law.

City Councilor Alfreda Fournier, the mayor’s representative on the committee, also she didn’t recall such a discussion and favored having one.

Grondin agreed to schedule one.

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