SAD 17 seeks more time to implement proficiency-based diplomas

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PARIS — The SAD 17 board of directors voted Monday night to approve the district’s proficiency-based diploma extension application.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, a Maine high school diploma must be based on student demonstration of proficiency, according to state law.

The application is being made to ensure that the plan in place is effective for students,  Curriculum Director Heather Manchester said. The recommendation is supported by the Curriculum Committee, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Principal Ted Moccia and Oxford Hills Middle School Principal Troy Eastman.

“It gives us extra time to put a good plan in place. It’s not delaying or putting something off,” Manchester said.

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If approved, the district will have until 2019 to enact the plan.

SAD 17 educators have been working full time on the plan and have made “excellent progress,” Manchester said, but they still need more time to ensure the plan will give the students the best chance for success.

If approved, the extension will allow educators to move forward with a plan that addresses all subjects rather than singling out English Language Arts and mathematics, which has been the focus.

Proficiency-based education requires students to demonstrate mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn before they progress to the next lesson, get promoted to the next grade level or receive a diploma, according to the state statute. It removes the A-F grading system.

The Department of Education states that, “The general goal of proficiency-based education is to ensure that students acquire the knowledge and skills that are deemed to be essential to success in school, higher education, careers and adult life.”

The department states that if a student struggles to meet the minimum of expected standards, they will receive additional instruction, practice time and academic support to help them achieve proficiency. They will not progress until the expected standards are met.

The law states all current ninth-grade students need to graduate with a diploma certifying proficiency in all the content areas, including foreign language, career preparation and in the state’s Guiding Principles, which is part of Maine’s learning standards.

The Guiding Principles state, for example, that each Maine student must leave school as, “ a clear and effective communicator who demonstrates organized and purposeful communication in English and at least one other language; a self-directed and lifelong learner who recognizes the need for information and locates and evaluates resources;” and “a creative and practical problem-solver who observes and evaluates situations to define problems.”

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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