AUGUSTA —The Maine Department of Education will allow school districts to slow the process of implementing a law that requires students to graduate from high school only after demonstrating they have met a set of state standards.

In response to multiple requests from school superintendents, the DOE outlined a set of six options districts can consider when transitioning to this education system, called “proficiency-based education.” A letter announcing these options was sent to superintendents from Education Commissioner Jim Rier on Wednesday.

“Increasingly, the Department has been hearing from you about the complexity of developing quality proficiency-based learning systems,” the letter read. “Even districts that have eagerly pursued implementation and believe deeply in the value of these systems in strengthening teaching and learning admit they may not be ready to award proficiency-based diplomas in all content areas and the Guiding Principles by 2018.”

Each of the six options, which the DOE says are extensions and do not make school districts permanently exempt from implementation, comes with a set of steps the district must take to demonstrate how they will eventually comply with the law in full.

Under the law, students graduating in 2018 and after will receive a high school diploma if they demonstrate they have met standards that relate to each of Maine’s eight content areas and five guiding principles.

The new extensions offer districts a range of possibilities for slowing down the implementation process. For example, districts that already have a fully proficiency-based education system in place for elementary and middle school students may now delay transitioning high school students to the system for two years. Districts can postpone implementing certain standards if they are requiring students to demonstrate proficiency in others.

Among the six extensions listed is an option that allows districts to put off fully implementing the new system until 2020.

If a district is approved for that option, it must also submit to two site visits from the DOE.

According to the DOE, “the eight content areas include standards for English language arts, mathematics, science and technology, social studies, health education and physical education, visual and performing arts, world languages, and career and education development.

“The Guiding Principles include standards related to being a: clear and effective communicator, self-directed and lifelong learner, creative and practical problem-solver, responsible and involved citizen, and integrative and informed thinker.”

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