PARIS — SAD 17 educators say a committee of administrators and teachers is looking at whether to discard the traditional academic letter grades when the state-mandated proficiency diploma requirement takes effect.

In 2018,  high schools must award diplomas based on students demonstrating proficiency in eight content areas. Although school districts are not required to adopt a new grading system, many are doing so, Maine Department of Education spokeswoman Samantha Warren said.

State education officials are primarily seeing local districts change to a 1-4 grading system from the A-F system because the new system “can better provide students and parents information about their progress toward proficiency,” she said.

Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Principal Ted Moccia said the committee has not begun to tackle the grading and reporting requirement.

“We do feel we are well positioned, though, because we currently report to standards for every class at the high school and the middle school,” Moccia said. “The discussion on reporting and grading needs to focus on what it means to be proficient and how that will or will not affect current grading practices.”

Warren told the Sun Journal in an emailed statement that typical A-F grades compare students and often include other factors — such as attendance, participation and extra credit — beyond student knowledge and understanding of a subject.

“This is how a student who doesn’t understand the material fully, but completes all their assignments and comes to class each day, can get an equal or even higher grade than a student who can clearly meet the standards, but didn’t turn in all of their homework or missed class,” Warren said.

“As the focus shifts from a student simply passing a course to demonstrating true proficiency of set standards, how that is reflected in a student grade also likely needs to evolve to better communicate that,” she said.

Warren said that the grading system a district chooses is strictly a local decision. As a result, she said, grading systems may vary from district to district and so may their meaning.

Warren said everyone must be clear what the grading system is based on.

“Regardless of what a district decides to adopt as its grading system, what will be critical is that it is clearly communicated to students, parents, institutes of higher education … what the grade represents,” Warren said.

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