LEWISTON — Lewiston High School student Parker Brownrigg, 15, said he’s frustrated with how he and other freshmen are being graded.

“It’s ruining our freshman year,” he said.

He and some parents of freshmen want the School Committee to put the new proficiency-based diploma on hold.

But it has support from educators and some parents, who say it needs more time. If the high school stays the course, it will improve education for the Class of 2018 and those who follow, they said.

The School Committee will hear a brief report about it on Monday, March 9, and a full report on March 16 by high school Principal Shawn Chabot. Some members questioned if Lewiston should apply to the state for a one-year waiver, giving schools more time to correct problems.

The state-mandated, proficiency-based diploma will begin with the Class of 2018. It indicates students have demonstrated proficiency in all subject areas and meet other requirements  specified by the school department. Students progress at their own pace, making learning more meaningful.

The new system involves a new grading system, and there’s the rub.

Instead of letter grades, students get a number from 1 to 4. A 1 indicates the student doesn’t know the material; 2 indicates the student is partially proficient; 3 means they are proficient; and 4 means they exceed proficiency.

The problem is, Brownrigg said, not all teachers follow that. One teacher may say if a student gets all of the questions right, he or she earns a 4. Or if a student gets two questions wrong, they get a 3. Other teachers allow small errors and give a 4, Brownrigg said.

Plus, some teachers grade students who excel in a subject harder than the next student, who’s not as good. Grading should be objective and consistent, he said.

“We jumped right into this and the teachers didn’t know what they were doing,” Brownrigg said. “And homework doesn’t count. What’s the point of doing homework?”

Cathy Brownrigg, Parker’s mother, said her son has lost his drive in school. “I love my sons’ teachers, but they’re running blind.”

Parent Diane Chamberlain said her biggest issue is the grading. “Teachers don’t understand it in the same way,” she said.

Chamberlain and Brownrigg said they’ve been told a grade of 3 equals a grade of 76 to 90, which is too broad of a range, they said.

“Some kids are like, ‘Why bother?’ Chamberlain said. “If I’m going to look the same as someone not working as hard, why try? It’s not going to help me.’”

Freshmen have been through enough, she said. “Leave the class alone. Go back to normal grading.” Give freshmen teachers time to get the grading worked out, she said. “We need to step back before we push it forward.”

But Heidi Sawyer, parent of a freshman, said the new diploma should not be shelved — it’s the right direction.

A few parents are making a lot of complaints, she said.

“I’m happy with it — I see it working,” Sawyer said.

Her son is smart but his confidence was knocked down by the old system that “never worked for him. That’s not the case anymore,” she said.

Before, “he was so overwhelmed by the sheer number of assignments to make up. Now, even if he has a setback, it’s something he can recover from.” He’s happier in school. “He’s not looking at himself as a horrible student,” she said.

With the new system, “a teacher can look at him as a whole, and separate his work habits from what he knows,” she said. “I know a lot of people say performance doesn’t count. It does count, but in a different capacity.”

Sawyer said her son is beginning to recognize the importance of homework. He’s talked about the controversy and asked, “‘Why are we giving up now?’”

The School Department has done a poor job communicating, Sawyer said. “The backlash should have been anticipated.” That, she said, created distrust.

It’s too soon to throw out the new diploma, she said. “By the end of the year, everything will become clearer. Students will get graded on an annual basis. That is a major shift.”

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