AUBURN — Incoming freshmen this fall — the Class of 2021 — will be the first class to graduate with new proficiency-based diplomas, the Auburn School Committee was told Wednesday night.

The reason for the change is because it’s a state law, curriculum director Shelly Mogul said. The new diplomas and new ways of teaching and grading will improve student learning and raise rigor, she said.

Edward Little High School Principal Scott Annear said he’s heard some say the new system doesn’t need to be implemented until 2021, and wanted to know why it’s being implemented now. 

Since the Class of 2021 will receive proficiency-based diplomas, which incorporate a new way of teaching and grading, changes need to start four years beforehand, or this fall, Annear said.

“Students need to know what the playing field is,” Annear said. 

With proficiency based learning, students progress when they have mastered what they need to know. Currently, a student could pass with a grade of 70 or 80, which indicates they understood 70 or 80 percent of the course, Mogel said.


School Committee member Bonnie Hayes asked what happens when students need more time.

“I’m in Algebra I,” Hayes said. “I’m slow,” June is coming and she hasn’t learn all she needs. “What do I do?” 

A student who hasn’t mastered what is needed could get extra help after class, go to summer school, or in the fall, they could continue where they left off, Mogul said.

“But at some point, my four years is up; I don’t have all my proficiencies,” Hayes said. “What do I do?”

Mogul said students who need it will be given more time and more help. 

This fall, there will be two grading systems at Edward Little.


Sophomores, juniors and seniors will stick with traditional numerical grades that go to 100. Freshmen will receive grades of 1 through 4.

According to Mogul, the new grading system works as follows:

• 1. The student is early in the learning process and working on foundation skills;

• 2. The student is working on understanding concepts;

• 3. The student is proficient; and

• 4. The student has exceeded proficiency and has a deeper knowledge of the subject.


On freshmen report cards next year, there will be information on what part of 10 standards of each subject students are working on, and what they need to know before completion.

Compared to the traditional grading system, the new system will give parents more insight on what their children know and where they are, Mogul said.

This fall, sophomores, juniors and seniors will continue the current system of having to earn 24 credits to graduate. But freshmen will earn credit only as they demonstrate they know standards or lessons in each subject, Mogul said.

Superintendent Katy Grondin said the new diplomas will be more detailed, offering a deeper look at what each student has done in high school.

A college or employer looking at a student with a proficiency-based diploma is going to know a much more about the student than they would from an existing diploma. It will also show off specifics of what students specialized in — such as film or journalism — information that would not show up on a regular diploma.

“It’s going to benefit many students,” Grondin said.

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