LEWISTON — Meeting with state legislators Sen. Nathan Libby and Rep. Roger Fuller Monday night, several members of the Lewiston School Committee said they disagree with proposed legislation to delay implementation of new high school diplomas by one year.

What’s needed, they said, is guidance from the Maine Department of Education on implementing new Proficiency Based Learning standards and grading.

Proficiency-based education refers to a system of academic instruction, grading or reporting based on students demonstrating mastery of the knowledge they are expected to learn before progressing to the next lesson, the next grade or receiving a diploma, according to the Maine Department of Education.

Existing law says that the new learning standards will be required for students graduating in the Class of 2021.

L.D. 1666 would move the timeline to the Class of 2022 to give districts another year to implement change.

That would not help, School Committee member Tina Hutchinson said. She chairs a Teaching and Learning Committee that hs been working on proficiency-based education in Lewiston.


“PBL was supposed to level the playing field for all students in Maine,” but it does not accomplish that, she said.

The new system grades students’ work on a scale of 1 to 4, instead of a scale of 0 to 100.

But “a grade of 3 in Lewiston isn’t the same as a 3 in Presque Isle,” Hutchinson said. “We’re not creating a level playing field. We’re all doing it our own way. It’s time for the DOE to man up and put guidance statewide for all our kids.”

Implementation has been delayed before. Delaying it again would send the message to students that what they’re working on will change again. Students in grades K-9 are on the 1 to 4 grading system, which includes the Class of 2021. Students in grades 10 through 12 are on the old system.

Libby said for years he and other legislators have struggled to get the Department of Education to provide guidance to school districts “to no avail.”

Fuller agreed, saying the department lacks the ability.


“I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard from DOE, ‘We don’t have the capacity.’ It seems to be a refrain.”

Another aspect of proficiency-based education that has to change is a requirement that starting in 2025, students will not receive diplomas unless they have passed two years of a foreign language.

That is not doable, not only in Lewiston but across Maine, because there is a shortage of language teachers, Assistant Superintendent Shawn Chabot said.

Chabot also said what’s needed is a better understanding from the state on what graduation requirements are for vulnerable populations such as special education and English Language Learners.

If the requirements now in law are expected for those students, there will be many who won’t be graduating, he said.

“We want answers, not a delay,” Chabot said.


Libby provided advice on how the School Committee can help bring about change. To repeal the foreign language requirement, for instance, a campaign needs to be mounted by the Maine School Management Association and other school districts.

Lewiston School Committee members also need to drum up support from their counterparts, especially in rural school districts that state legislators don’t hear from.

“I can put a bill in, but if I’m standing up there by myself it’s going to get shot down,” Libby said. “If we put in a bill and get 100 co-sponsors, then 100 districts to testify, then we have a chance.”

And, he and Fuller agreed, legislators like to hear directly from students.


LEWISTON — The School Committee and two Lewiston state legislators, Sen. Nathan Libby and Rep. Roger Fuller, talked Monday night about other proposed state legislation coming up this session, including:


• LD 1689, which would repeal the monetary penalty for districts not joining a regional service center.

• LD 1761, which would allow firearms on school property. Webster said the bill needs to fail, that Lewiston schools go into lockdown “if we see a firearm. We’re opposed.”

• LD 1684, which would forbid “food shaming, food denial” for students whose parents haven’t paid their lunch bills. That’s not an issue in Lewiston, where all students eat at no cost. 

• LD 1694, which would require the state to adopt protocols to help prevent youth suicides. 

A proposal that Lewiston Public Schools worked on last year to reduce chronic truancy by lowering the age of truancy was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. Now a child is only considered truant at age 7 and older, even though children begin school at age 4 or 5. Trying to pass that bill again won’t work, Sen. Nathan Libby, D-Lewiston, said. He recommended the proposal be tried again after LePage leaves office. 


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