AUBURN — Superintendent Katy Grondin told parents at Wednesday night’s School Committee meeting that a public forum to discuss proficiency-based learning will be scheduled in April or May.

Parent Laura Garcia said the new system of instruction, assessment, grading and academic reporting “is an experiment which is failing miserably.” She and a few others asked for a forum to talk about it.

Teachers should come forward and share concerns or how the system can be improved, she said. A forum could explore “what we are doing and why we are doing,” she said.

“I am not alone,” Garcia said, adding she has 200 signatures on a petition so far asking for a public forum.

State law mandates that school districts confer diplomas based on proficiency-based learning. Auburn is on track to graduate students with those diplomas in 2021.

The system is to demonstrate students have learned the knowledge and skills they need to move to the next grade. Work is ranked on a scale of 1 to 4 instead of 0-100.

Garcia said after she researched the law, “I’m more concerned than ever.”

She said the system is untested. “There is no body of research supporting (proficiency-based learning).”

Parent Scott Thistle said he supports Garcia’s request for a forum.

Even though the system has been in the works for six years, “we’re now seeing our first (proficiency-based learning) report card, if you will,” or progress reports, Thistle said.

His students’ reports are unclear, he said. “Teachers are applying 1 to 4 grades in different ways. There’s not a lot of uniformity to it,” he said.

“I encourage you to please open up the conversation to the broader community,” Thistle said. “Let’s talk about where we’re going with it. How it’s working and how it’s not working.”

Committee Chairman Tom Kendall agreed, but said in recent years there have been several public presentations.

“I don’t want anyone to think we’ve done this behind closed doors,” he said. “We’ve done the best we can, bringing about change. It is a state law and we are moving forward.”

Parent Amy Hesby said she appreciates the work that’s gone into the system, “but now we’re seeing the first result and seeing all of the kinks … It’s important to take the time to stop and say, how can we improve on this?”

The new grading doesn’t make sense, she said. “You can’t say a 3 is a B, so how can you say that a 3.24 is about a B average? It’s not apples to apples.”

“We’re hearing you,” Grondin said.

In other business, the committee approved a Siemens performance contract to provide $1.02 million worth of energy-efficient upgrades at the elementary schools. The upgrades range from new boilers at East Auburn and Fairview school to LED lighting at Washburn, Park Avenue, Sherwood Heights and Walton schools.

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