AUBURN — A task force will soon be formed to look into concerns about new performance standards in local schools, the Auburn School Committee was told Wednesday night.

Surveys seeking anonymous feedback about proficiency-based learning from parents, teachers and students have gone out or are going out.

The curriculum director for Auburn schools, Shelly Mogul, told the School Committee that surveys of students in grades seven through nine have gone out, as has another survey of teachers.

A survey of parents will go out next week, she said.

Mogul told the School Committee that members of the task force will be selected Monday, and that those selected will include opponents and proponents of  proficiency-based learning to ensure many views are represented.

The task force will include six teachers, six parents, three administrators and three School Committee members.


Once members are selected, the first task force meeting will be scheduled. Task force recommendations are expected before the end of the school year, with the goal of implementing any change before school starts in the fall, Superintendent Katy Grondin said.

Both the task force and anonymous surveys to get community feedback on the new standards were requested by parent Laura Garcia, who has told the School Committee that it is “failing miserably.” She and other parents have lodged concerns and complaints about PBL.

In 2012, state legislators passed a law requiring that high school students show they have mastered eight subjects to earn proficiency-based diplomas. The subjects include English language arts, math, science and technology, social studies, health education and physical education, visual and performing arts, career and education development and world languages.

It is up to school districts to determine standards and how to measure student achievement. Students do not progress until they have mastered what they need to know. If students need more time, they get it.

Instead of the traditional 0-100 grades, PBL grading is 1-4 — a score of 1 is not meeting standards, 2 is partially meets, 3 is meeting standards and a score of 4 is exceeding standards.

Among parental complaints is that the 1-4 grading system is confusing, and that because students can re-take quizzes or tests, some students have less incentive to work.


City Councilor Alfreda Fournier was happy to hear that students, teachers and parents will be surveyed. That, she said, will help get a “true picture” of PBL and determine what is working and what is not.

Fournier’s concerns are that some students are losing interest in trying hard in class “if they can only get a score of 2 or 3. Some students wonder why they should bother to work hard if they’re going to get the same grade as someone not putting in the work.”

Another worry she raised is that teachers’ voices have not been heard because some are fearful to speak in opposition.

“It’s imperative we hear from our high school and middle school teachers who don’t feel free to offer their concerns,” Fournier said.

Committee member Patricia Gauthier said she was concerned that some teachers are afraid to share their opinions.

“That’s disheartening,” she said. “If there are pockets of fear, we need to address it. I don’t want them feeling that way. I want that addressed.”


Gauthier said she has reviewed many concerns from parents about PBL, including the confusion about the 1-4 grading and that kids “sit,” wasting time in class waiting for others to catch up.

“The list I have is nothing we can’t improve,” she said.

Grondin said the 1-4 grading system is the top concern.

Addressing parental worries about how colleges will review Edward Little High School transcripts with the PBL 1-4 scoring, Mogul said colleges largely look at three factors: a student’s grade-point average, the courses the student has taken and the grades the students has earned in those course, whether the grades are 0-100 or 1-4.

Edward Little freshmen will be the school’s first class to graduate with PBL diplomas.


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