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SAD 17 plans info sessions on proficiency-based education

PARIS — The Oxford Hills School District will hold a Proficiency-Based Education informational session on Thursday, June 14, to allay concerns by some SAD 17 Board of Directors that the community at large needs more information.

The directors voted on May 7 to implement a new policy that sets the foundation for Proficiency-Based Education in the Oxford Hills School District but agreed that the public probably needs more information before they take the second and final vote to implement the accompanying grading and reporting as well as new graduation requirements.

“The second vote on the grading and graduation policy will be delayed until late summer to ensure an opportunity for community input,” Superintendent Rick Colpitts told the Advertiser Democrat.

The June 14 public forum is set for 7 p.m. at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. Colpitts said a second forum will likely be held at a later date. Later this week, the district web page will be updated to provide information on proficiency-based education.

The action came after a call by Director Bob Jewell to delay a vote on the proposed reporting and grading policy because of questions he had heard from the public at large about whether the community understood the new system.

“My phone blew up,” Jewell told fellow directors at the May 7 meeting. “I got calls from half a dozen people saying there was  not enough communication.” Jewell also cited “confusion” in Augusta and ongoing discussions about proficiency education in other communities as reasons to delay the vote.


“We probably should listen to the public before we move forward with this. There was a lot of discussion on the policy committee,  but we probably didn’t do a good
enough job in communicating to the constituency,” he said.

Proficiency ok’d

The district has been working on the proficiency-based education state mandate for the past six years. The law requires students to demonstrate mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn before they progress to the next lesson, get promoted to the next grade level or receive a diploma.

“I think early on administration looked at this and really debated and struggled with what this would look like,” said  Colpitts of proficiency-based education. “We’re doing this because it’s best for the kids, not because the state says we have to do it. It took us about two years to come to that.”

There has been push back recently from other communities who say the proficiency model doesn’t give concrete definitions of what proficiency is and the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee is now considering another year’s delay in implementing the 2012 law.

The DOE says the general goal of proficiency-based education is “to ensure that students acquire the knowledge and skills that are deemed to be essential to success in school, higher education, careers and adult life.”


The system will predominantly affect students in grades 9-12, said Colpitts, and requires that Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School seniors  graduate with a proficiency diplomas beginning in 2020.

This year’s freshmen class will get be the first to graduate with the proficiency diplomas.

While the board agreed to implement the Proficiency-Based  Education policy and approved the first reading of the Grading and Reporting policy, and graduation requirements, they did so only after much discussion.

Weighted vote

Concern by Director Bob Jewell about whether the community at large completely  understands what will happen prompted debate at the May 7 meeting and a motion  by Jewell to table the first reading of the grading and reporting policy.

That motion resulted in what was believed to be the first “weighted ” vote in many years.


The weighted vote was requested by School Board Chairman Ron Kugell after the initial directors’ vote did not yield a strong  majority.

The weighted vote is based on town population, which also determines the number of  representatives each town is able to elect to the board. For example, Paris sends four representatives, while Hebron sends two.

In a weighted vote, for example, Hebron representatives Elizabeth Swift and Lew Williams each get 40 votes while Paris directors Sarah Otterson, Mike Dignan, Bob Jewell and Henry Raymond each get 56 votes.

The results of the weighted vote to table the motion to approve the first reading of the Grading and Reporting Policy was a 379 to 532 vote not to table.

What’s next?

Director Elizabeth Swift said she believes the current policies are too wordy and need to be tightened up.


“No one can really understand it,” she told her fellow directors. “It needs to be shortened and gone over again this should not be the last time. Go over it with a fine tooth comb. Let’s give it another time with the Policy Committee.”

Jewell said the issue is not proficiency-based education, it is the way its “reported out.”

“We ought to be smart enough to come up with a system that changes our 1,2,3,4 to something everyone understands,” he said.

Other issues directors have heard concern the effect of proficiency-based education grading on class rank.

But Director Barry said there shouldn’t be concern.

“Proficiency education wasn’t born yesterday,” said Patrie. “There are many districts in New England and throughout the country that have had it had it for years. The colleges know how to compare apples to oranges.”


In fact, Oxford Hills Technical School Director Shawn Lambert told the Advertiser Democrat this week the proficiency-based education has been a part of the career and technical education for years.

“For the most part, CTE has been proficiency-based since the beginning,” Lambert said.  Training students in most of our programs involves instruction (providing information), practice (applied learning), formative assessment (coaching in the lab, shop, clinical setting, etc), and summative assessment (earning an industry credential).  These are all hallmarks of PBE (proficiency-based education).  So, conceptually, the tech teachers are all on board.”
Lambert said that the biggest challenge for the tech school may be to develop a documentation system that’s in line with the rest of OHCHS’s system.
“This means using the same terminology, categories, reporting protocols for tech programs and academic programs so that students and parents can understand their entire educational record,” he said.  “This is harder than it might seem.  Nevertheless, we now have a universal template for rubric development that should help streamline our work.”

Patrie, who taught mathematics in the Lakes Region school system for years, said he believes there is no good reason to delay the process.

“Any steps to try to slow it up is just working to a few special interests,” he said.

Grading policy detailed

PARIS  — The SAD 17 Board of Directors approved the first reading of the  proposed grading and reporting policy at its May 7 meeting, but will not implement the policy until its second and final vote.

That vote will not occur until school officials are certain that the community-at-large has a full understanding of what the new system means, said Superintendent Rick Colpitts.

According to the proposed policy, the new grading and reporting system is intended to provide a “consistent system of grading that reports student learning progress and achievement across two aligned categories on a 6-point scale that aligns Proficiency Levels with Proficiency Descriptions.”

The proposed policy states that the proficiency levels measure, report, and document student proficiency against a set of “clearly defined and consistently applied cross-curricular and content -area standards.”

Teachers will score the students based on the following proficiency levels and proficiency descriptions at the secondary level using rubrics and scoring guides.

4.0 Exceeds Proficiency

3.5 Proficient

3.0 Proficient

2.5 Minimally Proficient

2.0 Partially proficient

1.0 Insufficient Evidence or Emerging

According to the proposed policy, the new reporting and grading system also requires that aggregate proficiency scores on graduation standards be derived through a “common and consistency applied process.” That system is collaboratively developed by the administration, faculty, and its staff at the school and approved by the principal.

Aggregate proficiency levels and proficiency descriptions for academic courses and other learning experience are defined in the district’s Multiple Learning Pathways policy and student achievement of each graduation standards may be rounded up by two decimal points and reported in accordance with the following categories:

3.51- 4.0 Exceeds Proficiency

3.0 – 3.5 Proficient

2.5 – 2.99 Minimally Proficient

2.0 – 2.49 Partially Proficient or Developing Learner

– 1.99 Insufficient Evidence or Emerging Learner

The proficiency levels measure, report, and document student proficiency against a set of clearly defined and consistently applied cross-curricular and content -area standards.

The proposed policy states that the proficiency levels, described above, must remain fixed, but the reporting system may be modified under the leadership of the school principal and “based on the evolving needs of students, teachers, families and other stakeholders.”

“None of these policies are in concrete. They can be amended. I think we really need to do a good job of educating the public,” SAD 17 Board of Directors Chairman Ron Kugell told the board.



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