In this photo from April, Ollie Ouellette listens to freshman civics teacher Craig Latuscha at Edward Little High School. The Auburn School Department announced Wednesday that grades 7-12 this fall will return to traditional 0-100 grading, ditching the controversial 1-4 proficiency-based learning grades. (Sun Journal file photo)

AUBURN — Grades 7-12 in the Auburn School Department will return this fall to the traditional 0-100 grading system, ditching the controversial proficiency-based learning grades of 1-4.

Shelly Mogul, curriculum director for the Auburn School Department, said Wednesday the school department will implement recommendations from a task force formed to look into complaints about proficiency-based learning, known as PBL.

The two recommendations are that grades 7-12 move back to an online grading platform called PowerSchool, which would replace Empower, the existing online grading platform.

Parents, students and teachers found the Empower grading platform confusing, according to Mogul.

The second recommendation is to reinstate traditional grading for upper grades.

The task force’s recommendations were influenced by the results of surveys completed by parents, students and teachers, Mogul said. A majority of those who took the survey favored a return to traditional grades.

The recommendations followed months of controversy that saw many Auburn parents and students express unhappiness with PBL. 

Proficiency-based learning stems from a law passed by the Maine Legislature that requires high schools use new standards for awarding diplomas. Under PBL, students are assessed on having mastered skills, or standards, in each subject.

Members of the Class of 2021 are scheduled to be the first to graduate with PBL diplomas.

The PBL grading system awards a 1 for not proficient, 2 for partially proficient, 3 for proficient and 4 for exceeding proficiency.

PBL has also been controversial in Lewiston. Superintendent Bill Webster in March announced grading for high school students would return to traditional 0-100 scoring, putting an end to the controversy.

While the familiar grades will be reinstated in Auburn, Mogul cautioned that the state governing PBL diplomas remains in force. That means high school graduates in 2021 will have to prove they are proficient in math, English, social studies and science.

While Auburn’s teachers in grades 7-12 will go back to grading students under the traditional system, teachers will also have to record students’ proficiency. Mogul expects that next year in PowerSchool, parents will see traditional grades, “but there will be a tab where they can see the scores on standards required for the diploma.”

A committee of about a dozen middle school and high school teachers, which Mogul called a grading guidelines group, will meet Monday and Tuesday to determine how teachers will score proficiency, she said.

When it comes to regular papers, quizzes and tests, teachers will use traditional grades. When a unit or standard is complete, teachers will offer a score on proficiency.

One of the challenges is that a grade may be passing, but may not ensure a student is proficient in all areas of a course, Mogul said.

“If I give students a test and a student gets an 82, I can’t take that score and convert it to 1-4,” Mogul said. “It’s more complicated than that.”

How proficiency will be scored “is something that will have to be worked out,” Mogul said. 

Earlier this month, members of the proficiency-based learning task force met to discuss changes to the controversial PBL system. This fall, grades 7-12 will return to traditional 0-100 grades, curriculum director Shelly Mogul announced Wednesday. In the photo are Renee Brezovsky, far left, Laura Garcia, Matt Hyndman and Pam Foster Albert, far right. (Sun Journal file photo)

Recommendations implemented this fall in Auburn grades 7-12:

• Move back to PowerSchool as the reporting platform 

• Reinstate the traditional grading scale of 0-100

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