News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 23, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, August 23, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, August 23, 2018
Legislature repeals proficiency-based diploma requirement
Schools may continue or abandon former standard

by Anne Berleant

High schools will no longer have to demonstrate that students have met specific educational standards before granting diplomas—but they still may if they choose to.

“An Act To Ensure the Successful Implementation of Proficiency-based Diplomas,” approved by the state legislature in June and signed into law July 11, removes the proficiency requirement signed into law in 2015, with high schools mandated to implement fully by 2021.

Schools may now revert to the traditional A through F grading system and credits for graduation.

Some advocates of the new bill cited the need for local control of school districts, according to testimony offered in a February public hearing at the State House in Augusta.

The Department of Education took a stand neither for nor against the bill but noted that while some schools had made “great strides,” others had struggled in implementing proficiency-based education.

“Issues over grading, local control of graduation, concerns about special education students, college entrance requirements, and many more are revealed in both testimony and in other deeper conversations,” DOE Chief Academic Officer Paul Hambleton stated.

State educational standards have not changed, only the requirement that students demonstrate proficiency in them in order to earn a diploma.

Those schools that choose to award proficiency-based diplomas must include certification that a student is proficient in the state standards with academic transcripts. Students would have to show proficiency in eight content areas by 2024-25 to earn a proficiency-based diploma.

Proficiency-based diplomas are not the same as proficiency-based learning, which allows students to reach educational learning targets in different ways, like the Marine Studies Pathways at Deer Isle-Stonington High School.