FAQ’s on Proficiency from the DOE

Department Provides Answers to Frequently Asked Questions on Proficiency

As the Class of 2018 enters its first year of secondary school, school leaders are thinking deeply and asking questions about what it means to award a proficiency-based diploma after Jan. 1, 2018. In 2012, Maine enacted landmark legislation making high school graduation starting in 2018 dependent upon the following four requirements:

  • Demonstrate that the student engaged in educational experiences relating to English language arts, mathematics and science and technology in each year of the student’s secondary schooling;
  • Demonstrate proficiency in meeting state standards in all content areas of the system of learning results established under section 6209;
  • Demonstrate proficiency in each of the Guiding Principles set forth in department rules governing implementation of the system of learning results established pursuant to section 6209; and
  • Meet any other requirements specified by the governing body of the school administrative unit attended by the student.

The law’s intent is to improve student performance and ensure high school graduates have the knowledge and skills needed for college and career success. As school leaders consider all four requirements, questions have arisen which the Department will provide answers to here. Additional resources are available at Getting to Proficiency: Graduating Every Student Prepared.

Questions Regarding What a Proficiency-Based Diploma Can and Cannot Represent

In addition to demonstrating proficiency in the standards of the eight content areas and the standards of the Guiding Principles and demonstrating that the student engaged in educational experiences relating to ELA, mathematics, and science and technology, may schools add other requirements for the awarding of a diploma after Jan. 1, 2018?
Yes. Maine Revised Statutes 20-A §4722-A, subsection D specifically addresses this option.

May schools award diplomas with endorsements at levels beyond the requirements in Maine Revised Statutes 20-A § 4722-A? ( For example: Latin honors, STEM concentration)
Yes. There is nothing in the statute that prohibits schools from awarding endorsements beyond the requirements.

After Jan. 1, 2018, when a student reaches the age of 20 before the start of the school year without earning a diploma, when the student graduates from secondary school, may the school award a certificate that indicates which eight content areas and which Guiding Principles or which standards of which content areas or which standards of which Guiding Principles a student is proficient?
Yes. There is nothing in the statute that prohibits schools from awarding a certificate indicating standards in which a student is proficient when a student reaches the limits of age for public school attendance.

May schools award different kinds of diplomas (that go beyond certificate of attendance) after Jan. 1, 2018?
No. There is no provision in Maine Revised Statutes 20-A § 4722-A to allow for the awarding of diplomas that reflect anything other than proficiency in the standards of the eight content area and the standards of the Guiding Principles.

Questions Regarding Educational Experiences Relating to English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science and Technology

What constitutes “engaged in educational learning experiences” as described in the proficiency-based diploma law?
Maine Revised Statutes 20-A, §4722-A subsection1, subsection A requires engagement in educational experiences relating to English language arts, mathematics and science and technology during all years of a student’s secondary schooling. Requiring students to engage annually in educational experiences related to English language arts, mathematics and science and technology is intended to sustain student knowledge and skills throughout their secondary schooling. The educational experiences related to these content areas may occur within the hours of school or outside the hours of school and may take many different forms including but not limited to courses, internships, apprenticeships, independent studies, classes, seminars, programs, etc.

Do educational experiences that a student is enrolled in for the primary purpose of learning and demonstrating proficiency in the state standards of English language arts, mathematics, and science and technology also satisfy the requirement for engaging in educational experiences for these content areas?
Yes, in any given year, students who are engaged in educational experiences that provide an opportunity to learn and demonstrate proficiency, including but not limited to courses for the three content areas, are satisfying the yearly educational experiences requirement at the same time.

What evidence must schools provide to meet the requirement of engagement in educational experiences related to English language arts, mathematics, and science and technology for each year of secondary schooling?
The law does not require specific documentation. However, since school transcripts are a primary vehicle for communicating student learning in secondary school, clarity regarding a student’s progress towards meeting each of the requirements for a proficiency-based diploma benefits the student and the school. If this information is incorporated into the transcript, it provides evidence toward a diploma and facilitates clear communication should a student change secondary school(s).

Awarding proficiency-based diplomas based on demonstrated proficiency ensures all Maine students graduate college and career ready. After hearing from educators regarding the complexity of developing quality proficiency-based learning systems (even districts that have eagerly pursued implementation and believe deeply in the value of these systems in strengthening teaching and learning admit they may not be ready in all eight content areas and the Guiding Principles as the law requires includes by 2018), Education Commissioner Jim Rier agreed to use his authority granted in the basic school approval law to offer schools an opportunity to request an extension by which the proficiency-based graduation requirement will be met. Any district prepared to award a proficiency-based diploma after January 1, 2018 will submit an application for confirmation of readiness.

For more information on proficiency-based education in Maine or technical assistance, please contact Maine DOE’s Proficiency-Based Education Specialist Diana Doiron at diana.doiron@maine.gov or 624-6823.

About shawncarlson

Assistant Superintendent
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