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Aurora Institute

Maine Walks the Talk – Extends Date for Proficiency-Based Diplomas

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): State Policy, Create Enabling Conditions for Competency-Based Education

innovation cycle
Innovation cycle from Wikipedia

In 2012, Maine’s legislature passed L.D. 1422, which established proficiency-based high school diplomas. The policy stated that the class of 2015 would be expected to demonstrate proficiency, not just pass a class in English, math, science, social studies and physical education. Based on requests from superintendents statewide for more time, however, Maine’s Department of Education is allowing districts to extend the date that proficiency-based diplomas will be required to 2020.

This is a smart decision on the part of Maine’s Department of Education. Proficiency-based education really has to be a voluntary reform – one that people do because they think it makes sense and will do the right thing for kids. From what I can tell, a third to a half of Maine’s districts have moved towards proficiency-based education (see the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning). In general, these districts have embraced the idea of proficiency-based education. The last time I was in Maine, however, it was clear that many are still in the early stages of implementation.

This means that the remaining districts have done little to move towards proficiency-based education. According to the innovation adoption life cycle, these are referred to as the late majority and laggards. We know that conversion from the factory model to competency education can be done, at least in small and mid-size districts, in three to four years. In an article from the Maine Public Broadcasting Network about the postponement of the proficiency-based diploma policy, Diana Doiron from Maine Department of Education explains that there are “three key kind of categories of effort. There’s policy work that needs to be done. There’s practice, which includes not only instructional practice, but the whole instructional infrastructure. And then there’s the community engagement components.” So if these districts get going right now, they should be able to convert most if not all of their schools by that time.

I’m guessing most of these districts will want to start with high school, as that is where the rubber is going to meet the road with a proficiency-based diploma. It’s also the place where you have to face head-on that incoming ninth graders and students that transfer in later years do not have the prerequisite knowledge. That means that schools will have to design around acceleration as well as providing responsiveness to students that are not yet proficient.  In the article, Superintendent of Lewiston Public Schools Bill Webster describes the extent to which the district will go to make sure students get extra help. “We will be expanding our after-school programming. We’ll be expanding options within the school day. And we’ll be providing more summer opportunities for those students to be successful.”

I’m looking forward to even more innovation coming from Maine!

Interested in learning more about how districts are converting to proficiency-based education?

Check out Maine Department of Education’s Center for Best Practices – they’ve got great videos and case studies. Or read the summary of the case studies.

You might also find the reports by the Maine Education Policy Research Institute helpful: