On Monday, April 9, at 1:30 p.m., Maine’s Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs will hold public hearing on LDs 1898 and 1900, two bills that would repeal proficiency-based diploma requirements in Maine.
Maine’s proficiency-based diploma law allows districts to employ any method they choose for evaluating proficiency in the eight core content areas and the five guiding principles. It does not require schools to adopt proficiency-based learning systems; it simply mandates that students exhibit proficiency in the required criteria in order to earn a high school diploma. This misunderstanding has been the source of confusion for state officials, teachers, and administrators, and has caused much displeasure among parents and students. Maine must address these inconsistencies to restore faith in our public schools.
Since its adoption, Maine’s proficiency-based diploma law has proven to be unmanageable for families and educators. Due to the confusion surrounding proficiency-based diplomas and proficiency-based education, Mainers of all stripes are growing concerned with the direction of our state education system, particularly in the communities of Scarborough, Auburn, and Lewiston.
Perhaps the greatest flaw of Maine’s proficiency diploma law is that it gives no concrete definition of what proficiency is. While the model gives autonomy to individual school units to define proficiency on their own, this is an illusion of local control that makes “proficiency” itself nearly impossible to conceptualize or achieve statewide. Proficiency may be easier to attain in one school compared to another based on self-adopted standards, meaning the model does little to ensure that all Maine graduates are “proficient” learners.
In many districts, assessing proficiency has, at the behest of special interests, required a paradigm shift to proficiency-based education. Proficiency-based education is an unproven educational model. Little evidence exists to suggest that it improves educational outcomes, or that it is the right system for all Maine schools.
The proficiency diploma mandate has misled districts into believing they must adopt proficiency-based education. If a school has already adopted proficiency-based diploma and education policies and prefers this system, allow them to continue using it. For districts that oppose proficiency-based diplomas and education policies, let them adopt their own systems. However, confusion will always exist if the proficiency-based diploma mandate remains on the books.
To end the uncertainty and restore order in the classroom, Maine should repeal proficiency-based diplomas and encourage school districts to adopt systems of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting that meet the needs of their individual communities.