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Understanding Proficiency Based Diplomas

Maine is one of the first states in the country to adopt a proficiency-based requirement for graduation.  While the requirement is centered around high school students, the entire K-8 system will need to adjust to the requirements as well in order for students to avoid a huge academic shift when transitioning into high school.

In implementing a new proficiency-based education system, districts will determine locally how to measure proficiency in each of the four content areas of the Maine Learning Results. In addition, each district may include additional graduation requirements, like a capstone project or an application to a post-secondary school. With the definition of what is proficient potentially different in each district it is likely that what is considered “passable” in one school could be deemed “failing” in another.

The standards, “represent a sea change in the way education is provided for Maine children,” according to a report conducted by the Maine Policy Research Institute (MEPRI). The 62-page report, requested by the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, studied nine schools in the state and found moving to a proficiency-based system, “is proving very complex and difficult within existing structures of traditional public school teacher certifications, student achievement reporting, school grade configurations, daily scheduling, existing learning management technology, limited external or community supplemental resources, and current levels of personnel capacity.”

Take a closer look at the standards for graduation:

Students must meet the following four standards in order to receive a diploma:

  1. English language arts: Students read stories, literature and complex texts that provide facts and background knowledge in areas such as science and social studies. Students will be asked questions that push them to refer to what they’ve read to develop critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills. English standards call for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects so students can read, write, speak, listen, and use language effectively.
  2. Math: Knowledge of algebra, functions, modeling and statistics and probability, with the ability to transform algebraic expressions, explain equations, verbal descriptions, tables and graphs or draw diagrams of important features.
  3. Science and technology: Learning based on themes of systems, models, constancy and change, and scale. Understand the universal nature of matter, energy, force and motion, and identify how the relationships are exhibited in earth systems, the solar system and the universe. Understand that cells are the basic unit of life, that all life has evolved through genetic transfer and natural selection to create a great diversity of organisms.
  4. Social studies: Knowledge of civics and government, economics, geography and history, including a balanced exposure to the major eras of United States and world history.

Students can Still Receive a Diploma if:

  • Student has a defined disability and meets IEP goals
  • Student meets the standards in a waiver request approved by the Commissioner of Education
  • Student completes freshman year at an accredited school of higher education
  • Student’s learning is interrupted due to things like homelessness or hospitalization, and a proficiency plan is approved by Commissioner of Education

Source: DOE

Click for a closer look at the Standards



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