Report Finds Only About A Quarter Of Maine Schools Will Keep Proficiency-Based Diplomas

Feb 11, 2019

Several Maine districts are leaving behind proficiency-based diplomas after the legislature ended a state mandate last year, according to the results of a new survey of superintendents.

The survey asked local officials whether their district would keep the new diplomas, which were mandated by a 2012 state law requiring that all Maine students be proficient in several subject areas, from math to foreign language, in order to graduate. That mandate was repealed last year, however, giving schools a choice of whether to continue.

In the survey, only about a quarter of superintendents said their district planned to keep using the proficiency-based diplomas. Nearly 40 percent, though, said they intend to return to traditional, credit-based diplomas.

Amy Johnson, the co-director of the Maine Education Policy Research Institute, says some administrators felt the requirements were too demanding, particularly in subjects such as foreign languages.

“So there was this perception that A, the standards themselves might be pretty hard to get everyone above the proficiency bar. And B, there might be individual students, who even given all the opportunities to get there, might struggle in one area or another,” she says.

However, Johnson says despite the changes, some parts of proficiency-based education have been popular with school officials and will likely stay, including evaluating students’ work habits. Yet others, like new grades using a “1-4” system instead of A’s and B’s, were much more controversial and unpopular.

“That’s a really big change from past practice. I think that change was difficult for people. And so I wasn’t surprised to see that some districts are moving away from that,” she says.

Some superintendents also said that the fluctuating education policies have led them to lose trust in the state.