Maine Educators Worry New Rules Will Leave Vulnerable Students Behind

Oct 10, 2017

Four years from now, the way Maine students are awarded diplomas will change.  The number of classes they pass will no longer matter.  Instead, they'll have to meet specific standards in up to eight subject areas.

Educators from around the state spoke out about the new diploma rules at a public hearing in August.  And the state is listening to their concerns.

At that public hearing, educators said they were worried that the new rules wouldn't allow schools to accommodate students such as those with disabilities, who may not be able to meet the new high standards and could potentially wind up without a diploma.

In response, Diana Doiron, the Department of Education's proficiency-based education specialist, says the DOE is going back to the drawing board.

Over the next month, Doiron will be speaking with students, teachers and administrators to reshape the rules, with a particular look at those with disabilities, and others who may seek a job after graduation, instead of going to college, "to drill down a little bit," she says, "and get a sense of where people are in each of the stakeholder groups that we are reaching out with."

Deb Davis, an advocate for students with disabilities, says she was frustrated by the department's initial rules.  But she says she appreciates that the department is now willing to listen.

"There were just a lot of issues and details that weren't addressed originally," she says. "And I'm super glad to hear that they're going back to the drawing board."

But some educators say the new rules are coming too late in the process.  This year's freshmen will be the first to graduate with the new proficiency-based diplomas. And Tina Meserve, the superintendent of RSU 16 in Poland, says it's tough to prepare students for graduation when the state's rules are still unclear.

"It is unsettling when you're mid-stream, and you're trying to make sure you're providing an education that meets these requirements -- to have them changed," Meserve says.

The Department of Education says it's working quickly on the new rules and hopes to have them drafted by January.