Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s (UMPI) exciting announcement they would be moving to a proficiency-based system beginning next fall.
Perhaps nothing puts students first more than proficiency-based education. As many of you know, this model is built around the reality that while students learn in different ways and speeds, proficiency is ultimately the most critical outcome of their schooling.
At the public K-12 level, a law signed by Governor LePage in 2012 establishes the expectation that by 2018, Maine high schools award diplomas based on students having achieved proficiency in the content areas of the Maine Learning Results. While our Department recognizes this transition is a heavy lift for many Maine schools, our students and their futures deserve no less. Currently, the gap between the percentage of students who graduate from Maine high schools and who are proficient in reading and math is 36 percent. This is no longer acceptable. As we move toward a proficiency-based diploma requirement, Maine graduates will be confident their diploma truly means they are leaving high school with the skills they need for success in college, careers and civic life.
As I shared at UMPI’s announcement, effective, learner-centered instruction is the very foundation of the Maine DOE’s strategic plan and we are dedicated to supporting schools in making this important shift because we know it works. In districts that have been early adopters of proficiency-based approaches, we are seeing increases in achievement and attendance, decreases in discipline, and students who are more engaged and excited by their learning than ever before. We believe these results will not be unique to K-12 students, but all students.
Given this, I was thrilled to support the important step forward being taken UMPI.
The thoughtfulness in which university leaders are approaching this transition – engaging not just their own faculty but K-12 students and educators – deserves notice. The university is offering small scholarships to incentivize students from proficiency-based K-12 systems to attend UMPI and be at the table in developing this new model. In doing so, they are epitomizing the very essence of a learner-centered system – putting students in the driver’s seat of their own education.
UMPI’s leadership also helps bridge a gap that is all too wide between K-12 and higher education, fostering a more seamless transition from one system to the next that will better serve our students, and our state. It reinforces that post-secondary institutions welcome graduates of proficiency-based systems, knowing those students will be ready for the rigor of college studies.
Our Department is especially excited that UMPI will employ a proficiency-based approach in their College of Education – ensuring that the next generation of Maine teachers will be prepared to lead in Maine’s growing number of proficiency-based classrooms. It is my hope that other teacher preparation programs in the state will follow their lead.
Most importantly, I believe UMPI’s voluntary adoption of this model sends a strong message to the K-12 system that proficiency-based is the new normal in Maine education – not just because it is required by State statute, but because it is the right thing to do for kids.
On behalf of the Maine DOE, I want to congratulate UMPI on getting out ahead of what kids need, want and are capable of by creating conditions in classrooms that foster proficiency. The vision they have announced last week makes their university a leader not just in Maine, but nationally – furthering Maine’s reputation across this country as the state of education innovation.