Maine schools collaborate to support proficiency-based diploma implementation

All across Maine, educators are recognizing that the shift to proficiency-based diplomas by 2018 is complex and adaptive in nature.

Many educators are turning to the research from Dr. Ronald Heifetz of Harvard to understand the nature of adaptive challenges. Understanding the adaptive nature of proficiency-based education helps educators identify root causes and helps them find potential solutions for creating the conditions and opportunities for students to demonstrate proficiency of Maine’s learning standards.

This shift has a ripple effect on the current practices, polices and structures that award a diploma for passing courses with a minimum grade and earning Carnegie units. Rather than grapple with these challenges on their own, many of Maine’s educators are recognizing the value in building collective intelligence about proficiency-based education. As a result, they are creating both informal and formal collaborative structures to facilitate deep, purposeful interactions and to problem-solve ways to support student learning and demonstration of proficiency.

Sometimes as school administrative units collaborate, they pool some of their human and fiscal resources together in order to develop capacity.  In Aroostook County, the Northern Maine Education Collaborative (NMEC) came into existence when the majority of the school administrative units in the county created a charter and a budget for a common purpose. Learning from the journeys of the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning and the Western Maine Education Collaborative, NMEC hired a consultant to help them develop understanding about proficiency-based education through monthly trainings for teams of educators from each of the member school units.

Sometimes school administrative units collaborate by creating an opportunity for educators to come together for the purpose of seeking feedback about their ideas and action steps.

Earlier this month, the South Portland School Department offered a Proficiency-Based Symposium for approximately 100 participants from about 30 Maine school units. South Portland chose to use its targeted transition funds to purchase a grading and reporting mechanism for proficiency-based education and structured the symposium with presentations and conversations in order to share information about the reporting mechanism and to gather input from others regarding the shift to proficiency-based education.

NMEC and South Portland’s symposium are two of a growing number of examples throughout the state showing how collaboration is playing a meaningful role in the change process.  Educators from across Maine are to be commended for their collaborative efforts and commitment to preparing students for a rapidly changing world.