Maine DOE provides flexibility to SAUs to ensure implementation of proficiency-based diploma

The following Priority Notice was distributed to superintendents today, affirming the Department’s commitment to the state’s students being awarded diplomas based on proficiency and previewing the flexibility it was providing to districts in meeting a requirement to do so by 2018.

Dear Superintendents,

The Maine DOE is committed to ensuring every Maine student graduates with a diploma that signifies they are leaving high school with the knowledge and skills needed for college and career success.  That’s why we supported the 2012 law making it mandatory that schools award proficiency-based diplomas starting in 2018 and why we have worked in the two years since to be a resource to districts as they make this significant shift.

Increasingly, the Department has been hearing from you about the complexity of developing quality proficiency-based learning systems. Even districts that have eagerly pursued implementation and believe deeply in the value of these systems in strengthening teaching and learning admit they may not be ready to award proficiency-based diplomas in all content areas and the Guiding Principles by 2018.

We have heard your concerns and want to honor the requests you have made for implementation timeline flexibility.

Under a provision in Maine’s Basic School Approval Law, the Commissioner of Education has the authority to grant school administrative units waivers from the proficiency-based diploma requirement through July 1, 2020 if certain conditions are met. In recent months, we have been talking both formally and informally with stakeholders, including the Maine School Superintendents Association, to get a better understanding of the work that has been done by districts to date and what waiver process may be most productive to supporting their future implementation progress.

As a result of that feedback, the Department is pleased to preview for you the six extension options we have developed. You’ll note we use the word “extension” rather than waiver because none of these paths remove the requirement in Maine law to making the important transition to awarding proficiency-based diplomas. Instead, they provide the time and support districts say they need to undertake the thoughtful, systemic change needed to ensure quality implementation.

In an effort to ensure this process facilitates continuous progress toward proficiency, you’ll notice that the broader the extension request, the greater the work required of the district, as well as the level of structured support that will be provided by the Maine DOE. While the process for some of these options may seem intensive at first look, we remind districts that their comprehensive education plan includes a plan for transitioning to proficiency-based graduation, so some of the work required should already be done or well underway.

It is our intention to have superintendents review and begin preliminary discussions about these options within their school communities in the coming weeks. At the Commissioner’s Conference for Superintendents on June 23-25, the Department will provide ample time to further discuss the extension process, before we issue final guidance related to the options and the application process in early July.

One way to begin exploring which extension option is right for your district is to complete our Proficiency-Based Diploma Readiness Inventory.

This new tool was designed to help your district better understand where it stands in its implementation and where the district may want to focus moving forward, including what extension option may be most appropriate to pursue.

Our ability to provide effective support to districts is dependent upon understanding your current needs in developing quality systems that support the awarding of proficiency-based diplomas. Your participation in this Proficiency-Based Diploma Readiness Inventory will also provide the Department with its first statewide snapshot of progress toward proficiency and emerging needs of districts. This data will inform our future professional development offerings, provide information for required Legislative reporting and funding requests, and help foster connections between districts in similar stages of implementation.

The inventory responses will be shared publicly, beginning with the release of the aggregate information at the late June Commissioner’s Conference. In order to inform our final preparations for that conference and ensure we are able to provide you as complete a picture as possible of statewide readiness, we ask that you please complete the survey by no later than June 16.

If you have questions about the readiness inventory or extension options or would like technical assistance, please contact our Proficiency-Based Education Specialist Diana Doiron at diana.doiron@maine.gov or 207-624-6823.

Thank you for your commitment to moving toward a learner-centered system that will better prepare our students for college and career. The work that has been done by many of you to date is impressive to us, and invaluable to your fellow district leaders.

We look forward to better understanding where your district is in this transition and what supports we may be able to provide to ensure it is most successful for your students and schools. Hope to see you on June 23.

Sincerely,

Jim Rier, Commissioner
Maine Department of Education