Proficiency standard applies to special education students

The following Priority Notice was sent to Maine Superintendents and Directors of Special Education by Commissioner Jim Rier and Maine DOE Director of Special Services on Sept. 17.

Dear Superintendents and Directors of Special Education,

As Maine moves towards a proficiency-based system that will ensure that all students graduate from our high schools having met rigorous learning standards, some have asked about the impact of this new expectation on students with disabilities. 

Maine law states that a diploma may be awarded to a child with a disability if that child achieves proficiency in the same standards as required of other children “as specified by the goals and objectives of the child’s individualized education plan.” In an administrative letter sent last year, the Department interpreted that language to mean that an IEP team may modify the means by which a student with a disability demonstrates proficiency in the standards and reflect that on the student’s IEP but they may not modify the standards themselves, which are codified in Department rule.

We believe that Maine students with disabilities deserve to graduate confident that they have the knowledge and skills needed for future success.  One of the surest ways to support the success of these future graduates is to ensure that a free appropriate public education includes support to allow students with disabilities to achieve the same high standards as other students.

The federal Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) and the U.S. Department of Education recently issued a letter to the state of Louisiana in which they expressed significant concern about Louisiana’s recently enacted law permitting the IEP team to change and lower the expectations for students with disabilities.  The position set forth in their letter supports our Department’s own position that Maine law allows IEP teams to change the means by which a student with disabilities demonstrates proficiency in a standard but prohibits a modification of those standards.

In summary, to qualify for a diploma a student with disabilities must meet the same level of proficiency in the same standards as students without disabilities. However, the manner in which they demonstrate their eligibility for a diploma may differ. For more information or technical assistance in supporting all students, please contact Maine DOE’s Director of Special Services Jan Breton at or 624-6713. For more information about the proficiency-based diploma requirement and related resources, visit Getting to Proficiency: Graduating Every Student Prepared.

Jim Rier, Commissioner
Maine Department of Education

Jan Breton, Director of Special Services
Maine Department of Education

One thought on “Proficiency standard applies to special education students

  1. I really have a hard time swallowing this. It’s so heartless and shows how much people lack understanding of what these children with disabilities go through on a daily basis. Now this….it’s sickening. People wonder why we have disturbed kids shooting up schools? It’s because of things like this! Complete lack of understanding. Forcing a special needs individual to meet the standards of someone when they have a medical condition that prevents that is crude, terrible, and an absolute unjust way to punish them into adulthood for what will now be their disadvantage in life. How will they feel when they can’t graduate with everyone? How will they feel when they are expected to stay until….up to age 21….REALLY??? How high of a drop out are you expecting?

    I want the best education for my kids…that’s why I stay in Maine. But, this complete ignorance of what special needs children not only need but -RELY- on is simply baffling.

    Parents should have the final decision if their child with special needs gets a diploma based on test scores with input from teachers AND the child. It should be individualized for each child, because each child has different special needs.

Leave a Reply