Education Commissioner to visit Bangor schools Thursday

Commissioner Jim Rier will see how the high achieving district is working toward graduating students with proficiency-based diplomas starting in 2019

BANGOR – Maine’s Education Commissioner will spend Thursday in the classrooms of the state’s third largest school district to see how proficiency-based education is transforming teaching and learning there.

Commissioner Jim Rier will be in Bangor to tour Vine Street School (preK-3), William S. Cohen School (grades 6-8) and Bangor High School with Bangor School Department Superintendent Betsy Webb.

Bangor schools are among the state’s highest achieving and proficiency levels are well above the state average at the middle and high schools that Governor Paul R. LePage’s Education Commissioner will visit. Both schools earned a B on the report cards released by the Maine Department of Education last spring.  

The district has also been a leader in shifting to a locally developed system that will support students graduating with proficiency-based diplomas.

State law requires that starting in 2018, high schools must issue diplomas based on students demonstrating actual proficiency in eight content areas. The reform’s intent is to ensure Maine students graduate college and career ready, confident their diploma signifies they have the knowledge and skills needed for success in their next steps.

Currently, the gap between the percentage of Maine students who graduate from high school and those who are proficient in math and reading is 38 percent and a third of the state’s graduates who go onto college here need basic remedial courses.

The transition to awarding diplomas based on proficiency is considered among the most significant ever undertaken in Maine schools. To ensure quality implementation, earlier this year Commissioner Rier authorized a process allowing districts to apply for an extension if they could prove they were on their way to complying with the law.

The final deadline for districts to submit that extension request is Oct. 18.

The Bangor School Department was one of the first approved for an extension and their thoughtful application is being showcased as a model for other districts on the Maine DOE’s website. The district’s high school expects to award proficiency-based diplomas starting in 2019.

During the Commissioner’s tour Thursday, he will visit Bangor’s classrooms to see how students are being engaged as active participants in their own learning; meet with faculty to learn how they are helping all learners achieve proficiency and how the Maine DOE can better support their local efforts; and have lunch with the Student Council at the Cohen School.


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