PRIORITY NOTICE: Maine Department of Education’s proposal for the high school diploma

In light of recent articles and editorials about the proficiency-based diploma and the fate of proficiency-based education, the Commissioner is providing insight regarding the forthcoming Department proposal for the diploma. The Commissioner requested that the Department’s proposal be submitted as a “Governor’s” bill to allow for a process that includes a public hearing and work session(s).   The most significant difference between the Department’s proposed diploma and the proficiency-based diploma is that uncertainty has been removed and a reasonable level of achievement has been clearly identified as a minimum requirement for a diploma.


The Department’s proposal:

  1. Removes the mandate that districts base a diploma on an undefined concept (“proficiency”)
  2. Points to a reasonable and appropriate level of achievement in two foundational content areas (English and math) required for the diploma
  3. Bases achievement criteria on knowledge, skills, and progressions that are already present and defined in Maine’s Learning Results
  4. Provides students with disabilities equitable access to education and a diploma
  5. Ensures that students will have high quality instruction and learning in all content areas
  6. Makes room for students to access their education through both traditional, (classroom-based) avenues and non-traditional (experience-based) avenues
  7. Allows districts to implement diploma requirements beyond the minimum set by the state

The Department’s proposal does not:

  1. Impose a mandated or de facto grading structure
  2. Eliminate or impose a barrier to what has come to be called “proficiency-based education,” “proficiency-based teaching,” or “proficiency-based learning.” Instruction and learning based on outcomes, as described by some in recent articles, is actually a description of standards-based education, which Maine schools have been striving for since the state adopted the Maine Learning Results in 1997. Under the Department’s proposal, school districts may continue to teach, grade, and structure learning as they determine best meets the needs of students, parents, and the school community.

The Department considers this discussion to be an open dialog, and we look forward to further conversations on this proposal once the bill is released.