A-F Grading System Can’t “Meet the Standard”

Back in February, the Governor announced a new (well, based on other states’ models, but new for Maine) grading system of Maine’s schools.  The system will be based on the what-I-thought-were-the-now-antiquated A-through-F grades just as the Proficiency-Based Diploma (20-A MRSA 4722-A) comes into being in the state.

Despite the fact that I’m not a fan of proficiency-based education, I took a look at the Maine Department of Education‘s Glossary of Terms Related to Proficiency-Based Learning just to remind myself what the most basic terms meant for Maine schools.

  • Proficiency: Targeted level of achievement in a standard or learning goal. “Demonstrating proficiency” is synonymous with “demonstrating mastery” or “meeting the standard.”
  • Standard: A description of skill or knowledge deemed essential.

I then compared those two terms to what the Governor said in his April 20 weekly radio address would be some of the standards by which Maine’s schools would be graded:

  • student achievement in reading and math (only those two apparently, not the rest of the system of Learning Results as required by Maine law)
  • growth in achievement
  • performance and growth of the bottom 25 percent of students (for elementary schools)
  • graduation rate (for high schools)

I imagine there will be significant discussion over the value and reliability of any or all of those standards, plus any others that may someday be revealed.

But no matter how one feels about any of this, the first question really should be: Did Maine’s schools KNOW what the standards would be in order to be able to meet them?  If not – and I believe this is the case – the proposed practice of grading schools violates the administration’s own definition of proficiency.

I hope the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs weighs in on this travesty soon.  They may not be able to countermand a gubernatorial executive order, but they can certainly make it clear to the Governor and the Commissioner that the Legislature’s interest in proficiency-based education is more than just words.

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