Maine faces uphill battle in proficiency-based education implementation
- Maine, which rolled out proficiency-based education across its state in 2012, is facing problems in its continued implementation, including a lack of consensus on the meaning of proficiency, opposition from parents who don't like the program and difficulty among teachers in explaining to students how they were being assessed, wrote Chalkbeat.
- As other states put proficiency-based education into play, leaders are trying to learn from the problems that occurred in Maine, such as a lack of uniform evaluation standards. Some of the state's schools, for example, kept letter grades, while others got rid of them in favor of a 1-4 scale number system. Proponents blame poor organization for this issue, which ultimately caused inconsistency and confusion among school communities.
- Maine's lack of success has implications for the rest of the country. All but two states have since implemented policies supporting competency-based education, and Maine's unsuccessful rollout, combined with a lack of research suggesting proficiency-based education benefits student learning, raise questions about the approach's effectiveness and how to set it up for success.
Maine’s roll-out of proficiency-based learning is something that other states could examine as they launch similar programs into their schools. Illinois, for example, is piloting competency-based learning in some of its districts.
As Chalkbeat wrote, the lack of a clearly defined understanding of what proficient meant created confusion. That lack of uniformity extended to how students were assessed: some schools kept grades, while others shifted to a numbers scale of 1 to 4, with 3 being proficient.
Clear guidelines from districts, and teacher support as well, are both needed so that students have clarity into expectations held before them whenever there is a change in how education is delivered. “A great deal of professional development is required to assure that teachers are both confident and proficient in managing a new kind of instructional delivery that represents a fundamental shift in the way schools function,” according to a 2011 research brief from the University of South Florida.
Any learning method that encourages educators to help struggling students reach mastery or at least proficiency in a subject is worth considering. Teachers want students to learn — and want to see all their pupils succeed. That path has to work for every child, however. Putting new methods into place, without a clear framework is not the best start for teachers, nor ultimately for their students.
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