Maine’s eighth-graders are the first students in the state who will be held to proficiency-based academic standards, District Administration reports.
Under a 2012 state law, students will need to demonstrate proficiency in English, math, science and social studies in order to receive a high school diploma.
Content specialists from the Maine Department of Education will support school districts in making the shift, which includes a greater emphasis on personalized learning
Moving away from letter grades, which many educators say don’t really provide information on what students know and are able to do, school districts across the country — and now some states — have increasingly adopted proficiency- or standards-based grading practices. The model, which communicates the specific skills that students can demonstrate, is also referred to as competency-based grading.
In New York City, for example, 40 schools are implementing such a model, with some working with an organization called Mastery Collaborative, which helps schools make the shift toward what is sometimes viewed as a time-consuming approach to grading. Some critics argue that not all learning can be boiled down into a skill, but proficiency-based grading is gaining popularity in part because blended learning models allow students to move at an individual pace and spend more time on areas where they are struggling.
A 2015 report from Hanover Research on standards-based grading recommends that districts spend time informing parents about the new approach and provide follow-up support to teachers following the initial implementation. The document also provides detailed examples from districts that have used the approach.