Proficiency Diplomas - Update Reflection

2018-04-17 -

Proficiency Based Diplomas - and Politics -


We have been discussing and debating the pros and cons related to Maine’s Proficiency Based Diploma law.

At this writing, the “law” does require that school districts implement a proficiency based diploma system.  Leaders and educators have spent six years working out the detailsof this implementation.  Some have done it well, and some districts have not done so well.  Some districts have been creative and visionary in their implementation, but that is not true for all districts.

But “the law” does not mandate strategies for implementation.  While the law does indicate a number of different practices, there is no clear direction or vision for implementation.  And here lies the great dilemma.  

If the state of Maine wants districts to implement Proficiency Based Diplomas, then the Department of Education has an implied mandate to lead that implementation.  The DOE has done yeoman’s work, but the DOE has failed to articulate a vision of what it means to graduate with a Proficiency Based Diploma.

Part of this dilemma is the “local control” options exercised by all districts in the state, and this historical precedent influences almost every decision impacting education in the state of Maine. The State can pass laws, but it is up to the local districts to implement the law successfully.

The implementation of Proficiency Based Diplomas, while a good practice in theory, has been marred by poor implementation strategies for the last six years. The Department of Education is seriously impacted by the current administration’s efforts to reduce the size of government - to reduce the size and impact of the DOE.  We have had seven Commissioners in six years. That is no way to create stability.

What we have created instead is a chaotic system of misunderstanding. School boards, superintendents, and teachers all want to “do the right thing,” but they have no understanding of what the right thing is.

Because a diploma is an important thing, the local school committee, the local superintendent, and the local principals must be the ones certifying completion of all diploma requirements.   They have that responsibility and they need to exercise that leadership.

Despite the potential changes in the diploma system in Maine, the state will always rely on the Learning Results as a foundation for education. These Learning Results are absolutely essential to understanding educational philosophy in Maine.

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