|The Education Committee voted 9-to-3 for a bill that removes the requirement that districts adopt a proficiency-based diploma system and gives them the option of using the long-standing course completion model, which critics say is based on seat time not learning.
The move, if approved by the full Legislature, could be a setback to work that has been going on since the statute was changed in 2012 to require proficiency in the state’s learning standards in order to graduate. That requirement was reaffirmed in legislation passed in 2016 that gave districts more time to meet the requirement.
Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cumberland, said the vote on Friday, April 13, gave districts a choice to stay with the old model or go with proficiency, and if proficiency proves itself, others will follow.
If proficiency is as good as advocates claim, she said, “the power of the model should be able to bring others in.”
Those opposed to the law change say the move abandons the goal of equity of opportunity for all children regardless of where they live and allows Maine’s diploma to mean different things based on zip code.
Education Chair Sen. Brian Langley, R-Hancock, voted against the change along with Sen. Joyce Maker, R-Washington, and Rep. Phyllis Ginzler, R-Bridgton.
Langley cited the testimony of the County Teachers of the Year for 2018 who two days earlier testified the ongoing work toward proficiency-based learning and diplomas has been a game-changer in the field. They said it gives students clear targets on what they need to know and does not penalize them during the learning process. Those same teachers urged the committee to not abandon the push toward proficiency saying the Legislature had a history of “throwing away initiatives.”
Langley offered an amendment that would give districts another year to implement the first phase of the proficiency diploma requirement. He wants to use that year to require teacher-centered stakeholder groups in all districts to help develop a plan for implementation. The amendment also would require districts to provide training to teachers, using training modules developed by the Department of Education. Click here to read about the stakeholder groups.
Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, said the amendment held promise, but came too late. “I was hoping to find a way to work with that,” she said, but like others felt the committee had simply run out of time.
The full Legislature now will be left to decide and a governor’s veto is possible.
They will be asked to consider an amended L.D. 1666 that leaves both the traditional course-requirements section in law and the proficiency diploma section, without the mandate. Langley’s proposal will be added onto that bill as the minority amendment. His proposal also has been attached as an amendment to L.D. 1900.