The Portland School Board dropped a plan that would have required every high school student to apply to college, a vocational or technical program or the military to get a diploma.

Instead, the board approved a modified graduation policy Tuesday that requires all students to develop a post-graduation plan that could include college, looking for a job or traveling.

At several public hearings in recent weeks, most speakers had criticized the original proposal as being elitist and putting too much pressure on students to choose a certain path. Several speakers said they thought there was too much emphasis on the message that all students should go to college, and several urged the board to broaden the policy.

CHANGES REQUIRED BY STATE LAW

School boards across the state are revamping their graduation policies in light of a 2012 state law that requires all school districts to change to a “proficiency-based” diploma system. That means all students must meet the state standards in eight areas: English, math, science and technology, social studies, health education and physical education, visual and performing arts, world languages, and career and education development. It is up to the districts to determine how to measure whether a student has met the standards, and they can add requirements to their own diploma policy.

Portland School Board members agreed that all students must complete a large project, known as a capstone project, that demonstrates in-depth research, presentation skills and technology skills.

“This policy means Portland Public Schools graduates will be better prepared for life after high school,” Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk said in a written statement. “They will have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in today’s constantly evolving global economy.”

The standards are supposed to be in place for the graduating class of 2018, but the state has announced that districts could apply for extensions of up to two years if needed.

Portland school officials said they would decide later this summer whether to apply for an extension.

A SHIFT AWAY FROM TESTING

Currently, the only way to assess student academic ability is through testing. For high school juniors, that has been the SAT for reading, writing and math and a Maine test for science. A significant percentage of students score “significantly below proficient,” according to test results.

State education officials said that in 2012-13, 37 percent of Maine students who graduated were not meeting the state’s proficiency standards in math or reading.

In Portland, juniors at Deering and Portland high schools scored “substantially below proficient” in all four testing areas. About 48 percent were substantially below proficient in science, about 40 percent in math, about 33 percent in reading and about 30 percent in writing.