Starting next year, Portland’s high school freshman will be graded differently and work with teachers more collaboratively under new proficiency-based graduation requirements that take effect with their graduating class.

“It’s deeper learning,” Sharon Pray, Portland’s chief academics officer, said at an informational meeting Monday at Lyman Moore Middle School. “It’s a way of demonstrating that you really know a concept.”

In 2012, Maine became one of the first states in the nation to adopt proficiency-based graduation standards, which require students to show in-depth understanding, under state-mandated learning standards, of everything from U.S. history to algebraic equations, in order to get a diploma.

Similar conversations are happening across the state as the new standards take effect.

Some districts have already started proficiency-based education.

Nine school districts, including Yarmouth, will be awarding proficiency-based diplomas beginning with the class of 2018. The Falmouth School District and RSU 16 in Poland will start with the class of 2019.


Ten other districts will begin in 2020 and the rest of the state will begin in 2021.

The biggest changes outlined Monday include a new report card that, instead of showing a single score such as a “B” for English, shows scores on multiple standards for a single class.

A sample report card passed out Monday had 14 standards for geometry, put in “I can” statements, such as “I can prove geometric theorems,” and “I can find arc lengths and areas of sectors of circles.”

Scores will be on a 1-to-4 scale, with 3 considered proficient.

The report card has a section on work habits, such as attendance and turning in homework, but it is not part of the academic grade, since failing to turn in homework doesn’t mean a student doesn’t have mastery of a subject. The work habits grade will be used to determine eligibility for sports and extracurricular activities.

In the classroom, teachers will be clear upfront about the standards, and give constant feedback to students.


Students will have multiple chances to meet the standard. Their grades are not averaged over time, but will reflect what they know by the end of the term.

Students may also demonstrate proficiency in different ways, such as making a video or giving a presentation instead of writing a paper.

“It’s a chance to show what you know,” said Lyman Moore Middle School Principal Ben Donaldson.

Starting with the class of 2021, students must be proficient in four core areas: English, math, science and technology, and social studies.

Every year after that, students must add proficiency in one more area, so the class of 2022 must be proficient in the “core four” plus one other area; the class of 2023 must be proficient in the “core four” plus two other areas, and so on, until all students must be proficient in all eight content areas by 2025.

Rhode Island was the first state to adopt proficiency-based diplomas, and similar policies are in place in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Portland officials will hold additional meetings Wednesday at Lincoln Middle School and Thursday at King Middle School, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. A session with language interpreters will be held Wednesday at King Middle School.

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