Portland school officials will phase in a new and more complex grading system this fall, dropping plans to adopt it immediately for the entering high school freshman class, which will be the first to graduate under new proficiency-based standards.

Instead, the district will introduce the 1-through-4 system at all middle schools this fall. The three high schools will continue their current grading systems.

“Such a different grading system is not required by the state mandate, and we believe that implementing it at this time could distract from the value of proficiency-based learning as we move forward with this transition,” Superintendent Xavier Botana said in a statement.

Botana said school officials decided to phase in the new grading system after holding several parent information nights and discussing it with educators.

“We got a lot of feedback from school leaders, from teachers and some from parents,” he said. “I think in the aggregate we were convinced that proficiency-based learning is the direction we want to move in, but to lead with the grading was not the wisest move.”

Currently, Portland’s middle schools and two of its high schools use a zero-to-100 grading system, with students getting a single grade for a single subject, like a “93” for English.

Under the new grading system, they will get a 1-4 grade on multiple standards for each subject, with a 3 being “proficient.”

A sample report card distributed earlier this year had 14 standards for geometry, stated in “I can” statements, such as “I can prove geometric theorems,” and “I can find arc lengths and areas of sectors of circles.”

Casco Bay High School uses a 1-4 grading system by subject, and Deering and Portland high schools use a zero-to-100 grading system by subject.

Botana said the district is still determining how to shift the high schools to a new grading system.

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.

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.

Some Maine 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.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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