2012-12-28 / Community News

New diploma requirements outlined

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Students in Scarborough, and children in school districts all across the state, will soon have to prove how much they know in order to graduate high school due to a law that was passed last spring.

Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill, “L.D. 1422, An Act to Prepare Maine People for the Future Economy,” on May 21.

“The intent with this is the high school diploma would be based on proficiency, not just seat time,” said Monique Culbertson, the district’s director of curriculum and assessment. “It’s a wonderful goal. The challenge for us will be in the attention to detail.”

The new high school diploma requirements was one of several legislative updates provided to members of the Board of Education at its meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20.

Culbertson said the new approach to a standards-based diploma, was originally supposed to go into effect in January 2017, but that has since been pushed back to January 2018.

School board member John Cole said he was surprised to hear the law’s implementation has been pushed back.

“If anything, my gut would tell me, they would want to do it sooner,” Cole said.

Culbertson said it wold take a while for such a substantial change to high school graduation requirements to be put into effect.

An update on the law is expected from Department of Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen in March.

According to language in the law, the class of 2015 must demonstrate proficiency in English language arts; mathematics; science and technology; social studies and health/physical education/wellness. The graduates of 2018 must show proficiency in the aforementioned disciplines, along with career and education development; world languages and visual/performing arts. The law would also require math, science/technology and English in each of the student’s high school years.

Culbertson said students do not have to gain proficiency through just classroom instruction. The law states students can gain proficiency “through multiple pathways” and demonstrate “proficiency by presenting multiple types of evidence.”

School board member Jackie Perry wonders if requiring a standards-based diploma is the right approach.

“We are almost backing ourselves in a corner with these proficiency requirements,” she said. “I don’t think students are proficient in everything they are required to pass to get a high school diploma.”

Culbertson said in this case proficiency means “meeting a certain performance level.” Those performance levels, however, have not been determined. She said the same performance level would most likely not be required for every content area.

“One size fits all in proficiency and performance level across all content areas, I am not sure suits students well,” Culbertson said.

Aside from a legislative update about graduation requirements, school officials also shared with the board updates on new bullying and freedom of access policies.

Culbertson explained, the new bullying law, LD 1237: An Act to Prohibit Bullying and Cyberbullying in Schools, also signed by Gov. LePage in May, is a reworked version of what previously existed.

The law defines bullying as “written, oral, or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof directed at a student or students” that causes physical harm to the student or student’s property, places the student in reasonable fear or harm, creates an intimidating or hostile learning environment or interferes with the student’s academic performance or ability to utilize school services.

The bullying policy covers both inside the school and on the school grounds, including at athletic events.

“It does not have to happen in the four walls or halls of a school,” Culbertson said.

The policy also includes both physical bullying and bullying done online.

“If they have stress from it in school, it doesn’t matter where it happens or when it happens,” said school board member Kelly Murphy.

As school leaders get used to a new bullying policy, Kate Bolton, the district’s director of business operations, is working to meet new state requirements on how school district provide public records to the public. All public records requests will now be fulfilled through Bolton, who will be tasked with making a “good-faith effort” to provide the requested information, in the medium in which it was stored, within a reasonable period of time and provide a cost estimate for such work.

“We are not looking to obstruct, we are looking to make the process clear and easy on our end and for the person making the request,” Bolton said.

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