2017-07-13 / Front Page

Sanford parents receive details about proficiency-based education

By TAMMY WELLS
Senior Staff Writer

SANFORD  — The School Committee will vote in late July or early August on a plan developed by teachers, school administration and parents about how to implement proficiency-based education in Sanford.

The Maine Legislature approved the new education model, designed to make sure students know the work — that they are proficient — in 2012. The state education department left how to implement the model to school districts.

The law requires freshmen class members of 2021 to be the first that must demonstrate proficiency in math, science, social studies, English language arts and a number of guiding principles to receive a diploma, according to Sanford Schools Superintendent David Theoharides.

As the years progress, new subjects are added to the proficiency scale and students still need 25 credits to graduate.

“Its not whether you grade with a 98 but whether you’re proficient,” said Theoharides, though he said numeric scores remain in place.

Parents had a number of questions at a forum Monday night, ranging from how many times students can take a test that counts toward proficiency to the effect on special education students to how colleges will view the system when it comes to admitting students. More than 50 parents and teachers turned out for the forum in the Sanford High School cafeteria.

The proposed model retains traditional number grades for high school students along with proficiency scores ranging from 1 to 4. Students must achieve a 2.5 to be considered proficient in a subject.

Teachers from Kindergarten through eighth grade have been recording students’ proficiency in math and English language arts for some time.

Parent Deb Bernier, who has a student going into seventhe grade in the fall, came to the forum to gain a better understanding of  the process.  She said she’s concerned that each teacher might have a different take on what is considered proficient.

“It feels very subjective,” she said prior to the start of the meeting.

Another parent of twin 14-year-olds said she too, was looking for more information. The mother declined to give her name, but said she was interested because her daughters will be freshmen in the fall — the first high school grade to fully use the system.

Theoharides said the proficiency method is based on common core math and English standards, NextGen science standards, national social studies standards and Maine Learning Results.

Students will be scored separately on “habits of work” — like their attitude toward learning, responsibilities for learning and more.

Parents asked about how the proficiency standards will spell out for special education students.

Special education director Stacy Bissell said the department has been preparing for the proficiency-based education model that all students are expected to follow. 

She pointed out there are different ways to teach subjects like geometry — students in the Bridge program used their geometry skills when they built a boat, she pointed out. 

Sanford High School social studies department head Barbara Perry said there are  numerous of ways to determine proficiency.

“Whatever it takes, we’re here to do it,” Perry said. “Its not a ‘one and done’  thing anymore. We want (students) to be successful.”

Bernier, the mother of the soon-to-be seventh grader, said she left the meeting with more questions.

“I am happy see the passion of the teachers,” she said of those who attended, but wondered if all would be as passionate about making sure students achieve the standards. 

“I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of it,” she said.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or twells@journaltribune.com.






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