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Wednesday, May 25, 2016 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 141 Issue 21


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8/6/2014 2:00:00 PM
Wiscasset Begins Shift to Proficiency-based Education
Wiscasset High School Principal Cheri Towle explains new graduation requirements Aug. 4. (Kathy Onorato photo)
Wiscasset High School Principal Cheri Towle explains new graduation requirements Aug. 4. (Kathy Onorato photo)
By Kathy Onorato

Incoming Wiscasset High School freshmen will see changes in high school graduation requirements as new state law requires Maine schools to transition to "proficiency-based" education.

In an interview Aug. 4, Wiscasset High School Principal Cheri Towle said proficiency-based diploma requirements will likely improve Wiscasset High School's graduation rate because the new system will allow students more opportunity for success.

Proficiency-based education recognizes students learn at different paces and what works for some students may not work for others. It allows students to be successful at their own pace, Towle said.

"It's okay if it takes longer to get there," she said.

The new system will allow students different ways to reach proficiency, including service learning, expeditionary learning, internships, or job shadowing.

"Learning doesn't just happen within the walls of the school," Towle said.

Towle said Wiscasset currently has a graduation rate of 63 percent. According to data provided by Towle, over 60 percent of WHS graduates begin a post-secondary education, but less than 30 percent of those actually earn a college degree within six years of graduating from high school. Towle said part of the problem is students are graduating with gaps in their knowledge.

"This is not okay," Towle said. "We have to change something."

Towle said under the current system it is possible for students to earn credits by obtaining a passing grade of 70, which does not necessarily mean students have learned what's required to be successful in college.

To earn a high school diploma next year, Wiscasset High School's Class of 2015 will need to earn a total of 24 credits, which includes four English; three math, three science, three social studies, 1 1/2 fine arts, 2 1/2 physical education and health, two applied arts, and 1/2 career prep. Wiscasset High School students are also required to complete six hours of community service before graduation.

Under the current system, students who fail required classes don't have much opportunity to retake classes, which sometime leads to students falling behind, which may result in students not graduating from high school, Towle said.

The new law will require the Class of 2018 to demonstrate proficiency in science and technology, English language arts, social studies, math, world language, health and physical education, visual and performing arts, and career and educational development.

The law also require students to be proficient in the guiding principles, which are guidelines that demonstrate students' ability to be clear and effective communicators; self-directed and lifelong learners, integrated and informed thinkers, and responsible and involved citizens.

"This is a paradigm shift in education," said Towle.

Getting to a successful proficiency-based education system requires the district to create a vision and mission of what constitutes proficiency from K-12. This effort will take the input of the entire community, Towle said.

A proficiency-based education committee is now being formed. The committee will work with all stakeholders, including students, to complete a district-wide vision and mission by December, Towle said.

Towle said a meeting with parents of freshmen is being planned to provide an overview of the new graduation requirements and the transition into proficiency-based education.

"We need to move slowly and understand what we are doing and why," Towle said.

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