Flexibility key to diploma proposal

Posted May 20, 2009, at 11:09 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A proposal that would revise high school diploma standards is before the Legislature’s Education Committee, and work on it is expected to continue next week.

The plan is designed to give students more flexibility in choosing their courses and in the way they meet the standards for graduation.

The committee already has held a public hearing and several workshops on LD 1325 and has scheduled two more workshops on Monday and Tuesday, according to Education Department spokesman David Connerty-Marin.

The Education Department has been looking at a standards-based diploma for a number of years, he said, and the Legislature appointed a stakeholders group representing administrators and educators in a variety of disciplines to develop the proposal.

The proposal would change the diploma requirements for high school students in the state.

“Currently we have a system based on credits and courses; if you pass the courses you get the diploma,” Connerty-Marin said Wednesday. “What has been proposed is a system that looks at the students’ knowledge and skills and how they show that they have met the standards.”

The standards are not new, he said. They were set in 1997 and revised in 2007.

Under the proposal, each student would have an individual learning plan and would have to meet the standards in four common areas: English language arts, math, science and technology, and social studies. They would choose to meet standards in a fifth content area, choosing from one of three: health or physical education; visual and performing arts; or world languages. They also would have to partially meet standards in the remaining two.

Career and technical education students could meet standards of a recognized industry in place of meeting that fifth standard.

What constitutes “meeting” and “partially meeting” the standards still has not been defined, but students would have to show some level of proficiency in those academic areas, according to Connerty-Marin.

The bill also provides “multiple pathways” for students to meet the standards, in addition to traditional classroom instruction, such as alternative programs, adult education, apprenticeships, career academies, virtual learning and dual enrollment (college and high school), or other nonclassroom experiences.

Connerty-Marin gave the example of a student taking private violin lessons which might provide the knowledge to meet the fine arts requirement without having to take a basic music class at the high school.

“It’s not about what courses you took or how many; it’s what you studied and learned, one way or another,” he said.

Assessing whether students have met the standards would still include classic “pencil-and-paper” tests, Connerty-Marin said, but also will include a variety of assessments such as portfolios, performances and projects.

If the Legislature passes the measure, the new diploma standards would go into effect in the 2012-13 school year. Students in the Class of 2016 would be the first to receive a standards-based diploma.

rhewitt@bangordailynews.net

667-9394

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