Regional School Unit 3 officials are seeking a one-year extension from the Maine Department of Education in order to meet the requirements for a proficiency based education diploma.

By law, the graduating class of 2018 must leave high school with a proficiency-based diploma; however, the MDOE released six options available to school districts that need more time to make the transition to awarding the proficiency-based diplomas.

According to the MDOE, in order to receive a proficiency-based diploma a student must demonstrate they engaged in educational experiences relating to English language arts, mathematics, and science and technology in each year of the student’s secondary schooling; demonstrate proficiency in meeting state standards in all content areas of the system of learning results — English language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and technology, health education, physical education, visual and performing arts, world languages, and career and education development; demonstrate proficiency in each of the guiding principles set forth in department rules governing implementation of the system of learning results — being a clear and effective communicator, a self-directed and lifelong learner, a creative and practical problem–solver, a responsible and involved citizen, and integrative and informed thinker; and meet any other requirements specified by the governing body of the school administrative unit attended by the student.

The six options provided to the school districts offer extensions of one to two years depending on how far along a district is in regards to being able to award the proficiency-based diploma. Heather Perry, RSU 3's superintendent, said school board members considered options two and three before ultimately deciding to ask for the one-year extension outlined under option two.

Option two states that the district has a “fully implemented proficiency-based instruction program in place at the secondary level” and that the district needs an additional year in order to “pilot and refine the mechanisms for reporting and assessments that have already been developed.”

By requesting an extension, RSU 3 agrees to provide evidence demonstrating its preparedness to deliver diplomas based on proficiency of the standards of the eight content areas and the standards of the Guiding Principles in 2019. It also agrees to provide an implementation plan that outlines benchmarks for the 2014-2015 school year that RSU 3 will meet in order to pilot and refine the mechanisms for reporting and assessment that have already been developed and are necessary to meet the goal of awarding diplomas based on proficiency in the standards of the eight content areas and the standards of the Guiding Principles, according to the MDOE.

Perry explained the district began implementing proficiency-based standards about three years prior to the state mandating those standards be developed. When the district began its efforts, the goal was to start with grades K-5, then move to grades 6-8 before finally implementing the proficiency-based standards at the high school.

However, the state had the opposite goal in mind and wanted the proficiency standards to start with high-school students. For that reason, Perry said trying to enact all of the requirements for awarding a proficiency-based diploma to the Class of 2018 would have presented too much of a hardship for the district.

She said that the one-year extension should be adequate for the district to fully implement all requirements for the proficiency-based diploma. Furthermore, she also pointed out that she believed the majority of school districts in the state would be seeking an extension from the MDOE.

If the district still feels it is unable to award a proficiency-based diploma to the Class of 2019, another extension can be requested. She said current statute allows the MDOE to grant extensions until 2021.