SCARBOROUGH — Although voters haven’t ratified a budget, schools are opening on schedule next week.
“We are opening our doors on time, but there’s a lot of questions about purchasing materials, supplies and textbooks that I can’t really approve until I know what our budget is going to be,” Superintendent of Schools Julie Kukenberger said.
School begins for students in grades 3, 6 and 9 on Aug. 29. Grades 3-12 will attend on Aug. 30. Students in kindergarten through grade 2 will attend a half-hour appointment with their parents and teacher for assessment and paperwork on Aug. 29 or 30, but will not attend classes until Aug. 31.
New to the schools this year is Proficiency Based Education, which all ninth-grade students will be participating in, as mandated by state government.
The Maine Department of Education defines PBE as “any system of academic instruction, assessment, grading and reporting that is based on students demonstrating mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn before they progress to the next lesson, get promoted to the next grade level or receive a diploma.”
Kukenberger said “the state deadline creates a faster transition than we probably would have on our own.”
PBE must include four core areas: English, math, science and technology, and social studies. Kukenberger said the guiding principals of proficiency-based learning are clear and effective communication by students, being self-directed and lifelong learners, creative and practical problem-solving, being responsible and involved citizens, and becoming integrated and informed thinkers.
By next year this year’s freshmen will be taught proficiency-based learning in the same four core areas, plus a class of their choosing. This will force the school to prepare for and offer PBE in all classes, because administrators don’t know what classes the students will choose.
Kukenberger said the grading will be more accurate with the new system. Students will also be assessed on their habits of work and learning, although it will not be part of their GPA.
“We are separating out habits of work and learning from demonstrated knowledge of academic content,” she said.
Students will receive a “habits of work and learning,” or HOWL score, from 1-4, but Kukenberger said HOWL is not part of the overall grade.
Under the new system, parents and students will have real-time access to student progress and HOWL information online through the PowerSchool program. At the conclusion of each quarter, a Standards Progress Report will be issued.
Kukenberger said the new system puts more information into student assessment, such as where they are on a learning curve what they are ready to learn.
High school Principal David Creech said many of the ninth-grade teachers also teach other grade levels and may choose to offer PBE to their other students.
To prepare educators, training was provided to teachers this week to complement earlier training held in the spring.
“We really believe as school leaders it is our job to empower our teachers and motivate them to drive the change,” Kukenberger said. “Our job is to set the vision and benchmarks and give the teachers a level of autonomy to make decisions and guide the process.”
Kukenberger said the schools have a plan to tell both students and parents about the changes. A series of videos will be available on the website, and an informative document will be handed out and uploaded to the website. There will also be public presentations and a PBE night to educate parents about the new system.
Teacher and instructional coach Michelle Shupp, who teaches Latin and attended the training sessions at the high school said, “(PBE) allows an opportunity to reflect upon a student’s path of growth in their learning experience.”
Shupp said the students’ reports will an accurate depiction of their learning.
Albert McCormack, an environmental science teacher said, “For the first time kids will be focusing on the content of the work, but also developing skills of maturity, like showing up on time, (and) focus.”
Scarborough High School Principal David Creech talks to ninth-grade teachers on Monday during the first of a three-day training session on Proficiency Based Education at the school.
Scarborough High School, at 11 Municipal Drive.