Falmouth schools forum to explain grading practices

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FALMOUTH — After the state lifted a mandate requiring proficiency-based diplomas for high school graduates, school officials will hold a forum to explain how Falmouth students are graded.

Last summer the Legislature left it up to local school districts to decide whether to continue implementing proficiency-based standards, or revert to the more traditional A-F grading.

Falmouth has a sort of hybrid system, and next week the School Department plans to more fully outline how academic performance is evaluated.

Information from the meeting, to be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, at Falmouth Elementary School, will be used to “better support our students and families,” according to Superintendent of Schools Geoff Bruno.

Falmouth schools have “worked hard to stay focused on best practice with respect to student learning … .” Bruno said. “(Our) goal will continue to be one of self-reflection and continuous improvement.”

High school students still receive traditional grades, while the middle and elementary schools have implemented the proficiency-based method.

When it comes to reporting on student performance and assessment practices, “we will continue to innovate and find the best ways to provide specific and targeted feedback to our students, empowering them to deepen (their) understanding and mastery of critical learning standards,” Bruno said.

The strength of using proficiency-based standards, he added, is that it more easily provides students with “the tools (they need) to take greater ownership over their own learning and performance.”

Bruno said administrators and teachers at the forum would “share our district vision and practices related to grading .. (as well as) outlining the many … ways we collaborate together across our campus to strengthen a student’s learning experience as they move through the grades and in between schools.”

He said where the Maine Department of Education failed in its implemention of proficiency-based diploma requirements is that it never fully “defined what proficiency meant.”

Bruno said the intent of the Falmouth School Department, no matter what method it uses to evaluate performance, is to be “confident that graduates who have earned a diploma are ready for the academic rigor at any college or university.”

He said the key to making that happen is “open communication between school and home” and the ability of teachers to “communicate clear and specific performance standards ahead of time. “

Bruno said at this time the School Department is not planning on making “any major changes to our high school transcript.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

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