Portland schools plan new, phased-in graduation requirements

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PORTLAND — The long road to high school graduation may soon get a few new twists and turns.

A proposed “proficiency-based” graduation policy is the subject of two School Board public hearings. The first hearing was expected Tuesday, June 3. The second hearing is scheduled for June 10 at 6 p.m. in Room 250 of Casco Bay High School.

The proposal calls for two phases, with the first introduced beginning in the 2014-2015 school year and the second beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

For Phase 1, graduation requirements will remain fairly straightforward. Students must complete 41 credits “and achieve the content standards” established by the state’s Department of Education. The credits include a range of courses including English, history, math, science, fine art, physical education, health and electives.

Phase 2 introduces requirements beyond content knowledge. Under the proposal, students must demonstrate effective communication, an appetite for life-long learning, problem-solving skills, informed thinking and the ability to be a “responsible and involved citizen.”

Students must also “complete a capstone and/or milestone project demonstrating in-depth research, presentation, and technology integration skills” and apply to college or a training program. 
 
The proposed requirements also add two content areas: world languages and career development.

To accomplish these goals, students may seek learning experiences outside a high school classroom through early college courses, online programs, internships, community service, exchange programs and more.

Students who receive special education services can attain their diplomas by meeting the goals and objectives of their Individualized Education Plans (IEP).

State law requires all school districts to adopt proficiency-based graduation policies by the start of the 2014-15 school year.

In November 2013, Portland Public Schools formed a 19-person task force to draft the proposal. The group includes teachers, principals, university professors, educational technicians, parents, other community members, and students.

For more information, visit www2.portlandschools.org/graduation-policy-task-force.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.

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