Monday, September 10, 2018

Updated Proficiency Based Learning Information for 2018-19

Welcome back to the Gorham Schools, or if you are new to the Gorham Schools - just plain WELCOME!  Before I "dig in" to describe some of the new Proficiency-Based Learning changes we have in store for this year - I would be remiss if I didn't share some photos from our opening days of school with all of you...and what a great opening it was (you can click to make the image a little larger)!

I hope you can tell by the pictures above what an incredibly positive opening of school we had across all our schools!  Oh and just so you know, the picture that is in the shape of a heart and has words in it like "Inspire" and "Positive Difference" and "Love" - that is a wordle that I created from staff responses to my question on opening day:  WHY DO YOU TEACH?  The responses to that question were so inspiring!  I wish you could see all the 350+ responses!  We are incredibly lucky to have the talented and passionate staff that we do here in is so good to have everyone back in our schools and to feel the positive energy that can only be felt when good teachers are working to engage students in learning within a positive school climate!

Now that I've had a chance to "brag" just a little bit...I do want to take a minute to share with parents what to expect for our proficiency-based learning (PBL) work this year.  I think you will find after reading this that we have made several positive "tweaks" to our system based on the feedback collected from students, staff, and parents at the end of last year.  

First, I want to address recent legislative changes that have occurred.  In June, the legislature passed LD 1666, which made it a choice to change systems to a PBL diploma or to stick with traditional practices.  This legislation will allow us to continue our thoughtful change process here in Gorham.  The Gorham Schools started this work well before the MDOE told us we had to because we knew then and we know now that this is the right work.  PBL practices are aligned with our mission/vision and we believe it is a vehicle through which we can make our vision a reality for all students.  We have gone about this work methodically and with purpose.  We have taken our time to improve our practices as we go.  We have focused our attention on building solid foundations for change (Belief statements, clear standards, learning progressions, scoring criteria, etc.). We plan on continuing our slow, and purposeful pace of change and will continue to move forward in this important work with input from our most important stakeholders - students, staff, and parents.

As a demonstration of how we use feedback to inform our decisions, I wanted to review with you some changes to our system that will be occurring for the 2018-19 school year.  I think you will find many concerns expressed last year will be addressed by these changes.  Of course, as we continue to grow in our implementation, additional challenges will occur...but those too can be addressed together as we build a system that works for us!

What to Expect for 2018-19 School Year in PBL Implementation:

*  We will be focusing on improving our consistency of grading practices across grades K-12.  The focus of this year's professional development will be on increasing staff understanding of assessment literacy.  We will be bringing in a national speaker - Jan Chappuis to conduct PD with staff, and we will be working with USM Professor Dr. Anita McCafferty to provide school-based assessment leadership training to help improve practices.

*  We have developed a Draft Grading Guide that has been shared widely with staff.  It is still being "tweaked" but the overall purpose is to provide clear guidelines to staff regarding expectations in grading processes and procedures.

*  Grades K-7 Plus 8th grade Science and Allied Arts teachers will be using a 1-4 scale and reporting learning progress on standards using our standards-based grading and report software called Jumprope.  Parents who are interested in learning more about how Jumprope works can click on the following links:

*  We have developed several "One Pagers" to help parents better understand our system and some of its key components.  Check them out:

*  We heard your feedback that Skills For Life (SFL) should weigh more heavily for students.  This year SFL scores will count towards Co&Extra Curricular eligibility for students in grades 6-12.  A student's SFL average score for any individual class cannot fall below a 2.0.  If it does, eligibility requirements will kick in using the same "rules" as academic eligibility.

*  Additionally, SFL scores will also count towards Honor roll and high honor roll eligibility in grades 6-12.  When SFL scores are averaged across all courses, it cannot fall below a 2.75 in order to be eligible for honors or high honors designations.

*  We also heard concerns regarding missing work and made some changes here too.  For 2018-19 if a student is missing word due to an "excused" reason (such as being sick, etc.) then a teacher will enter an "M" in the grade book.  That "M" will NOT count towards the students' grade.  However, if a student simply didn't turn work in and is therefore not "excused" by the teacher, a teacher will enter an "I" (for incomplete) in the grade book.  The "I" will calculate as a "0" and will impact the student's grade.  Once a student turns the work in, the score earned by the student will replace the "0" in the grade book.  

*  We also included a new "Two Week Rule". This rule basically says that missing work that is not turned in within 2 weeks, becomes "incomplete" and therefore impacts the grade.  It also states that if work is turned in after 2 weeks, the student's score may be reduced by up to .25 (on the 1-4 scale) points.

*  Additionally, we are going to be closing quarters and trimesters again.  Work not turned in before the end of a quarter or trimester will count against a student's score.

*  In order for students to earn course credit at GHS, a student average no less than a 2.0 (73 on the 100 point scale) across all standards for that course.  Additionally, a student cannot have an average across the semester/year less than a 1.5 (67) on any individual standard contained within that course.

*  Teachers in grades 8-12 will utilize the 1-4 scale (with .10 increments as desired) for all coursework.  Feedback will be provided using this scale.  Teachers will input scores based upon this scale, which will then be converted in Infinite Campus to the 100 point scale using our blended scale.

*  Whenever a summative assessment is given by teachers, the possibility to achieve a "4" will be available.

*  Honor/High Honor Roll will continue to be calculated.  Students must average between an 85-92 for honors and between a 93-100 for high honors using the 100 point scale.

*  GPA will continue to be calculated and will be prominent on a high school student's transcript.  We will continue to designate Valedictorian and Salutatorian, etc. as we have in the past.

If you'd like to review our overall curriculum documents, please check out our 2018-19 Final Progress Report.  You can also review the updated 2018-19 Proficiency-Based Learning Handbook.

As the year continues, please keep your eyes open for more opportunities for information sharing and feedback collection.  I will be meeting with student groups, staff, and parents throughout the course of the school year in order to continue to listen to stakeholders and work to build a system that will fulfill its promise of helping us to make our Mission/Vision a reality for all Gorham Students.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.  You can email me at  

Thank you and Have a Great Year!