MSAD 35 Reviews Progress on New Diploma Standards

By Mark Pechenik January 06. 2016

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — An update on progress in meeting the state’s new proficiency-based diploma standards highlighted the SAD 35 School Board’s meeting on Wednesday night.

As indicated by Heidi Early-Hersey, the district’s director of teaching and learning, at the start of her presentation, the district remains focused on “enabling students to acquire the knowledge and skills that are deemed essential to their success in school, higher education and careers.”

Early-Hersey provided an overview to the board on where the district stands in meeting such standards which, according to the state, will place greater emphasis on student mastery – or proficiency – of academic subjects rather than high test scores.

At present, according to Early-Hersey, teachers in all district schools are working collaboratively to revise academic curriculums so they better align with the proficiency requirements mandated by the state. Major subject areas such as math, science and English are being given close scrutiny.

Much of this work is being undertaken by leadership teams in all schools. “They are looking at student work and assessing what is proficient and what is not,” said Early-Hersey.

Also integral to this process is identifying students who are not meeting the new standards. “We need to intervene with immediacy to accelerate these students to expected levels of performance,” stated Marshwood High School Principal Paul Mehlhorn. However, he also emphasized that Marshwood High School would not lose its focus on enabling academically gifted students to excel in their studies.

Mehlhorn expressed confidence that proficiency-based units of study for ninth graders will be “done and validated by the end of this year.”

Once all of these units are completed, said Early-Hersey, they will be disseminated in district classes from pre-kindergarten to high school.

In congratulating district teachers and personnel on their efforts to meet the new standards, MSAD 35 Superintendent Mary Nash indicated the district remains committed to also grading students on what she called “social skills.” These include attendance, classroom participation and study skills.

In other business

MSAD 35 board chairperson Kerri Tice invited members of the public to comment on the pending 2016-2017 school year budget at upcoming district board meetings in March and April.

Meanwhile, Tice indicated that board members will be seated at special tables, outside of parent teacher conferences in March, to hear parent opinions on the school budget.

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