Franklin Countys First News

RSU 9 board looks to the experts for grading system recommendation

RSU 9 board members voted to request a recommendation from school administrators regarding the best grading system for the upcoming school year.

FARMINGTON - Members of the Regional School Unit 9 board met Tuesday evening to continue the ongoing discussion of the district's system for grading and evaluating student progress. With a change in state law last month allowing school districts the option of choosing between a Proficiency Based Education model or more traditional models of evaluating, RSU 9 and districts across the state are being forced to make difficult decisions with summer vacation quickly coming to an end.

Since finding out about the change last month, the board has been working to better understand the different systems and how they work on a day to day basis. Parents, staff and students have followed the discussion closely, with more than 100 attending a public forum two weeks ago that addressed their questions and concerns.

Passed by the board last year at this time, the PBE model requires students to show proficiency in English, math, science and technology, social studies, health and physical education, visual and performing arts, world languages, and career and education development. A traditional diploma is based off a number of classes, with students meeting class objectives to earn credit. PBE uses a grading scale of 1 through 4, averaging each assignment equally for a final report, while more traditional scales range from 0 to 100 with various assignments carrying different weights.

The difficult decision has brought to light inconsistencies with both systems, with many parents and students expressing concern over the confusion and usage of assignment rubrics.

"Standards have been used for a long time, but before last year teachers didn't have to tie any assignments to a report. It was just a judgement. Last year teachers had to have data to back up the standard given. If we go back to the traditional grading system, we will still have the issues of inconsistencies that we've found," Curriculum Coordinator Laura Columbia said.

In a survey sent out to district staff on Monday, one of the top concerns for the upcoming year was the grading system. Of the 80 survey results received by Tuesday evening, the 1-4 grading system was rated as the lowest factor in student achievement and was rated as the most unused tool to assess student learning, as reported by board member Carole Coles. With teachers starting their school year in less than a week, the issue is likely to be unresolved for the first several weeks. Columbia estimated it would take a little more than a month to switch the district back to a traditional grading method if that was the final decision.

"I just think the cart slid in front of the horse on this one. We have problems that are not going to be corrected by next week, and students are feeling like they're part of an experiment. Community members, parents, teachers and students have all asked us to slow down until we have a model that might work well," board member Craig Stickney said.

After amending and voting down two different motions, the board agreed to extend the length of the meeting and passed a motion requesting a recommendation from Columbia, Superintendent Tina Meserve and the administrative team. The motion requested that the team "adopt a grading system of a core score and a standards based report" to be voted on at next week's board meeting. The motion passed 15-1 with Debbie Smith opposed.

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29 Responses »

  1. Boy, has this district got a problem. And the problem starts right at the TOP. Our new Superintendent made a remark at this meeting that basically insulted every teacher in the last 100 years. She said that teachers had never had any standard to go by in grading. REALLY? teachers had standards. And I've got a report card to prove it.

  2. "Core score and a standards based report" Isn't this the "dual report" that was spoken of at last week's meeting? 1-4 grading hamstrings our children. Leave the standards and rubrics in place, but go back to a weighted 1-100 system, and factor the GPA from that as has been done previously.
    Administration has made clear what they want for a system. The school board needs to listen to their constituents and vote accordingly. Then pick a system and implement it! Enough with this yo-yoing of our children's grades.

  3. Creating motivation and a liking to return to classes after summer break are two challenges that parents and educators face. Most kids look forward to the return, to see classmates, a new room and teacher, the activities, the lunch program, extra-curricular , the bus rides and so on. Using the information from the students and parents that I have conversed with, I must say that a large number of sophomores returning to Mt. Blue lack motivation and an interest in starting school. Their dislike for several reasons of the experimental PBE (proficiency - based education) system of instruction, assessment, and grading is the cause for the many "not looking forward to the return to school." In a community recovering from budget dissension, we are once again facing a major issue affecting most importantly the students, but again causing division between school and community. With so much opposition from parents, students, and teachers it is difficult to understand why a few in administration are so adamant about keeping a disliked, unproven program in place.

  4. Well said, Bob!

  5. I'm more concerned that we get a public grading system of our teachers, let us see their evaluations!!!

  6. Well said Bob. It's obvious that most of the board has great concern with PBE and a few still support whatever they are told. Hopefully the task at hand for the new super and cirriculum coordinator and admin team is well thought out and the concerns of the students and many teachers as well as parents is actually listened too. If not there may be some job openings being announced.

  7. Bob, well said. Now is not the time to be holding the value of a PBE assessment report over the long standing practice of teaching and learning. We have less than half a week to prep for the year. PBE seems to be supported by the Administrators and brand new Curriculum Coordinator rather than the Teachers and Students who it will be used by and on. Sorry but last year I had no idea what my child had learned or how well they understood the lessons becasue the teacher reports were either not present or multi page long generic printouts with bullet point lines and a simple 1-4 rating. Simplifying performance in a 1-4 or 1-3 rating system gave him 0 drive to make honor roll because it's such a fine line. Do the minimal and you get a 2-3 to pass the subject. Some teachers seemed to over complicate assessments while others just didin't do them at all or communicate when my child wasn't meeting a standard. This tells me that some teachers can understand PBE assessments more than others which is a inconsistency of the system of training or PBE as a practice. Multiple emails and calls to the school were met with generic responses with PBEdutalk that seemed to also be subjective and isolate conversations to the schools advantage. As a parent I felt unheard, discouraged, and isolated from active involvement in my child's education. Let teachers, parents, and students decide the fate of PBE or the old system. What I see with PBE is that we are altering an assessment system to please administrators and the Curriculum Coordinator. Notice the fear, "would take a little more than a month to switch the district back to a traditional grading method "... Why would it take that long if teachers already know how to implement it? I've spoken with teachers who know it take less than a week to go back to something used for over a century. We don't need a new system to evaluate everyone individually, we just need an accommodating education that knows the value of teaching and accommodating different learning styles. I'm with Bob on this one. Who does the work in the classroom and at home? That's who needs to decide.

  8. People are overwhelmingly against PBE, why is there even a discussion now that we have a choice? Don’t believe me?, stop a random person and ask....

  9. As a teacher I am not in favor of the 1-4 grading system. Everyone has used and understands the 1-100 system, so why the need to change it? 1-4 does not seem to have the support of many parents, students, and teachers. If it reduces students' motivation, that's enough of a reason to ditch it! Having standards and targets for proficiency are important, but keep the traditional grading system. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I hope the board will listen to what pretty clearly seems to be a consensus.

  10. I am concerned about who these "experts" might be. Are they people who are truly knowledgeable, or are they just people who support PBE and can wrangle the way the school "makes up" grades? Kids shouldn't be forced into a grading system that's doesn't really "say" anything to them, or to the parents.

    Another concern is that Core Math will continue to be stuffed down elementary kids' throats. That should be thrown out with PBE. And anyone who supports PBE should consider resigning from this district that obviously doesn't agree with the PBE. How can all the parents who have stepped up to fight be PBE be wrong?

  11. I can't believe we are having this conversation a week before school starts.
    Nancy, I totally agree with you.
    After receiving a 2.5 on a project, my son asked his teacher how he could improve his grade. The teacher replied, "You've met the standard. Why would you want to do that?" I was already opposed, but I was done after that.

  12. What if the Superintendent doesn't bend to the desires of the people - students, teachers, parents? She is a staunch supporter of PBE, back by Laura Columbia - curriculum director. If the school board votes to change the grading system, aren't they the Superintendent's "boss"? Doesn't she have to follow their direction?
    There are statutes that control the way schools operate. Did someone rewrite those statutes? I'm worried about this.

  13. Someone asked why change it. To cover up the simple fact that education in this country has been going down the tubes for decades. Keep changing the curriculum, keep changing the tests, keep changing the grading systems, keep giving us multi-million dollar budgets, stop telling us how to do our jobs that have been dumbing kids down for a looong time.

  14. The dumbing down of America
    began in public schools. I hear the decline in knowledge of the world and academic
    I see the heightened sensivity and tilted lens of
    through which the students view the world and it's problems.
    Facilitators are trained to blatantly
    con administrators and communities
    into accepting this mass indoctrination
    and miseducation of the masses.
    Challenging students fixed beliefs by changing thoughts, actions and feelings. This is the purpose of parents not education.
    Our children are objects of experimentation by a sinister ruling class.
    As spoken by John Adams, " The failure to teach truth, combined with the dumbing down of education and the embrace of Epicurean pleasures and teachings, is one of the things most likely to bring " punishment to America. "

    Outcome based education will enslave us. Wake up!

  15. Pizzedoff;
    After attending the last three school board meetings and forum, it is very apparent that our new Superintendent has no intentions of listening to students, staff, parents, community members, and board members about their concerns on PBE. She has discarded all the concerns and has outdone herself to sway people to what she wants. It appears that she is trying to tell the board when where and how to vote. More concerning, before the meeting Tuesday night I overheard board members talking about an email that was sent out that accuses them of not being able to work at their, the administrations level. I believe that our board members are educated and can work on any level. This is truly an insult to all the board members and the RSU 9 community. Is there any board member that can substantiate what I heard? Why didn’t the board chair say something at the meeting? If this is in fact true, then she, the superintendent, owes the board and the community members a public apology. Here is a link to some interesting reading.
    Just a note: I understand Drummond and Woodsum is the law firm that represents most if not all of the school districts in Maine. Isn’t this like asking the wolf in the chicken coop what happened?

  16. Olde Crone....thumbs up!!!!

  17. After reading all of this am I some glad I am old enough not to have any kids in school. Sounds like the poor teachers and kids would be totally confused. I would agree as an outsider this issue should have been resolved before a woeek before school starts.

  18. Oh my goodness! A complaint happened, an investigation was done, and a chief administrator was praised for doing there job. Thank you for directing us to an article in which a complaint was investigated and found to be without value, in fact the person being looked into was found to have done their job quite well, in accordance with the wishes of board they work for.

    We just hired a new superintendent based on education, experience, and passion for education. Maybe we should give her a chance to explain what some of her experience has taught her?

    Another dart to throw? Why not throw it a a dart board instead?

  19. We all know,,, PBE isn't going anywhere in RSU9.
    Despite the obvious....

    And they wonder why people have a negative opinion of the school "SYSTEM".

    Our problem isn't the schools, teachers or buildings.
    Our problem is the "SYSTEM".

    The Sup is part of the SYSTEM thus a part of the PROBLEM.


  20. First off the investigation was not conducted by an outside entity it was done by an employee of Drummond and Woodsum that makes it biased. If it had done by an outside entity there is a slim chance findings would be the same but I personally doubt it. It also looks as though our new superintendent is doing the same thing by not making the best choice possible for our kids. She is dead set against changing from PBE and that goes COMPLETELY against her employers !!!! (You know the board and the taxpayers of this district)

  21. First Off: I agree, Drummond and Woodsum was hired to do an evaluation. They were paid to do so...and their reputation is on the line each time they work. If they can not do a reasonable, impartial evaluation, why hire them?

    Ah...must be a deep state conspiracy! Everyone against what "we know is right".

    Sorry, I disagree.

    Have a good day!

  22. Agree to disagree fine. You can't have an unbiased investigation if it will make the lawyers and school look bad. That is why it should be someone that DOESN'T work for the system or the lawyers. See my point ? It was biased so that no one looked bad even though it was abuse of power. My grandfather went to Germany in WWII for a reason. It was so my family and I were FREE to live without having things like PBE and other BAD ideas forced upon us by someone or some group that wants to dumb down society. Have a nice life !!!!

  23. Craig Stickney
    Board Representative, Chesterville

    @ Pizzedoff:
    I believe the comment in question is the following taken from the email sent to the board:" The good news is that the detail in this document is the work of administration, not the Board, so it's not expected that you would fully understand or work at this level" Everyone will have a different opinion of this statement. For me it is questionable in some ways that an employee would talk to their employer in this manner

    @ Reading for Content:

    I am in no way pointing fingers at any one. However, a law firm is bound to defend it's client to the best of their ability. The question of impartial is again everyone's opinion.

    My email is on the districts web site, send me an email with your telephone number or request mine, and we will talk.

  24. I have always supported the school budget believing it would make my child's educational experience better at Mt. Blue but unfortunately is has not, in fact, it has been the opposite. The issue has not been with the quality fo education but with the lack of administrative collaboration with parents. Aside from the Mallet school principle every administrator since has has been stuck in a fixed mindset that they know what is best for my child or that they simply won't listen to our insight into helping our student. It is frustration to to be talked down to and never actually listened to. Again I say, this is a culmination of experiences through out the years and not just an simple indecent that I'm reacting to.

    To the person commenting as "Reading For Content". It is quite obvious that you are one of the administrators or curriculum director. You are doing exactly what I have experience from the schools my child has attended. The administration is quick to go on defensive rather than admit there is something wrong with faculty or the system of the school. Tell tale signs are; insistent that they are right and we don't know as much as them, gas-lighting by dismissing commenters as conspiracy theorists or just a kids POV vs adult, and most importantly... Not listening and acknowledging the validity of the parents and students who have voiced experience and knowledge. This is not a career job to parents and students and this is not a competition to win at school reform. This is real life and their futures depend on it. Please stop using such a condescending tone and tit for tat reactions.Instead please respond with facts and visions of why you support BBE and why this drastic change in education works for you and my kids. I want to hear why you think this is worth fighting for. Maybe I'm missing something that my experience has not reveled. Thanks.

  25. I would be asking for popcorn to watch this comedy of the system arguing a truly flawed program except it is my tax dollars being wasted. And The child's education being watered down by pride and ego.
    I hope the parents, students and community that is apposed to this, fights it, all the way.

  26. This article is an interesting read ( – apparently, there was some skepticism about the results of the investigation of the super's performance. Maybe it is because the lead attorney from D & W, who is on the board of directors for Educate Maine (, "was extensively involved in recent, sweeping statutory changes that led to the reorganization of Maine’s public school systems." This is in reference to the 2012 Proficiency-Based Diploma legislation. Educate Maine is partners with Great Schools Partnership and other organizations who have received millions of dollars from Nellie Mae to push PBE in Maine ( Wake up!

  27. Let the students decide. If they are wise enough to decide on our political leaders and gun control/legislation, then this should be easy-peasy.

  28. Nope, not an administrator, or the curriculum coordinator.

    I believe in have standards to set up learning targets, and reporting on how well our kids are doing compared to those targets. I believe in communicating with teachers and administrators to find out what they are trying to do, and working to understand it.

    The first time one of our children got a "meets expectations" they wondered what they had done wrong, and spoke with us in depth. We agree the levels of proficiency could use more work to explain, understand, and test. That child went on to do very well ...

    When the district announced in the board meeting this summer that dual grading would take place, and emphasis would be placed on insuring the higher levels of proficiency were understandable and achievable, we were relieved.

    We need to increase our expectations for student learning, and we see assessing proficiency as a way to see where kids are, and then help them go a step further.

    We get tired of the number of attacks on administrators "hidden motives" we see, as compared to having more discussion on the meaning and possibilities of what they are saying and doing. Why not get to know them well, and see how they care about the jobs they are doing, and them see the view from the seat of a parent, and student, then ask them for their thoughts?

  29. @ Reading for content. You obviously don't mind that PBE has no research to back it up. You are comfortable being a sheep doing as your told. I myself find it unconscionable that our district is using our future as guinea pigs just to push their agenda or maybe their getting money to do this.(Gates foundation,Nelli Mae) I have been to the meetings around PBE and there are many many mistruths being told to people. Feel free to advocate for something this bad. I will keep fighting to get the best education I can for my kids.

    We have been told that the old system would be difficult to go back to after just one year of PBE. I'm not sure why it would be so difficult after just one year seems how half the high school is still using the old system.

    It's been said the old system was failing our students. So if that is true (doubtful) that means the old system failed all the people that have been hired to educate our kids, and EVERY person we run into or deal with daily. It's amazing that we can even function as a society if the old system is soooo bad !!

    We were told that PBE is still law even though the state pulled the diploma mandate. That is flat out untrue !!!! PBE methodology has NEVER been the law.

    I'm with Sam ,Bob, Nancy, and every other commneter here and at the meetings that have great concern with the failed idea of PBE.