• Sara Needleman

One Maine School District’s Shift to Proficiency, Part Two

Earlier this month I wrote about the transition to proficiency for one of our Maine school districts, RSU 12. I closed that post with the promise of returning to Deb Taylor’s reflections on their transition process.

What could have gone better?

Deb admits they underestimated several things prior to the transition. She mentioned that teachers felt some anxiety knowing that students’ JumpRope accounts eventually would be visible to the students and their parents. Of course, other commonly used reporting systems also include a portal, but JumpRope would provide a portal into a very new system of grading. In preparation for that public scrutiny of their work and the radical change in thinking accompanied by a shift to proficiency, the district administration miscalculated the amount of support teachers would need. Deb says they “did not invest enough time in developing shared leadership to provide the support teachers needed” and her musings suggest that given the chance to go through this shift again, she would provide teachers more time to think and learn with one another.

She also spoke to her district’s partial understanding of JumpRope’s significance. Previously, they used one curriculum mapping tool and a separate grading system to track data. For the most part, JumpRope allowed them to combine those two functions -- planning curriculum and tracking data with one tool. Now teachers spend more time thinking about curriculum, planning mindful assessments and capturing evidence of learning than they did before. This was a very big shift, with an emphasis on using data to drive instruction.

In hindsight, she sees that many education leaders starting up at the state and on down to individual buildings assumed teachers were operating within a standards-based model when in fact, the model was really only standards-referenced. I could not agree more. We discussed that the first writing of the Maine Learning Results (MLR) in 1997 and every rewrite since held the promise of a good idea, but until the wave of proficiency, and, in Maine, LD 1422, school districts had no formal plan for implementation.

What advice do you have for schools and districts transitioning to PBE? (What follows is all directly quoted from Deb)

  1. Don’t be bashful in asking for help, collaborate with others who are in the same place or further ahead. Ask them to share.

  2. Whatever level of support you think your teachers will need, it is more than that. You can’t overestimate the level of support they will need. This is a paradigm shift that nobody has experience in.

  3. Remember to stop often and celebrate progress. It can be daunting to look at how far you have to go. Make sure you are looking at what you have already accomplish


  1. Remember to pause and ask, ‘what is best for our kids?’ When we ask this question, we are sure to get there. It will take time, but we will get there.

Thanks for reading. We are always interested in hearing your stories and ideas around proficiency based education. Get in touch if you’d like to share. We hope your summer is filled with all the things you’d like: relaxation, adventure, and time for yourself, your family and your friends. Check back in soon. We’ll keep posting through the summer!

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