Full Steam Ahead with Proficiency Based Education at Calais School Department

By Christine Phillips

Proficiency Based Education is moving forward in both Calais Middle/High School as well as Calais Elementary. Stephanie Griffin was present on the Oct. 6th School Committee meeting with an update on what has been going on at the Middle/High School level. Griffin says educators are working hard on implementation over the last month where they are practicing a new grading system based on work habits and a student’s level of standard. Teachers are looking forward to upcoming workshops days to discuss what ideas are working well and make adjustments as needed. Griffin also reported that both committees involved with implementing a new senior capstone project have met and are currently gathering all information to determine what will help students the most and design curriculum around that. 

Griffin also presented a request to change wording on a proposal given to the council over the summer regarding a change to the type of diplomas awarded. The teachers would like to change the current term, “basic” diploma to “standard” diploma. Currently, all students get the same diploma regardless of what classes they pursue. The new diploma system will award students with a standard diploma, but will also include a distinction if a student has taken any advanced placement classes in the four core subjects of English, math, science, and social studies. Students who take an advanced placement class in all four core subjects with receive an advanced diploma. When asked by a member of the council what the advantage of having two types of diplomas will be, Griffin explained that it will be a symbolic honor for the student. The council voted to approve update as presented. 

Sue Carter relayed an update for Proficiency Based Education at the elementary level. Carter said that staff and faculty are also working hard and are now using block schedules. Grades 1, 2, and 3 do ninety minutes of math along with ninety minutes of reading in the morning block. Grades 4, 5, and 6 have math and reading in the afternoon. Each grade breaks students into four groups based on the student’s standard level. A full support staff is in place to assist teachers with English, language arts, and Math for both morning and afternoon groups.  Teachers are feeling that traditional report cards may not work with the new method of teaching where students are working on different standard levels and grading is akin to comparing apples to oranges. Carter reported that things are moving forward and that educators have a roadmap to follow so when students reach middle school they will be able to fall in line with other students. 

Two grant awards were discussed during the meeting. The Title 6 Rural and Low Income Grant have been approved. Title 6 monies are used for recruitment, retainment, and training of teachers as well as technology investment and student activities. The second was a Purdue Pharma grant that has been dormant for several years. The school department contacted the organization responsible for the grant to find out what they would like done with the remaining amount of $22,619.00. The organization gave the go-ahead for the school to use the money as they wish. Superintendent Freve is in the process of meeting with school principals but felt the priority would be for the monies to go toward technology upgrades. 

Several staffing changes were discussed and approved by the council. Brent Bohannon was approved as Middle School Student Council Advisor. Janice Rice was approved as High School Student Council Advisor. A resignation was accepted from Jane Brewer who will be retiring at the end of this school year, in June 2016. Virginia Sterner was hired as Ed Tech I, Susan Giles as Ed Tech III, and Christine Boomer for long term sub, all for service at Calais Elementary.   

During his report, Superintendent Freve passed along information to the council to shine some light on the many training requirements that are mandated for teachers, coaches, and advisors of the school system. The handout consisted of a 5 page list of training topics that are required at various time frames.  Training sessions are held on one topic at a time. Therefore, it is a challenge to find the time to fit them all in as staff development days are meant to focus on curriculum and how to improve what they currently have. The council accepted the information presented by Freve and agreed that it does seem to be an overwhelming amount of training to tackle. Freve stated lawmakers are aware and have been asked to “take it easy” on amount of training mandated.  

Two executive sessions were held towards the end of the meeting. The first regarding a student issue that took place at the Middle/High School earlier that day involving threats toward the school. The result was to instruct administration to review the policy that pertains to the incident that conflict. Superintendent Freve, Chairman Greenlaw, and Councilor Hill all commended faculty and staff for a superb job in handling the situation. Lea Farrar brought up some parental feedback received regarding students being informed and concerned of the situation. Freve responded that most students were aware of the incident. Faculty was informed and help was offered through guidance and mental health to any student who needs it.  A public question seeking more information on the details of the incident was declined due to student privacy concerns.  The second executive session pertained to a negotiations update with the Teachers Association. The council accepted a proposal from the association as amended.  


Next meeting will be held on October 20th.