Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions that we have been getting from parents/guardians and students:

 1.  What does the State Law say about the Standard Based Diploma requirements?

-        Law 1422 is available for review on the page titled “Maine State Law Concerning Standards-Based Diploma”

-        Each district determines how they are to implement the changes expected in the law. Since Maine is a “Local Control” State implementation decisions are made at the district and school board level, in regards to how students demonstrate learning proficiency and how we report it.


2.  Will there be a stated GPA?

-Yes, as reflected through an average of all courses taken…


3.  How will it be derived?

-        For students entering grades 10-12 in 2015-2016 - Grades will be determined as they are now with a percentage shown after the evidence in Infinite Campus.


-        For students entering grade 9 in 2015-2016 - Teachers will provide summative grades based on rubric expectations (4, 3.5, 3, 2.5, 2) for each course taken in Empower as they have experienced in Educate in grades 5-8. At the end of four years the GPA will reflect an average of their course grades in their 4.0 Latin equivalent.


4. Why isn’t there going to be a class rank for the Class of 2019?

-        According to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) more than half of high schools no longer report class rank.

-        It eliminates worthy students from scholarship contention that are not in the set number of students chosen by Top Ten %.

        -        Ranking puts too much emphasis on the total number of students in a class, not on their reaching a certain level of desired excellence and proficiency.

-        The Latin system will identify and recognize students who deserve the distinction of achieving at expected high levels of academic accomplishment.

-        Summa, Magna and Cum Laude are more appropriate designations because they still recognize levels of excellence and do not eliminate worthy students from scholarship award consideration.

-        Some students are discouraged from taking rigorous courses if they feel their rank could be negatively impacted. Also, some students do become over anxious about class rank and reduce their ability to focus on course content.       

5. Since the Common App has a place for Class Rank, isn’t it a disadvantage to drop Class Rank?

-This section on the Common App is only checked and/or used if your school uses class rank. Since most prestigious private high schools don’t rank we don’t feel this will hurt our students opportunities for scholarships.


Admissions Officer at Harvard:

“In a nutshell we have no preference in how schools choose to evaluate their students. We have every single variety of evaluation possible represented in our applicant pool. As long as your profile is comprehensive and explains how students are evaluated we have all the   information we need. We are far less concerned with GPA and rank then we are with the rigor of the curriculum. We want to see students challenging themselves. I think you will find this sentiment repeated by our peer institutions.”

Caroline Weaver


Former Admissions Officer at Amherst:

“Many high schools do not rank students at all, either individually or by decile. That does not hurt students in gaining admission. What we look at in terms of academics for all students, whether ranked or unranked, was the challenge of their courses, their grade and overall GPA. There are many things beyond academics that we consider as well.”

– Becky Wilusz


6.   Will the PBE transcript be accepted by colleges?

-        Yes, while the Massabesic HS’ Transcript is still a work-in-progress (please review “Proposed MHS TRanscript” under college admissions section), it is being designed to help ensure that college admissions can read the document easily, within a short period of time and that they will find it easy to compare students’ achievement levels with other candidates. The format/ criteria being used have been identified as important transcript considerations by colleges. 


Director of Admissions at MIT:

“This is a great transcript. This would work at MIT. I have a 9th Grader and I like this and would want a PBE Transcript for my child.” 

- Stuart Schmill

-        Likewise, our School Profile is in the process of being revamped to provide a deeper level of support for our students and for our PBE-Based transcript. For example, the Profile will include a “key” that explains the grading scale and it’s A-D equivalent, identify those courses that are considered rigorous and provide an easy-to-identify list of standards that students have developed proficiency in for each Core subject area. It will also identify 21st century skill proficiency as described by the 5 Guiding Principles.


7.  How will student progress be reflected in progress reports, report cards and on the transcript?

-        For students entering grades 10-12 in 2015-2016 - Progress will be reported as it is now with a percentage shown after the evidence on the Infinite Campus reporting documents.

-        For students entering grade 9 in 2015-2016 -  Progress will be reported through the rubric score students earn on summative assessments up to that point in the semester on a new Empower Progress Report, which we have worked-on with the company. At the end of each semester an overall course composite grade will be determined based on the level of proficiency/success the student demonstrates on course Learning Targets using a new Empower Report Card. The transcript will be as shared above.

8.   What are the Guiding Principles?


“Maine Learning Results Guiding Principles Standards                                     

-        The following Guiding Principles standards were developed in response to Maine Public Law 669, Section 9, Development of standards-based tools.

-        A Clear and Effective Communicator who:

Standard A: Understands the attributes and techniques that positively impact constructing and conveying meaning for a variety of purposes and through a variety of modes.

-        A Self-Directed and Lifelong Learner who:

Standard B: Understands the importance of embracing and nurturing a growth mindset.                                                                                                                                    

-        A Creative and Practical Problem Solver who:

Standard C: Is skilled at selecting and applying a process of problem-solving to deepen understanding and determine whether redefining the goal is a better way of addressing a problem situation and continuing to consider other alternative solutions until one resonates as the best one.


-        A Responsible and Involved Citizen who:

Standard D: Understands the interdependence within and across systems and brings to each situation the appropriate actions.


-        An Integrative and Informed Thinker who:

Standard E: Is skilled at using complex reasoning processes to make meaning.”                                              


9.  How will they be measured?

-        The process will be similar to how the MHS Work Habits Rubrics have been used. Teachers will use rubrics similar to the ones provided on the Guiding Principles Page. Students in all courses will be assessed on Guiding Principles B & D:

-        With a weekly assessment review by the teacher

-        Using a Decaying Average to determine the score at the end of the semester.


10.  Who will be measured by which ones?

-        Students in grades 10-12 will be assessed on Guiding Principle B & D, through efforts demonstrated in class, shown on their progress and report cards.


-        Students in Grade 9, will be assessed:

-        On all five Guiding Principles

-        GP’s B & D as Grades 10-12

-        GP’s A, C & E through their portfolio work started in their Advisory Block this fall and then continued over their four years at MHS.

-        9th Grade students will need to have earned an average of 2.75 or higher by their 7th semester to earn proficiency on each Guiding Principle.


11.  Where do the Guiding Principles fit into the PBE transcript?

-   They will be listed similarly to shown in the MHS Draft Transcript.



12. What will be the impact of using a transcript that uses a Latin System on student scholarship attainment?

- Most colleges’ scholarship categories fall within 3 areas: need, merit or a  combination of the two. The impact of a Latin GPA and transcript will be to recognize more students with higher levels of academic achievement. We will create a broader base of MHS Students potentially qualifying for merit-based scholarship possibilities.



13. Will it be a disadvantage to not have Class Rank for scholarships?

-Merit scholarships in particular are not based on GPA alone. Scholarships look for a variety of things: GPA, challenging course schedule, letters of recommendation, leadership or community involvement, athletics, activities and/or club involvement. Scholarships look for well rounded, multi-dimensional students.

GPA and quality of courses are the two most important areas when considering scholarships. Since most prestigious private high schools don’t rank we also don’t feel this will hurt our students opportunities for scholarships.


14.  Will parent/guardian and student feedback be used in the PBE implementation process?

-Yes, feedback is now being collected to share with the Curriculum Committee in regards to concerns and adjustments, which will need to be made. Per our state application, advisory committees (parent & students), will be established and meet on a regular basis to review implementation. Committee representation will be comprised of the following MHS stakeholders: students, parents/guardians, local business/industry members RSU 57 and MHS Staff.


15.  Why are we ending additional weight for courses?  Don’t we want to give kids an incentive to take these courses?

-        Colleges want to be able to compare “apples to apples” when it comes to transcripts. Nationally, some high schools weight these courses, while others do not. As a result, many colleges will “readjust” GPAs by removing the weighting in order to better compare students’ achievement levels. They find, at times, that having to do this actually slows down the admissions process as a result of having to make these adjustments.

-        Currently, students whose interests and talents lead them to take and even excel in areas other than the four Core (English, Math, Science & Social Studies), including technology, vocational ed., art and music are not able to earn weighted grades. As a result, their high levels of achievement are not being fully recognized or rewarded as their more Liberal Arts focused peers. The elimination of weighting will present a more balanced and fair playing-field for these students to earn merit based scholarships.

-        Presently, a large number of our students are not taking advantage of this incentive and/or are only reaching for the Honors course incentive avoiding AP offerings.

-        Weighting is a new phenomenon at MHS with the Class of 2011 the first class…

-        Weighting impacts cumulative GPA, inherently implying that some proficiency standards and subject areas are more important than others in measuring a student’s overall academic success and skills.

-        By dropping weighting, a student’s overall academic progress and skill level profile is more clearly identified, without sacrificing the value placed upon other learning.

16.  Shouldn’t AP and Dual-Enrollment courses be weighted?

- Colleges want to see that a student has taken these courses and that they did well on them as reported on the transcript. They don’t care if they are weighted or not. In reviewing a student’s transcript they need to know if weighting occurs so they can compare fairly the student’s GPA to another student.


17.   One particular issue, that of recording and reporting of grades through the use of rubrics keeps coming up as a concern from students, parents & guardians.

-These concerns are indirectly connected to the Standards-Based Diploma discussion and our district’s transition to Performance-Based Education, but are directly connected to teacher training and present use of classroom and school rubrics.


The concerns on the recording and reporting of grades has taken on three critical perceptions:

-        That our students will be hurt by a translation of grades within a rubric system as our ability to create and interpret rubrics well, teacher-to-teacher, as a school and district is in question...

-        The belief that there is a lack of evidence that our district and MHS in particular presently use rubrics well as reported by students, parents/ guardians…

-        That many of our most successful students, along with their parents/guardians feel that the rubrics commonly shared, along with the assessment options students have seen do not offer enough "4 Level” opportunities...


We share these as perceptions because painting an entire school, staff or district with a broad brush is not correct as:

-        Rubrics are now currently being used well within several subject areas at MHS.

-        Several teachers have received training and/or have worked with teams of teachers over the last few years.

-        More training is being offered this summer to support improved-use of rubrics at MHS and within RSU 57.

-        One of the reasons the 15-16 MHS Schedule has been changed is to support improved professional development so that teachers can work with teacher in creating, adjusting and improving how we assess.

-        ALL of our AP course teachers translate rubric scores now from differing rubrics into a 100 point scale. In AP you find all kinds of rubrics being used, with no subject area the same. To be clear you will find 6-point, 7-point, 8-point and 9-point rubric scales in AP.

-        Consistent scoring of the MHS Work Habits is a concern we knew about, which has recently been highlighted. The new Guiding Principle Rubrics have been developed during 14-15 to increase the ease of their use, the specificity of what they are looking for along with Level 4 language. A plan to make sure systemic use is clear and practiced is set for 15-16.

-        The fact that some of our staff wants to make sure that they do the best job possible with how they assess/write rubrics is not a reason to assume that our present staff is not capable of supporting MHS students in the use of rubrics in 2015-2016.


18. What is the 4.0 Scale MHS Admin keeps referring to?

- Unless adjusted, Grades 10-12 will continue using the following: 101 = 4, 98 = 3.75, 96 = 3.5, 94 = 3.25, 3 = 92, 80 = 2.5 and 67 = 2



19. What will the rubric scale for Grade 9 look like? What is the new one being discussed?

-        MHS has been reviewing changing to a new scale since January. Discussions with college admissions staff around grading scales has shed light on the number of gradations they expect to see. This input makes us believe that our present scale (see above), may be expecting too great a level of proficiency and that our bunching of expectations, as we presently do at the 3-level, leads to grade inflation.

-        A possible new scale is still under review.


20.  With a 4.0 scale how will the Valedictorian, Salutatorian and Honor Essayist be chosen?

-Schools that do not have class rank make speaking to their class a special honor that students apply for and are chosen for through an application process. Students who have earned Summa Cum Laude would be given the opportunity to apply.



21.  What about Special Education students and the new Standards-Based Diploma expectations- how will they be effected?

-Questions and concerns have come up across our state in regards to what this means for students with a Special Education identification. Please know we have been taking part in these discussions and are watching these details as they come out of Augusta. We expect greater clarification on these questions during 2015-2016. As information and expectations are shared with us, they will also be shared with you as we build supports for our special education students. RSU #57 will be making every effort to ensure that special education students will graduate with a Massabesic High School Diploma that they will earn and deserve.


22. Why did we go with Educate/Empower?


-Educate and now Empower are the only products on the market, which are Standards-Based and not Standards-Referenced. Educate and now Empower allow student proficiency/ grades to stay live and thus allow for improvements and greater success/ proficiency over time.


-        MHS Staff has understood that we were moving/ switching from Infinite Campus to Educate/Empower for the last few years, following what the K-8 schools had already done. The staff  knew since the beginning of the 14-15 school year. We in fact we’re going to move to Educate a year ago, but were allowed to delay one additional year so as to work with the company on helping them improve their upgrade and new product Empower.


23.  I am told it can’t communicate with what the state wants? -Attendance will still need to be reported in Infinite Campus. Empower can report attendance on the progress report and report card, but we have not yet asked for that feature, however it will be one of the next steps. The company is presently working on being able to interface with Google Docs etc…


24.  How will it look different from IC? Won’t this be confusing to parents and students?

-        Empower has been developed to actually be easier for parents/guardians, students and staff to use. Those that have used Educate when their sons and daughters were in grades K-8 will be happier with the new program.

-        We have been moving in a Performance-Based direction for several years at MHS. Over the last two years we have adjusted the way Infinite Campus has looked, adding in individual targets along with increasing expectations for linking learning evidence, to Learning Targets.


25.  What is the impact of Empower on student grades and what colleges see about my child’s grades?

-There will be no impact as a new and improved transcript, as shared above, is being developed for Empower.


26. Will it impact admission to colleges and the school’s transcript?

            -No, not at all


27. Why are we changing while the kids are going through these classes now?

-Anytime you change a system to improve it, which is what we are trying to do, adjustments are going to be made with those already in the system. It is our goal to make sure that these changes improve learning for students and instruction for teachers.


28. Why is this district trying to be one of the first schools to implement changes that haven't fully been thought out by the state?

-Many districts are grappling with the law and  change in differing ways. Our district put together a Performance-Based Philosophy 4-5 years ago and have been building on it ever since. Since the steps and details are interconnected it looks like we are trying to be one of the first. Since our steps are interconnected they must be done together. Other districts are having these same difficulties and/or are going more slowly as they do not have a Performance-Based Philosophy.


29. What is the benefit to students and parents/guardians in changing the grading system to a 'gray area' instead of black and white?

-        It is certainly easy to understand the black & white system we have used. It is not as truly black & white though on individual proficiency when you break down grades or a test as an example. A student may take a quiz/test and get the first 27 questions right, but then get the last 3 wrong. In a black & white world this would be a 90, but if the last three were on something different than the first 27 he/she would be made to believe they knew all the material well when they really didn't know how to say balance equations, which were covered by the last three questions. In a Standards/Performance - Based System we break down the differing learning expectations and expect students to be proficient on each section. 

-        In the black & white system you can do the math and get a grade, but that grade doesn’t really tell you if your son or daughter knows everything that was taught, well. There is less interpretation with a simple math problem. With well-written rubrics what students are expected to learn and demonstrate are clear.

-        One of the key reasons for “Redo & Retakes” in a Proficiency-Based System is that we want our students to keep striving for the next level of proficiency, which is clearly stated in the rubric and not just about answering more questions correctly.

-        There is actually more “gray area” in the black and white system than with rubrics. Rubric-based grading was started to allow students and their parents & guardians to know more specificity on what they were to be able to do, know and show. To then allow the student to reach for the next level of proficiency, stated on the rubric. Give more detail and expect greater understanding because expectations were laid out in advance.


30. Shouldn't our goal as a school be to do whatever is best for the students moving forward in the world?

-        The most successful high schools in Maine presently assist their students in demonstrating proficiency/ meet standards between 60% - 80% of the time. We at MHS have averaged between 40% - 50% over the last 20 years, which means about 50% don't in differing areas. Doing the same thing doesn't cut it. We must do things differently.

-        Our numbers show that if we keep doing the same thing the same kids will keep being successful. We are trying to get all kids to improve their understanding and demonstrate proficiency.


31. Could you provide me of with an example of how the PBE system compares to the Traditional educational system we have been using?

    -      We will use the building of a bookshelf as s metaphor for a course.  Let's say a student is building a bookshelf in Wood Tech.  Do we grade him on just knowing all that needs to be known on how to build the shelf (maybe with some extra credit for class participation in discussion) or on how it looks when finished?  If it looks good when finished, he has most likely demonstrated proficiency in using the knowledge needed in all competencies (Measurement Topics) of it's construction.- including the names of and how to properly use the tools, implementing of safety procedures, how to draw up the plan, how to measure, etc..


That bookshelf symbolizes each of our courses at MHS.   Students are only able to demonstrate proficient skill attainment for an overall course because they have demonstrated proficient skill in the competencies required for completing the course.


When all competencies have NOT been met, gaps exist in overall demonstrated course proficiency- or to use the analogy- results in a student building a bookshelf that likely will come out not being built correctly. Our PBE system, with it’s tracking of progress through Empower, allows students and parents to more easily identify and address any learning gaps before that bookshelf (course) is completed; thus providing students with the best chance of completing a well-made completed bookshelf (course) because all learning gaps have been identified and addressed.