There are some things worth fighting for, no matter how hard it is or what it costs. I will be back.


Proficiency-based learning is a cruel experiment that has failed By Mike Bernier -April 25, 2018
Never, in my 30 years of high school teaching, have I seen an initiative do so much damage to student learning and motivation as I have with Maine’s Proficiency-Based Learning Diploma. It is a piece of feel-good legislation that was poorly conceived and enacted.

Fortunately, the Legislature is now considering repealing PBL. I hope others will join me in respectfully encouraging legislators to do so.

PBL is short-changing students in preparing them for the real world, contrary to what supporters claims. Why? In my district (which is not in the same town where I live), under PBL, there are no homework deadlines and exams can be retaken, sometimes over and over again. In addition, school attendance doesn’t count toward grades or graduation.

This is what I have observed in my classes since PBL’s implementation.

Before PBL, approximately 9 percent of my students didn’t complete homework; today the average is about 33 percent. (Recently, 41 percent of my students failed to complete a 20-minute vocabulary assignment.) Yet, I am still required to accept late work within a 10-day window.

Because of that, cheating and plagiarism are on the rise. Before PBL, approximately 8 percent of my students missed class on any given day; today the average is about 18 percent.

Last year’s graduating class had approximately 291 graduates, up from 230 the previous year — a 26 percent gain. Why such an increase in one year? And why did some graduates miss more than 25 days of school and still graduate?

I understand that schools are under pressure to improve the graduation rate, but it is disingenuous to say that PBL is improving student learning. Next, if students fail standards during regular classes, our district offers seven credit recovery programs, including summer school in which to recover lost standards. With so many opportunities to retake standards, some students no longer take classes seriously. Their reasoning is simple. “Why put all the effort in class when it takes so much less effort to earn standards in credit recovery?”

Far too many students are learning to “game the system” so they can graduate with as little effort as possible. That diminishes the value of a high school diploma and is unfair to those students who really do work hard, attend school and make every effort to succeed.

How does this prepare students for the real world? In the real world, effort, attendance and personal responsibility count. If I fail to show up to work, carry out my responsibilities, or meet my deadlines, I will be fired — and rightfully so. In effect, PBL is taking away the students’ responsibility for learning. Imagine how this will impact the labor force.

With PBL, we are treating high school students as if they are in elementary school. In essence, we are preparing them to fail.

Looking at the Sun Journal’s three-part series on PBL (April 15-17), it is interesting to note that many who support it are policy makers and administrators. I fail to see much support from parents, students or teachers. I suspect that it is because the view from the boardroom is sometimes different from the view from the classroom. Working at the grassroots level, teachers, parents and students understand the failings of PBL.

Using our children in this state-wide experiment is unethical, especially since there is no independent, long-term research or evidence to prove that PBL improves student learning. It is just not there. If we continue with PBL, we are putting an entire generation of Maine’s young people at risk.

There are reasons why high-performing high schools are trying to retain the traditional grading system. It works. The Legislature needs to understand that our children’s futures depend on it



"PBL is not new. It is neither an initiative nor a pilot project. It is far more than a grading system. PBL is about:

• Being crystal clear with what we want our students to know and be able to do.

• Teaching in multiple ways to ensure that everyone learns.

• Being crystal clear with what it looks like to be proficient for every learning target/competency.

• Having a plan for supporting a student when he/she did not demonstrate proficiency.

• Having a plan for extending student learning when a student was proficient already.

• Developing strong habits of work that will lead to success in the 21st century.

PBL is about rigorous and engaging teaching and learning for all students."

Implemented correctly, it's great, and good teaching has required this for a long time.


"Proficiency-based learning is a system of instruction, assessment, grading and academic reporting. It is based on students demonstrating they have learned the knowledge and skills expected of them. It grades work on a scale of 1 to 4, instead of 0-100. . . . Students know that a two means “they’re almost there,” she said. “A 3 means they nailed it. Students are owning their learning in a way I have never seen before.”

Email for this site: purcellshareen@gmail.com

zennioptical.com You can get $10 prescription glasses here in less than two weeks. I have been getting my glasses here for years and usually get at least four pair. Great for kids who need them and lose/break them!

Welcome to Ms Purcell's Class Site. If you need to contact me, the best and quickest way is by email: spurcell@nhusd.k12.ca.us You can also leave phone messages at school, and are welcome to drop by before or after school any day. PLEASE contact me with questions or concerns, as I am the one to best have your answers.

You're welcome to drop by before or after school most days. I am available for help besides class time if there are questions or extra time needed on work. I am here by 7:45 am most days and here after school. My door is always open for extra time to work or help. After school I have duty in S cluster outside, so you can come and grab me there, or I will be back to S-8 soon.

I update journals on Friday afternoons, so you can see how many they have or are missing. They are 5 points each, so if they have 5 out out of 10 points, they are missing one journal, 10 out of 15 means they are missing two, etc. Any missing need to be made them up over the weekend. I DO NOT expect most journals to be done over the weekends, but turned in the week given. That's just a fail safe to give them some extra time on occasions when they need some extra time. I chart them on the wall (as well as reading) so everyone knows how many they've done.

Online history book access:


username: gstudent855

password: great

It works. Once you get in, you have to click on the link Go to the History Book Online. Once there, there is a drop down menu "Select a unit or chapter" which takes you to the beginning of each chapter. Then click "Go." You click through the pages by clicking "next."

I try to put in grades as soon as I get them. You should be able to see what I have online. If it's not in there, it wasn't turned in. If you notice any errors, let me know right away. http://sis.nhusd.k12.ca.us/studentconnect

Everyone should have this and their username and password in ink in the front of their binder. If you don't have this, check with the office. I have no way of knowing their usernames and passwords.

Google Classroom--I attach information, videos and assignments here. https://classroom.google.com

Codes for language arts: 69vu2u

history: 4c7m587

Steps to Student Success

Student Responsibilities

--Write down homework in calendar each day.

--Come to class prepared each day with all materials.

--Go through and organizer your binder once a week, putting all materials for each class in the period it belongs—have an adult check this.

--If you miss something in class, ask the teacher or another student to get what you need. Check my website, the Calendar, and Classroom for materials and information.

--Do your homework at a set time and place each day in a way that is most efficient for you.

--Check assignment sheets and check off things as you do them, making notes and questions that you have.

--Recheck directions and requirements after you are finished with an assignment and have someone else look at it.

--When you are done with an assignment, have an adult check that it is done and check it off in your calendar.

--Read 20 to 30 minutes each day MINIMUM. (Successful students always read much more.)

--If you forgot something, check the class website, Classroom, Calendar to see what you're supposed to be doing.

Parent Help

--Observe your child doing homework and reading each day.

--Look at the calendar and check off homework with your child when it is done.

--Go over completed assignments with your child and see if they are following directions and it makes sense.

--Ask your child about what he/she just read in his/her independent reading book and have him/her explain it a bit. You don’t have to know the book to do this.

--Check the homework on the website to make sure it matches what your child has in his/her calendar.

Other Resources

--Come to school 15-20 minutes early or stay after 15-20 minutes to ask the teacher questions or to get work checked. Come in 5th period lunch to work/get help.

--Use the library or counseling center to get work done.

--Have a study buddy or two from class and work on homework together and to have someone to call with questions.

copyright Shareen Purcell, AMS

What Grade Student Are You?


A * Comes to class prepare with all materials each day.

* Writes all homework and due dates in calendar.

* All reading is done ahead of time, and always has an reading book with them.

* Does EVERY assignment on time, as directed.

* Studies for tests ahead of time and ASKS for help.

* Reads assignment directions, discusses directions with other students, asks teacher about assignment, asks parents for help.

* Always does more, spends more time, tries something better each assignment.

* Helps other students in their work, and learns more that way.

* Keeps binder and all work organized—never throws anything away.

* Knows that “A” work isn’t done quickly—it takes time, redoing, rewriting, and changing, because excellence requires time, work and change.

* Knows that learning can be work, and not always fun.

* Loves to read.

* Always checks grades and work because the teacher WILL make mistakes.

* Asks lots of questions.

B* Comes to class prepared each day.

*Calendar has all homework and due dates.

*Always does SSR reading without being checked on.

*Does every assignment, but may have one small one late.

*Studies for tests and pays attention, but not the best test taker.

*Reads assignment directions and usually understands them pretty well, though occasionally forgets to do all the requirements.

*Tries to do a good job on all assignments.

*Keeps binder and all work organized.

*Most of the time takes time on work and redoes it until it is correct.

* Sometimes finds schoolwork a little hard or boring.

C *Not always prepared for class. Calendar not always filled in.

*Usually does all SSR. Missing some journals or WAGS.

*Doesn't do a few smaller assignments or a bigger one.

*Doesn't really read directions. Just does what seems right and doesn't check.

* Doesn't really study for tests, but is a pretty good test taker. Or, studies hard for tests, but is a bad test taker.

*Doesn't put extra work into assignments.

*Not really organized and doesn't want to work that hard.

*Below grade level or behind in skills, but works really hard to try to catch up.


*Not organized in work or calendar.

*Doesn't really care about succeeding and thinks things should be easy and fun.

*Only does work that is easy and doesn't take too long to do.

*Never asks for, or refuses, help when confused or behind.

*Lies to parents and teachers about work or problems.

*Doesn't like to read because it's hard or boring.

*More than a few grades below grade level in skills and not putting the time in to catch up.

You're not down here at the bottom, are you?

copyright Shareen Purcell AMS