Richmond High School students will soon be required to earn a minimum of 21 credits to graduate, after the School Committee approved a new policy Thursday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

RICHMOND – Following its withdrawal from Regional School Unit 2, the Richmond School Department has adopted a policy aimed to strengthen the course requirements for its high school students.

The change, which will be phased in over three years, is the first step in the district’s plan to move away from RSU 2’s proficiency-based learning model.

Under the updated policy, Richmond students will have to earn 21 credits to graduate, as opposed to the roughly 15 credit-equivalents required by RSU 2.

The Richmond School Committee approved the rules during its regular meeting Thursday, marking the first major policy shift away from the Hallowell-based district.

Residents and officials have pointed to the new requirements as an example of strengthening the town’s schools, one of the motivating factors that drove voters to support leaving its former district.

Richmond High School Principal Karl Matulis said increasing the number of credits the students need will only “better prepare” them for their future. 


“Overall, I feel these standards are a very important, positive step for our new school system,” said Matulis. “This will raise the bar for students in our school, better preparing them for college and the workforce while also allowing them flexibility to explore more deeply, subjects that may interest them.” 

With the proficiency-based grading system RSU 2 uses, teachers grade students on a scale of 1 to 4 to reflect whether they have met certain learning goals. Instead of earning credits, students meet graduation requirements by achieving learning goals in line with state standards.

For example, in the subject of geography, students must demonstrate proficiency in “U.S. Regions through step 1,” and for English Language Arts, demonstrate the ability to “support thinking with evidence through step 5” when it comes to reading narratives, along with hitting other targets.

Since a proficiency-based method does not entail students earning credits, it is difficult to determine how many credits the RSU 2 graduation requirements translate to, but Matulis said it was equivalent to roughly 15 credits. 

Proficiency-based education has been controversial in Maine, as the state started to push districts to use the system, but ultimately backtracked and said they could instead choose what learning model to use. The state does not track how many schools use proficiency-based learning, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Education.

In Richmond, the updated credit system will be phased in for students depending on their graduation year. The class of 2026 will be the first required to fully meet the new minimums, while the classes of 2024 and 2025 will see requirements adapted to reflect the credits they have already earned during their time at Richmond High School.  


The Maine Department of Education’s minimum graduation requirements are four years of English, two years of social studies or history, two years of math, two years of science and one year of fine arts.  

On top of the state’s minimum requirements, the Richmond School Department added an extra year of math, social studies and science; a year of health class, physical education and world languages; and four years of electives. Students will also need eight hours of community service.  

Richmond students can earn credits by taking courses at the high school, through Capital Area Technical Center, advanced placement classes, early college programs and exchange programs, among other options.   

Matulis said the Richmond School Department has not yet chosen a grading model to phase in along with the graduation requirements. Students will still receive 1 to 4 grades during the next school year until the school committee and administration can do more research. 

“In conversation with the school board, we feel that the community does want to move away from the 1 to 4 scale, but we also wanted to take the time to make sure that we have carefully selected the system we move to, and the community has a chance to have input in the new system,” he said. 

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