3 answers on mastery learning

Last Thursday, Jessica Poiner at Thomas B. Fordham Institute published a detailed piece on the merits of mastery learning. Among other examples, she recognized two of our schools as providers of that approach. Jessica’s piece is worth a careful read so you should take a minute and go through it.

Later, we caught a range of tweets asking some good, hard questions about how mastery works. Given that Battelle’s Aimee Kennedy, was formerly the principal at Metro, we posed these questions to her.

1) What classes does Metro use mastery learning for?

Metro Early College applies mastery learning in all classes. It’s one of the core ideas of the school. Mastery helps the school match kids who need help with more resources. Just as importantly, mastery allows accelerated students to stay challenged and engaged.

2) How often can students move on once they show mastery?

Students are evaluated for mastery at least three times a year when each of the school’s terms end. Then, students either move on to the next credit (“accelerate,” in parlance of Metro staff) or retake the class.
Both options matter, but it’s the idea of trying again that’s really important. Almost every Metro student will retake (or “recover”) a class before they graduate.
That’s part of the model and a central way Metro mirrors the real world. After all, if you only complete 70% of an assignment from your boss, you don’t turn it in and move on to a harder piece of work. Instead, you go back and try again. Here’s what a typical student’s year at Metro might look like.

Mastery sample

3) How does that mesh with state requirements for end of year testing?

Metro does work closely with the folks at the Ohio Department of Education to meet rules on assessments under this mastery approach.
However, and this point merits special emphasis, there is no Metro-specific waiver. There is no rule stopping other schools from adopting this approach. In fact, many schools (including schools within public school districts – like Cleveland’s MC2 STEM school and Reynoldsburg) have.
Thanks to this discussion and the Jessica’s piece, we’re weighing whether a public webinar on mastery learning might be in order. Our first question is how many people would attend. If that’s something you’d like, drop a comment on this page. We’ll tally up the number of people interested and see if we can help.

There’s also a significant debate going on even now about what testing in Ohio will look like. Many Ohio STEM Learning Network schools have joined a new Ohio Department of Education pilot around alternative assessments. Current plans from the department suggest these schools would start trying new tests in the 2016-17 school year, pending waivers from the U.S. Department of Education to allow such a switch. To learn more about the pilot, check out Catherine Candisky’s latest in the Columbus Dispatch.

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