Category: Case Studies

Idaho Site Visit: Mastery Education in Idaho

September 19, 2018 by

The Sharp Ones: A Few Takeaways from Idaho

September 5, 2018 by

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This is the tenth article in the series on Mastery Education in Idaho. Links to the other articles can be found below.

Oh, there is so much to learn in Idaho. Where to start?

1) Learning from others and making it your own.

Too often we recreate the wheel. It’s fun to be so creative and to think it through. It’s also a lot of work to investigate what others have done and try to make sense of it. However, the cost is huge to start from scratch. You’ll make mistakes. The designs will most likely only represent the limits of your own knowledge and imagination at that point in time. Usually, we can only design around a few strands or concepts – it’s hard to create robust models straight out of the gate. Reiteration takes time, and there is a risk that there will be pushback on the big idea if early models are too limited or shallow.

Idaho seems to have mastered being “a sharp one” in the language of the “pencil metaphor.” In other words, they saw what early adopters had done, grabbed the best of it, and learned from the mistakes of others to do the best they can for their students. At every stop, people would refer to other schools and resources, describing which parts they were using and which parts they have modified. In Kuna Middle School, the teachers at Synergy had taken the Summit platform and pillars as the foundation for a fully interdisciplinary, project-based approach. At Central Academy, they had drawn from Building 21 and Bronx Arena in terms of approaches and information systems. Columbia High School has been pulling pieces from Marzano Research Lab, Summit, and Buck Institute. The team from reDesign has been a strong partner throughout the development of the Idaho Mastery Education Network. (more…)

Leaving Single Cell Behind: Moving from Isolation to Flexible Collaboration

September 3, 2018 by

Denise Airola and a team of educators from Arkansas traveled to New Zealand to learn about their educational approach. Here are a few of their highlights. (Originally posted at Office of Innovation for Education on December 6, 2017.) 

I ended my last blog by introducing the New Zealand term for a traditional classroom–single-cell. The adjective evokes images of isolation for a teacher. For the learner, if the teacher/student match is positive it isn’t so bad. On the other hand, we’ve all had that teacher in our lives, the one with whom we’ve spent a year feeling like we’ve been sentenced to jail, stifled by the lack of creative expression or extreme power differential that makes taking a restroom break an act of piracy. As a parent, I’ve waited with baited breath for the class lists to get posted the Friday before the start of the school year, praying my girls would be matched with the right teacher for their learner dispositions because single-cell is just what it sounds like for the most part—a school year sentence to a single space with a single teacher. New Zealand’s ministry of education is moving away from that industrial-age concept. I’ll elaborate on how they are doing this as I describe our visit to Glen Eden Intermediate School. (more…)

A Visit with the ‘Westies’–Day 2 in New Zealand

August 30, 2018 by

Denise Airola and a team of educators from Arkansas traveled to New Zealand to learn about their educational approach. Here are a few of their highlights. (Originally posted at Office of Innovation for Education on November 17, 2017.) 

Disclaimer: When you are in the southern hemisphere it is easy to get your sense of direction a little confused, especially if geography isn’t your strong suit. That sense of confusion can be exacerbated by changing seasons as well–from fall in Northwest Arkansas to spring in New Zealand in the course of a 13 hour plane ride. Given the upheaval, my sense of place, time, and context was a bit out of sorts by the second day of school visits in New Zealand. (more…)

Central Academy, West Ada School District

August 29, 2018 by

Nichole Velasquez and Donell McNeal

This is the ninth post in a series on Mastery Education in Idaho. Links to the other articles in the series can be found below.

“I was badly behind. No teacher would ever stop to help me. I even had a teacher scream at me once when I asked a question. It’s different at Central. They listen. They walk me through things. They make sure I understand. I’ve gained confidence. And I’m more motivated. Even though I am only a sophomore I have enough credits to graduate,” explained a student at Central Academy in West Ada School District. (more…)

Slaying the Dragon: A Conversation with Cory Woolstenhulme on Mastery-Based Learning

August 22, 2018 by

Cory Woolstenhume

This is the eighth post in a series on Mastery Education in Idaho. Links to the other articles in the series can be found below.

The conversation with Cory Woolstenhulme, principal of Columbia High School, was rich with insights. He is reflective and candid, a learner-leader if you will. Here are a few of the insights he shared:

Repairing Gaps

“Filling the gaps is new to us. It’s never been an expectation that a high school should do that. What we’ve been doing as an education system has been a not-so-funny joke. As long as no one blew the whistle, students got passed on. We say to students that as long as you behave okay, I’ll pass you. If you do enough homework, you’ll pass my class. Retention has been our only tool, but it can be miserable for students. They have to go through an entire year of the same material but still not actually get the help they need. Now we begin with the idea that we need to start students exactly where they are, and that means finding out what they know and don’t know. It means we have to figure out how to organize school to respond to every student being in a different place rather than pretending that they are all are at the same starting point.” (more…)

Freemans Bay: Honoring Diversity and Māori Culture

August 20, 2018 by

Denise Airola and a team of educators from Arkansas traveled to New Zealand to learn about their educational approach. Here are a few of their highlights. (Originally posted at Office of Innovation for Education on November 6, 2017.) 

It has been several days since I blogged about our learning journey to New Zealand and I am anxious to tell you more about our trip. I find I need to fully process what I learned to honor the impact that each school offered to my learning journey. Here is Freeman’s Bay School, the second school we visited on our learning journey.  (more…)

Gathering Insights on Mastery-Based Learning from Columbia High School

August 15, 2018 by

This is the seventh post in a series on Mastery Education in Idaho. Links to the other articles in the series can be found below.

Throughout the conversations during the site visit to Columbia High School, there were many important insights. Principal Cory Woolstenhulme reflected, “There is lots of failing forward. We are leaning forward hard, learning from our failures. We are learning something new every day about the nature of support that is needed for our learners.”

Here are just a few: (more…)

Identity, Relationships, and Agency: Powering Learning in New Zealand

August 13, 2018 by

Denise Airola and a team of educators from Arkansas traveled to New Zealand to learn about their educational approach. Here are a few of their highlights. (Originally posted at Office of Innovation for Education on October 30, 2017.) 

Already our week of school visits in New Zealand has passed and I am finally sitting down to pen this blog. Traveling across the international date line can prove exhausting! Also, I’ve needed some time for reflection–time to process my learning and figure my next steps to apply my learning. (more…)

Next Stop New Zealand

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CompetencyWorks is heading to New Zealand in September to try to learn from how they think about learning, schools, and the system of education to push our thinking and spark our imagination of what is possible. Based on her experiences in 2016, Susan Patrick recommended that we turn to New Zealand to help us build a deeper understanding of what state systems and approaches might look like. (Given our all-things-education-are-local approach, it’s best to focus on states with the assumption that states can work together to create regional and national structures when needed.)

As I prepare for this trip, reading everything I can about education in New Zealand, I have been working to hone the questions that will guide the investigation knowing full well that I will encounter ideas that will take me to new lines of inquiry. The focus of the investigation includes questions such as: (more…)

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