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…)

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…)

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…)

Columbia High School: How a Comprehensive High School Becomes Mastery-Based

August 8, 2018 by

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

Columbia High School in the Nampa School District is the only comprehensive high school moving to personalized learning among the Idaho mastery-based learning pilots. Walking through the hallways at Columbia, you’d think you were in a totally traditional high school. And in fact, somewhere around 50 percent of the ninth grade is being taught in the traditional way…and 50 percent have chosen another option. Eighth graders at Columbia’s feeder middle schools had three choices: enroll in the Summit Learning program, which offers mastery-based personalized learning; enroll in the mastery-based STEM Academy; or continue to receive education in the traditional model. (more…)

Finding and Fixing the Missing Skills at Greenhurst Elementary School

August 6, 2018 by

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

Greenhurst Elementary School in Nampa School District a bit outside of Boise is well into their journey toward mastery-based learning. (FYI, they use the term personalized to refer to the use of instructional technology.) The core features of their model are multi-age, targeted instruction, and flexible grouping. The clearest indicator that they understand the core concept of mastery-based learning was a large chart on the wall that grouped third through fifth grade students according to the prerequisite skills they needed in order to complete the fifth grade learning objective. They were taking the time to understand where students are and repair the gaps (whether it was one or many) on the way toward reaching grade level proficiency. (more…)

Increasing Credits Earned at Initial Point High School

July 30, 2018 by

Lora Seabaugh

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

Kuna School District in Idaho established Initial Point High School eight years ago because it believes that every student has the “potential to be successful socially and academically if they choose the correct environment and apply themselves.” Initial Point, founded by Lora Seabaugh, is designed with attention to building strong relationships and supporting students in their social and emotional development. Seabaugh explained that the potential of a mastery orientation was sparked when Kuna’s superintendent, Wendy Johnson, asked, “What makes Initial Point alternative?” This launched a period of reflection and engaging parents and students. They realized that the traditional model of covering the curriculum was exposing students to knowledge and skills, but wasn’t designed to actually make sure they were learning. They started asking themselves how they could help students get “back on track” to graduation in terms of both credits and skills. (more…)

Moving Forward toward Mastery at Kuna School District

July 24, 2018 by

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

During my visit to Synergy at Kuna Middle School, the conversation with Kelly Brady, Idaho Department of Education; Shelby Harris, math teacher at Synergy; Cathy Beals, Administrator of Curriculum & Assessment in Kuna School District; Linda Wiedenfeld, Instructional Coach for Kuna Middle School; and Deb McGrath, the former principal of Kuna Middle School who is now opening a second middle school in Kuna, turned to how to transform schools into mastery-based approaches. (more…)

Finding Synergy at Kuna Middle School

July 17, 2018 by

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

Once in a while, I walk into a “classroom” and freeze. It is so hard to orient myself because there is so little that looks like the traditional school with the teacher in front, students at desks, and tables waiting for direction. I slowed down as we walked through the cafeteria at Kuna Middle School, where fifteen or so students were spread out in groups, talking with a teacher, working on their devices, or reading. And froze when I walked into the large room at Synergy, where fifty or so students were lounging on couches, huddled on the floor, or seated at large tables. Wonderful sayings aimed at the adolescent were painted everywhere you looked on the walls: (more…)

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