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…)

Mastery-Based Learning in Idaho

July 16, 2018 by

This is the first post in a series on Mastery Education in Idaho. 

In April 2018, I went on a whirlwind tour of seven schools in four districts in Idaho in an effort to understand how mastery-based learning was advancing there. Idaho is a big, beautiful state with several different geographical regions. My site visits were all within the large river valley extending from Boise, land that was originally of the Shoshone and Bannock people. The districts we visited were all transforming their schools to mastery-based learning while their communities were shifting from an agricultural area into an extended metropolitan area. (more…)

What’s New: What’s Happening in State Policy

April 18, 2018 by

This article reviews some of the new state policy resources and highlights the types of discussion and initiatives taking place in the individual states. Nevada is joining the group of states that are supporting innovative districts, and Mississippi is supporting an innovation network. The most important thing to pay attention to is the discussion and debate in Maine as they decide whether they are going to continue to believe that their students and educators can learn to high standards and will keep learning how to support students in doing so…or if they modify expectations. Fingers crossed that the discussion moves from what’s wrong to what we need to make sure all of our students learn!

State Policy Resources

Across the country, state policymakers have been engaged in thinking through how they can strengthen their policies and infrastructures to better (more…)

Nineteen Districts in Idaho Start the Journey to Mastery-Based Learning

April 25, 2016 by
Sherri Ybarra

Sherri Ybarra, Superintendent of Public Instruction

Last week, Superintendent Sherri Ybarra announced the twenty districts/schools that will launch Idaho’s Mastery Education Network (IMEN). According to the press release, “IMEN was authorized in 2015 when Governor Butch Otter signed HB 110 to move Idaho towards a mastery education model. This model will move students away from the current time-based system to a mastery system and allow for a more personalized and differentiated learning experience.”

As Idaho explains in a mastery-based learning system, “students advance to higher levels of learning when they demonstrate mastery of concepts and skills regardless of time, place or pace.” Ybarra said, “The beauty of a mastery-based education system is that it is rooted in local control and is truly from the ground up. Local communities, schools, and districts will determine through this effort what is best to meet the needs of their students.” (more…)

Competency-Based Education Task Forces: A State Policy Mechanism to Foster Personalized Learning by Creating Dialog, Surfacing Barriers and Providing Solutions

April 4, 2016 by

Conference TableThis post originally appeared at iNACOL on March 23, 2016.

Transitioning from a traditional seat time based system to a competency-based learning system often requires changes at multiple layers in policies from the school level to the state-level. State policy makers can provide thought leadership in their states by creating a space for dialog between policy makers, stakeholders and communities across the state by establishing a formal statewide task force for competency-based education (CBE). A CBE task force brings together a group of experts and stakeholders to examine the issue in depth, to consider needs in policy and practice, and to provide recommendations and next steps in a state.

States (generally legislators through sponsoring legislation) establish task forces for the purpose of studying policy issues related to CBE. The needs and issues will vary state-to-state because of the differences in educational statutes, regulations and capacity, but CBE task forces offer a future-focused approach by providing a safe space to identify barriers, needs, and consider options to best enable competency-based pathways.

Why CBE Task Forces are Important

An education task force convenes to study a specific topic. During this time, a task force often engages with educators and experts on best practices and policies regarding the topic of the task force.

Establishing a CBE task force allows the members to study CBE policies and practices. CBE task forces enable CBE by encouraging state leaders to develop a deeper understanding on the need for and the benefits of creating competency-based pathways to ensure student success and the importance for educators to personalize learning to meet students’ needs. The CBE task force will interview educators from competency-based education systems, learn what policies are supportive and which are barriers, identify educator capacity needs, evaluate system capacity and provide recommendations for getting started with aligning systems to support CBE. (more…)

How Idaho is Making Mastery Education a Reality

February 21, 2016 by

idahoThis post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s The EdFly Blog on January 25, 2016. Kelly Brady is the Director of Mastery Education for the Idaho State Department of Education. 

Idaho is taking an approach to Mastery Education that deeply recognizes the many stakeholders that must be involved to successfully shift from traditional education to Mastery Education.

Our shift dates back to a 2013 recommendation from Governor Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education that encouraged mastery-based education. Two years later, Idaho House Bill 110 passed unanimously with the support of The Idaho Education Association, Idaho School Boards Association and business/community leaders across the state.

The bill directed the Idaho Department of Education to develop a process for identifying 20 school districts or charter schools to serve as “incubators” for Mastery Education beginning in the 2016-17 school year. The bill also established a committee of teachers and leaders that met in the summer of 2015 to explore challenges and co-create solutions, as well as a statewide awareness campaign to really help people across the state understand what Mastery Education can do for Idaho students.

Currently, we are out talking to superintendents, principals and education leaders to share more about the network program. Interested schools/districts are encouraged to submit a letter of intent and take “The Mastery Education Readiness Survey” to self-assess direction, motivation, leadership, student focus, curriculum, instruction, technology, comprehensive data system, risk-taking, organizational structure, ownership and communication. To date, we have received more districts interested than we will be able to include in the initial cohort. We will soon release an official application and a committee will be formed to evaluate the applications and select our incubators. (more…)

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