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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…)

Why This Experienced Teacher Believes in Mastery Education

February 20, 2016 by
Kelly Brady

Kelly Brady

This post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s The EdFly Blog on January 19, 2016. Kelly Brady is the Director of Mastery Education for the Idaho State Department of Education. 

In my thirty years as an educator, I had the privilege of working with a wide range of learners in many different settings. I worked in public and private schools, with highly-gifted students and special education students, and in wealthy areas and areas of high-poverty. Yet in all those classrooms, one thing held universally true: kids learn best when their individual learning needs are met.

Good teachers know how to personalize instruction based on what they’ve learned about each student. The best way to motivate students is to get to know them personally by building relationships that reveal their unique learning needs. But it’s impossible to do that all the time, for every kid, in every lesson. Until now.

Thanks to advances in technology and new student-centered models of teaching and learning, we now have the tools to meet the needs of every learner! My role as Director of Mastery Education in Idaho is to get these tools into the hands of teachers and school/district leaders so they can customize learning for every student.

Why am I excited about Mastery Education?

(more…)

3 Smart State Approaches to Competency-Based Education

February 10, 2016 by

SuppliesThis post originally appeared on the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Ed Fly Blog on December 30, 2015.

There is a growing chorus of excitement and interest in competency-based education (CBE). One of the biggest draws is the potential for competency-based education to better meet individual student needs and eliminate learning gaps that traditional time-based systems have not been able to close.
In a competency-based system, each individual student progresses as learning expectations are met, rather than moving through a predetermined curriculum schedule dictated by fixed, age-based grade levels or seat-time requirements (sometimes expressed as Carnegie Units or credit hours).

Although the idea of time becoming the variable and learning the constant is attractive, making that a reality sometimes leaves the strongest of advocates scratching their heads. Many policymakers are committed to next generation reforms and have a sense of urgency, yet at the same time they have seen enough failed reform efforts to know that fidelity in implementation is paramount.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways states can create the conditions in which CBE can thrive and the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) is committed to supporting states in these efforts.

Our principal recommendation is for states to authorize the creation of innovation districts or schools to pilot a competency-based system and identify the pathway for statewide policy adoption. (For more, see our model policy.) This strategy paves the road for innovative leaders to request flexibility from the rules or regulations that hinder innovation while committing to transition to competency-based education. (more…)

Idaho Agrees: Flexible Pace > Seat Time

June 4, 2015 by

Desk ChairThis post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education on March 27, 2015.

The goal of a high school biology student should be to learn biology, or at least learn all the course has to offer.

That sounds simple enough. But in reality, it is not how the public education system works. Instead, the goal is to have the student sit in a biology class for a specific amount of time (often about 180 days), regardless of how long it actually takes the student to master the material.

An advanced student has to slow down; a struggling student has to keep up.

Inserting an artificial time restriction into learning forces students to adapt to someone else’s learning schedule. A better approach is to allow students to progress at a flexible pace so they can move on when they have mastered the material. Idaho is taking a bold step in this direction. The state recognizes the need for education to be more personalized in order to reach their goals.

Earlier this month, the Idaho legislature unanimously passed HB 110, which directs the Department of Education to begin Idaho’s transition to a mastery-based education system. And last week, Governor Butch Otter signed the bill into law.

This is another stride towards implementing Governor Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education, and it is an important step forward in preparing Idaho students for success in the 21st century. (more…)

Who Should Determine What Proficiency Is?

April 22, 2014 by
idaho

map data (c) 2014 Google

Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education in Idaho has been considering mastery-based education (Connecticut also uses this term). No recommendations to the state legislature were forthcoming, because, according to the news story, “they haven’t settled how to measure ‘mastery,’ or even who will make that decision. Some urged local control, while others argued if Idaho is providing funding to these schools, the state should be entitled to set forth some expectations.”

Fascinating that they saw it as an either-or decision rather than something that they might be able to construct together. New Hampshire started out with an emphasis on local control in designing the competency frameworks, but superintendents and school boards soon realized that resources can be better used in ways other than recreating the wheel in each of their districts.  So the state department of education led a process of co-designing to create statewide competencies that capture the big ideas we want students to be able to achieve in math and English language arts. (more…)

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