Students Talk Mastery Based Learning with Legislators at Idaho State Capitol Building
March 9, 2018 – They are not yet old enough to vote but students from West Ada School District made their way to Idaho’s State Capitol Building a couple weeks ago for discussion with legislators regarding Mastery Based Learning.
“Lawmakers are providing funds for this project and need to know how it is impacting students,” explained Eagle Academy Principal James Buschine. “Mastery Based Learning allows us to take the time needed to truly help students learn and take ownership of their learning.”
Nineteen school districts in the state comprise the Idaho Mastery Education Network (IMEN), founded following the passing of House Bill 110 in the 2015 legislative session. The bill granted the Idaho State Department of Education the ability to incubate a mastery based education program in an initial cohort of up to 20 local education agencies. Legislators are deciding whether to expand the IMEN with a second cohort of schools or by making the program available to any school choosing to participate.
“As we work to develop a new model of school focused on students becoming career and college ready, we need to make sure legislators know what it is we are trying to achieve,” explained Eian Harm, Mastery Learning, Career and College Success, and Research Coordinator. “Since most of the regulations come from state legislation, these policies also become roadblocks to innovation. The student perspective enables them to make decisions which will help promote this type of schools system – more closely aligned with the research base on how students learn.”
Central Academy Principal Donell McNeal shared the national dialogue around learning encourages all to rethink and redesign education. Students enrolled in West Ada School District’s academies have a unique opportunity to share with legislators what has gone right in the new program and what still needs work.
“Mastery Based Learning has provided equity for all students,” McNeal explained. “We are at the forefront of the conversation and our staff members lean on the collaborative process between all stakeholders to ensure success for all. Our students shared with legislators that an increase in ownership, increase in relationships, are strong considerations for the manner in which their current behaviors impact their future experiences.”
Students move through learning modules at their own pace through Mastery Based Learning. When a student can demonstrate understanding of a topic, they pass and move onto the next area of learning. Their learning experience is a blend of classroom lectures, relationships with teacher-mentors, and technology with courses and materials available 24 hours a day.
“We believe that the positive relationships between students and teacher-mentors is the single most important factor in achievement,” Harm said. “Teachers can pull students who are working on similar skills at similar levels into their classrooms and focus instruction at the appropriate level – or even simply work 1-on-1 with the students.”