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Reports from Policy Analysts

Mastery Education a Reality in Idaho

Submitted On: Saturday, August 27, 2016

Analyst: Dyer, Darlene/Wood River High School

What would public schools look like without As, Bs, or Cs?  How would your students feel about advancing from grade to grade based on mastering concepts instead of seat time or a passing grade?  Some Idaho schools are working towards eliminating the traditional system, taking part in a new learning model called mastery education.  The Idaho Mastery Education Network (IMEN) became established after Governor Butch Otter signed House Bill 110 last fall. The bill directed the State Department of Education to create a process for identifying participating school districts and lead them in a transition to mastery education beginning this 2016-2017 school year.  Dating back to the 2013 Governor’s Task Force for Improving Education, which advocated a mastery education model, now 19 Idaho “incubator sites” will be piloting this archetype.

Superintendent Sherri 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.”  As an example, Rocky Mountain MIddle School in Idaho Falls is implementing a new program called “Fusion Classroom” where each student will have a laptop equipped with personalized learning software to help them toward proficiency in their coursework (in addition to class instruction).  In Blaine County School District, Silver Creek High School (an alternative high school) will be piloting their “Big Picture Learning” model, where student advancement is based on performance projects.

For success in the 21st century, the mastery-based education model provides students with rigorous expectations and a chance to “use meaningful content in ways that encourage deeper levels of learning so they acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions” to empower them toward college and career readiness.

Such a change to tradition will not happen overnight.  The participating state pilots have already formed a network of professional learning from which the Idaho SDE will gather data, challenges, and successes to inform others, provide resources, and to demonstrate the potential of such an important shift in learning and teaching.  Network “incubator” sites are required to participate in SDE-sponsored professional development meetings and activities with June 2016 through August 2017 being the planning and design phase.  A four-year implementation has been scheduled (through 2021).

2016 Idaho Mastery Education Network Application. Idaho State Department of Education.

Bodkin, Devin. “Idaho Falls’ Mastery Pilot Fuses Technology and Projects.”  Idaho Education News.  8 Aug. 2016.

Brady, Kelly.  “How Idaho is Making Mastery Education a Reality.”  The Edfly Blog.  25 Jan. 2016.

“First Cohort for Idaho Mastery Education Network Announced by the Department of Education.”  Idaho State Department of Education.  Press Release. 22 Apr. 2016.

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