• What is Mastery-Based Learning?

    Mastery means that all students will demonstrate repeated proficiency of a particular process, content or skill as measured by different types of assessments and applied in different ways. Students will have the opportunity to learn content and skills in subject area classes, whole school challenges, and through personalized work that they complete at their own pace, allowing for acceleration or recuperation, depending on each individual student’s need.

    One of the primary differences between our schools and a traditional school is our mastery-based approach.  It may be helpful to think of the traditional system as time-based and a mastery system as performance-based.  Unlike a traditional system in which students earn credits and advance based on completion of time in a course, or seat time, in a mastery-based system students keep working on specific skills and knowledge until they can demonstrate their understanding and ability to apply them.  Then students move to the next material. The chart below highlights some of the key differences:

    Traditional (Time-based)

    Mastery (Performance-based)

    Students are assigned new work based on a calendar set by the teacher.

    Students do not begin a new task until they have demonstrated proficiency on the current assignments (proficiency is determined by a scale which students review in advance).

    Students usually turn in an assignment once and receive a letter or percentage grade on the assignment.

    Students can submit an assignment more than one time and/or have more than one opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in identified standards and will receive one of the following marks:

    Some assignments will be assessed using a proficiency scale ranging from 0-4. The scale is intended to demonstrate progress towards mastery.  A 0 indicates a student has not yet started advancement toward mastery of a particular scale, while a 4 indicates that the student has exceeded the standard for mastery.

    Students can earn a zero by having missing assignments.

    The number of assignments, opportunities to demonstrate mastery, and timelines will vary for each student. Students must complete every assignment.

    Students advance, as a group, to the next course at set points in time such as at the end of a semester or a school year.

    Students, individually, move ahead as soon as they are ready and have demonstrated proficiency at multiple points during the year.

    Course credit is received by meeting seat-time requirements.

    Course “credit” is received by mastering the standards associated with the course.

    Assessments are aligned with course calendars and taken at set points during the school year when courses are complete.

    Assessments are aligned with standards and may be taken whenever a student is ready to demonstrate mastery.


    Why Mastery?

    Providence Schools believes that a mastery-based system allows for a deeper understanding of material and ensures that students have a deeper understanding of key concepts.  For the most part in a traditional system, students move ahead to the next grade level after nine months of school, regardless of what they have or have not learned. In a mastery system it is impossible to just “coast” through an assignment.  As one student we visited at a mastery-based high school said, “At my last school I could just throw something together at the last minute, turn it in, get a grade and move on, now if I just throw something together, the teacher gives it back to me and says do it again.”  Specifically, in a mastery system:

    • All students succeed in building college and career readiness
    • Personalized learning allows students to learn at their own pace, anytime, anywhere
    • Students know exactly what is expected of them and take increased ownership to manage their own learning, with supports as needed