Combatting Racism...with Antiracism! Ideas from MC school leaders

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Combatting Racism...with Antiracism! Ideas from MC school leaders

By Meg Stentz

What would it mean to create an equity audit at your school? What learning would you uncover if you set out to examine the gap between passing rates and true college readiness? This is just one of the powerful ideas that surfaced among school leaders at the MC Winter Quarterly meeting.

MC School Leaders huddle at the Winter Q to talk about race & mastery.

MC School Leaders huddle at the Winter Q to talk about race & mastery.

For three years now, the Mastery Collaborative community has partnered with the Center for Racial Justice in Education (formerly Border Crossers) to offer workshops on race, racism, and education for hundreds of teachers, counselors, and school leaders. During these leveled workshops, skillful facilitators guide participants in unlearning the racism that we all absorb living in a white supremacist culture. In Level 1, facilitators unpack the idea that race is socially constructed, but has very real consequences. Participants get a brief but powerful history of race and racism in the United States. They learn to identify how racism manifests in ideology, institutions, interpersonal interactions, and internally. In Level 2 the focus is on role playing scenarios that involve race and school, practicing breathing before responding, and importantly, “naming race” in how we analyze and handle each scenario. This year, the MC has launched a Level 3 workshop-style training where participant teams translate their understandings of Culturally Responsive Teaching into their classroom context and unit plans. Taken together these trainings are meant to equip educators to engage more openly in addressing race when it comes up in their classrooms and schools, but many participants leave ready to carry their learning into other spheres as well.

The impact of this collective  learning was on full display last month when we asked MC members at a community-wide meeting to work in discipline-alike groups and huddle around this, among other, questions: How can we dismantle a focus on whiteness in favor of a more anti-racist approach?

The ideas that sprang up from these initial conversations are rich. We wanted to share the thinking of some of our school leaders about how antiracism can be, is, and should be, enacted in schools:

  • Integrate the “Respect for All” plan in the PD curriculum

  • Create relational trust and dialogue. Speak from your own positionality and your own stories.

  • As a leader, model apology, acknowledge what hasn’t worked, and position yourself as a learner. This sets the tone for staff to engage in difficult learning too.

  • Conduct a quantitative equity audit. Examine gaps between passing rates and college readiness rates. Look at data broken down by race, gender, socioeconomic status, students with IEPs, students who are language learners

  • Gather student voice through student interviews and surveys. Use this to inform decisions about the school policies and instruction.

  • Create opportunities for parents to talk to one another, as well as opportunities for students and staff to engage with one another.

  • Create and use student crews or advisories to discuss issues in the school, in the city, and in the culture.

  • Words matter. Be thoughtful in how you frame issues, and what vocabulary you use. Know your school community and focus on building partnerships and relationships.

These ideas represent just a few of the first-thoughts that our community suggested. What would you add? Write to us at team@masterycollaborative.org to share your best practices in antiracist, culturally responsive, mastery-based education.


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The Mastery Collaborative Approach: Student Centered, Culturally Responsive, and Competency-Based

By Joy Nolan

This post originally appeared at Students at the Center, find it here.

For the dozens of member schools in New York City Department of Education’s Mastery Collaborative (MC), student-centered learning is competency-based (also called mastery-based) and implemented with a culturally responsive lens. Student-centered approaches are the inspiration for and the engine of our learning community. As part of the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Leadership, we push each other as fearlessly as we can toward the teaching moves and school cultures that work best for young people—and to change or abandon what’s not working.

As new members of the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative, our program team is excited to be embarking on a two-year investigation of the Mastery Collaborative model, which infuses mastery-based learning with culturally responsive approaches. Our research partner is The Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools at New York University.

This study is the first to investigate how culturally responsive, mastery-based education influences traditionally marginalized students’ learning, engagement, and outcomes in school. We are eager for the study’s results, whatever they may be. There is urgency here because each student has just one shot at getting a high quality public school education. We don’t get to equivocate, take the slow road, or tune out useful criticism. That’s why we’re working hard to identify and spread what is working as widely, deeply, and quickly as possible.

Students at MC member school KAPPA International High School, Bronx, NY, with Principal Panorea (Penny) Panagiosoulis.

Students at MC member school KAPPA International High School, Bronx, NY, with Principal Panorea (Penny) Panagiosoulis.

We echo what our valued colleague, Paul Forbes, Executive Director of Educational Equity, Anti-Bias & Diversity in the NYC DOE’s Office of Equity and Access, observes: 

“We know what needs to be done. Do we have the will to do it?”

The MC provides community for leaders, educators, and students who possess that will. This kind of determination will be crucial for us as we dive deeper into the work. Moving toward more effective mastery-based and culturally responsive approaches is a complex and multidimensional process that is as challenging and confusing as it is joyful and inspiring. NYU’s research is focusing on the most powerful aspects of our model to ensure that whatever we find will help others generate the determination they need to continue to innovate and apply best practices known to enhance equity. In NYC, as we infuse mastery learning with culturally responsive practices, students tell us that this work is powerful and meaningful. (To hear their perspectives, check out this incredible video.) So, as our community awaits results of NYU’s study, we’d like to share a few observations now about working toward mastery-based, culturally-responsive approaches to education. Over the next several months, we plan to share more posts on this work with you here. For now:

1. This model works well for all students. Culturally responsive, mastery-based education is not a special initiative for traditionally underserved learners. This is not an extra support for students who are behind. This is not an exclusive opportunity for high-performing students. It’s just a powerful way to do school. It benefits different students in different ways. We have yet to encounter a school where learners don’t respond positively to this model.

  • For students of color, this approach can mean learning in an environment where one can experience being seen, valued, welcomed, supported, and held to exciting expectations. It also means students regularly engage teachers and school leaders who are willing to look at and work on their own beliefs, biases, and expectations, and strive to improve their cultural competency—the ability to be aware of one’s own cultural, social, racial identity and perspectives, and the ability to interact effectively with others who are not like yourself, however you define that difference. Students notice when their teachers are comfortable with them and believe in their potential—which is why we work as a community to look at our own beliefs, biases, and expectations—and to build our cultural competency, and our skills as growth mindset coaches.

  • For students who attend highly selective schools and tend to stress about grades, this approach offers an opportunity to focus more on learning and less on the competitive nature of 0-100 grading. (Is it really meaningful to give one student an 89 for 10 months of work, and another student a 91? What does that 2-point spread capture? The more you think about grades, the more apparent is the false objectivity they convey.) As student Georgios put it: “Instead of comparing grades—which we used to do before we had mastery—we are comparing our thoughts.”

  • For English learners, this system offers a way to develop mastery of discipline-specific learning outcomes and language acquisition outcomes, and clarity about both. “I’m a recent immigrant, so my grammar is not perfect. But I can still move ahead quickly in math and science,” said one student at MC Living Lab School Flushing International High School last month. Have a look at this language outcomes rubric to see how Flushing International High School makes clear the pathway toward English proficiency for English learners. Flushing International also has outcomes and rubrics for each discipline, and for the work habits that underpin success in all disciplines, plus the adults in the building share responsibility for teaching and coaching on all these outcomes. “If you’re a math teacher here, you’re still a language teacher,” says Principal Evangelista.

  • For students with an individualized education program (IEP), this approach can mean increased focus on growth and progress, and can clarify and support learning by naming and explicitly teaching habits, skills, and mindsets learners use to get traction in school. The flexibility to return over time to specific learning goals helps everyone, but our educators who work with students who have IEPs tell us this is especially valuable for those learners.

  • For students with learning gaps and misconceptions, a CRE/mastery approach supports positive learning identity and mindsets for learning, and also homes in on specific skills and understanding students need to build and master before they can move ahead. There’s also the advantage of flexible pacing; learners can spiral back to shore up what they still need to master, while moving forward on the aspects they are ready to engage afresh. When you get a 70 on the Unit 4 test in a traditional school, Unit 5 is likely to start Monday, with no clear plan to make up the 30% you have not yet mastered. Sal Khan’s nonpareil treatise on pacing and masterypoints out the considerable shortcomings of moving ahead while leaving learners and learning behind. His funny and apt house-building analogy starts: “We have two weeks to build a foundation. Do what you can!” A mastery approach—with its signature flexible pacing and actionable feedback—can be a curative and a preventative measure for gaps and misconceptions.

2. All schools are culturally responsive. The question is: to whom? It can be illuminating to reflect on the ironies in that claim and question. The Civil Rights movement was about removing access barriers to our culture’s institutions. As racial justice trainer and early childhood educator Megan Pamela Ruth Madison clarified for me during a training called “Talking About Race (and Mastery),” the work that remains undone is making those institutions equally welcoming and useful for all. 

Given our country’s long history of racism, to go about educating children in a colorblind way is almost surely to reproduce racism—so we cannot do that. About 85% of students in NYC public schools identify as being of color. They are from hundreds of cultures and countries, speak dozens of languages, and come from a wide range of economic realities, as well. In NYC, about 60% of the teaching force is white. We find the precepts of cultural responsiveness to be a powerful student-centered framework for seeing, welcoming, and valuing the diversity across our beautiful city. So what is CRE? Let’s go to its founder for the basics. Here are Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings’ three pillars of culturally responsive education (CRE), which are a touchstone for the MC’s work.

  • All students can, and must, experience academic success

  • Students must have command of cultural competence: the ability to understand their own cultural identities and lenses, and to interact effectively with others who are very different, however each person defines that difference.

  • Students must develop critical consciousness, through which they challenge the status quo of the current social order. With support, students can turn awareness into power. 

3. An explicit anti-racist stance is needed. Nationally, 80 to 90% of our teaching force is white, and just over half our students are people of color. This is factual, not news, and not to be avoided in polite discussion. In a society with a centuries-long history of racism, to operate from good intention without a racial justice lens and gameplan is almost certain to create conditions that reproduce oppression and inequity. Our community’s game plan: name race and racism, investigate and reflect on how race shows up, and on our nation’s racial history; role play and critique our efforts until we are more capable in our dealings with young people; hold sustained conversations about how race can play out in grading policies, classroom management, and curriculum design; seek to enrich our collective expertise by using as touchstones the work of leaders who are clear-eyed about race and education. The MC community has gained much from the work of The Center for Racial Justice in Education, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Zaretta Hammond, Django Paris, and others.

4. Transparency is a paramount value. Students’ learning goals and criteria for success should be shared from the outset—or co-created with learners. “Shared” does not mean “handed out.” Taking time to build shared understanding is crucial. We know school is a nonstop game of beat the clock, and teachers are rightly skeptical of time-consuming asks. And we know, because we have seen, the incredible power and value of dedicating instructional time to talking over learning goals and criteria for success. Taking time to establish this with learners is one of the most important value-adds of a mastery-based approach. It clarifies everything. It helps students learn how to learn. It ensures there’s no secret path that some students innately know but others never figure out. The time is definitely worth it.

5. Learning is a process undertaken by the learner. This was my 2018 mantra. It seems so basic, but it’s not how we generally proceed. As we lay out what we want students to learn, as we design units and lessons to make that happen, we need to be aware that what we are doing is creating a set of conditions for the most important thing to happen: learners learning. That is to say, the lesson plan or unit plan is there to serve a purpose, and is subservient to that purpose. We need to value students learning much more than we value “covering everything.” Deep conceptual learning requires processing time, what Zaretta Hammond calls “chewing.” We know there are ten or so revolutions that need to be covered in global history—but mastery-based teachers tell us that if you teach several of them thoroughly, students will transfer their understanding successfully and will be able to analyze historical events they have not encountered before. Deeper is better than faster, because that’s what makes learning sticky.

Student Kaitlyn (center) and Dean Jessica Jean-Marie from Harvest Collegiate High School, with MC Co-Founder Jeremy Chan-Kraushar at MC Film Festival, June 2018.

Student Kaitlyn (center) and Dean Jessica Jean-Marie from Harvest Collegiate High School, with MC Co-Founder Jeremy Chan-Kraushar at MC Film Festival, June 2018.

As a community, the MC has found that being fearlessly student-centered means being culturally responsive, even as we perfect our mastery-based systems. These are two highly complex areas of research and practice—how can we combine them? We don’t think it’s easy, but we do think it is necessary. Happily, we collectively find that digging into the work makes the next step of evolution and perspective possible. And we have an entire community with the will to do this work. I like to say that the word “mastery” gets all the attention, but the word “collaborative” is our secret weapon. Educators across MC schools express excitement as they get traction with practices that are intentional, transparent, and equitable. As our valued partner and colleague Lonice Eversley, a Peer Collaborative Teacher at Careers in Sports High School in the Bronx, reminds us frequently: “These are the moves of a highly effective teacher!” A mastery-based and culturally responsive system benefits learning for all students we have met so far.

To learn more about the research study currently being led by Mastery Collaborative and the The Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools at New York University visit this page.

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Ask MC: Habits of Work

Dear MC,

Our school has been mastery-based for two years now, but we still struggle with habits of work. Right now we have schoolwide outcomes for work habits that account for a small percentage of students’ grade—“Professionalism,” “Communication,” “Leadership,” and “Community Building,” to name a few. These habits of work show up separate from academic habits on our students’ report cards.

We want to make sure we’re using these outcomes in a useful and consistent way, so we gave the whole staff a survey to ask: Which work habits outcomes do you understand? Which work habits outcomes do your students understand, and how do you know? How often do you assess each of the work habits outcomes?

We discovered that most of the staff regularly assess “Professionalism,” but almost no one regularly assesses “Leadership.” During PD we will present these survey results and have the staff tackle each outcome in breakout groups. We’ll use discussion prompts like: How do you explain this outcome to students? How do you use the outcome in your class?

What else should we consider? What are some “best practices” in regards to habits of work?

Sincerely,

Working on Work Habits

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Dear Working on Work Habits,

Surveying your staff is a great starting point for this conversation—it helps you to meet teachers where they are now, to highlight where staff is already in agreement, and to identify where there’s more need for conversation and sharing. Brava!

We suggest framing this conversation around basic principles of mastery learning—such as transparency, learner metacognition, timely/actionable feedback.

  • Transparency: Learners should know when they're being assessed on what. They should have the rubric, and it should include what each habit looks like, sounds like, feels like. A rubric with criteria for mastery will allow students to work towards independent mastery, and give teachers a grounding for providing actionable feedback. In the rubric, try to avoid "sometimes" "always" "never" language, and instead get more explicit about the look-for indicators of mastery for each habit.

  • Metacognition: Ideally, students are continuously building understanding of each habit, and where that learner is on the path to mastery. Students can reflect on their growth by using a rubric to self-assess and peer-assess their work habits. When teachers assess the habits, learners should be able to see their scores across time and receive feedback and coaching around their progress, perhaps in conferences. This sustained attention to growth allows students to be aware of their own learning process and progress.

  • TImely/actionable feedback: Ensure that all habits are explicitly taught and practiced in class. Unpack the rubric for these skills with students and model what mastery looks like through examples of student work, role play, or fishbowls. Give students timely and actionable feedback on their progress towards mastery so that they can continue to develop their skills. If you assess it, you should teach it!

Keeping transparency and student growth at the center of the staff’s conversation will help you to create a system that feels clear, fair, and helpful to students. Let us know how it goes!

Warmly,

MC

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TEACHER TALES: HOW ONE SPANISH TEACHER TRANSITIONED TO MASTERY-BASED GRADING

By Meg Stentz

At NYC Lab High School for Collaborative Studies, a few teachers are taking on mastery-based teaching and grading. Spanish teacher Sarah Mirabile shared how she transitioned her classroom to reflect the philosophy of mastery.

Identifying learning goals

First Sarah looked over her curriculum and daily learning targets and simplified them. She identified 19 learning targets for her year-long course.

Example learning target: Yo puedo explicar (en inglés) la diferencia entre dos formas gramaticales en el pasado -el pretérito y el imperfecto. Translation: I can explain (in English) the difference between two grammatical forms in the past - the preterite (simple past tense: I walked) and the imperfect (I had been walking).

These learning targets are granular and assess through quizzes, which students are able to re-take at any time. In addition to identifying these granular learning targets, Sarah identified four more broad overarching skills that students gain in Spanish 1 and will continue to use throughout their Spanish-language education. She calls these high-leverage skills outcomes. There are four skill outcomes in her Spanish 1 course.*

Example skill outcome:Yo puedo identificar y distinguir entre situaciones en las que debemos usar el pretérito versus el imperfecto con referencia al pasado.
Translation: I can identify and distinguish between situations in which we should use the preterite versus the imperfect with reference to the past.

Defining outcomes is often the first step in transforming to a full mastery/CRE practice. Sarah notes that as she has made the shift to outcomes-based learning, her curriculum hasn’t changed so far, and for the most part her teaching hasn’t shifted yet, either. What has shifted already is that students now know what they’re learning, and they know how to monitor their own progress towards mastery.

* Note: This is Sarah’s unique nomenclature for learning goals based around knowledge and skills. Other practitioners use terms such as competencies, learning goals, outcomes, learning targets, attainments, and others.

Communicating progress through grading

To help students make sense of what they’re learning in class, Sarah strives for transparency. She labels all her notes, homework assignments, and quizzes with the learning target that it covers. Students can see the connection between what they’re doing in class and how they’re assessed. In her grade book, Sarah labels each entry with the learning target or skill outcome being assessed.  In their gradebook, students can easily see that they’ve been assessed on each learning target two or three times in various ways, for example, on a homework assignment, on classwork, and on a quiz.

Sarah has devised a hack for the class’s non-mastery-based digital gradebook: To communicate students’ mastery on a learning target: she enters a “mastery grade” for each target. Here’s how she explains it to students:

For each learning target ("meta") that we practice this semester, you will be given a corresponding "Mastery Assessment" grade to indicate your level of mastery of that skill. If your average on assignments related to this skill is between a 90-100, your grade will be "M" to indicate Mastery. If your average on assignments related to this skill is between a 80-89, your grade will be "D" to indicate Developing. If your average on assignments related to this skill is lower than an 80, your grade will be "E" for Emerging.

Sarah Mirabile, Spanish Teacher

Sarah Mirabile, Spanish Teacher

Reaping the rewards

Sarah appreciates understanding in detail what her students know. “It’s harder for them to do well by luck because there’s three or four assignments for each skill.” She reports that it’s made her more organized as a teacher, too.

Sarah is also pleased that her students are “starting to think about the skills instead of the assignment.” Plus, “they’re taking up the wok of revision more, and are definitely less stressed out because they know what they’re learning at any given moment.” Most importantly, she notes that the way her mastery system messages progress to students clearly feels more equitable, particularly to kids who might feel like they’re bad at Spanish. She says her system flips the script: “You’re not bad at Spanish; you might need more practice with a specific skill.”

Thanks, Sarah for sharing your transition system with us!

How did you start implementing mastery in your classroom? We’d love to hear! Write to us at team@masterycollaborative.org.


 

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Ah-ha Mastery Moments at Origins High School

By Meg Stentz

Sometimes the “ah-ha” moment comes from finally understanding the why of competency shifts, and sometimes they happen from seeing the how in action. Today we share some of the how’s we saw in action at MC Active Member Origins High School in Brooklyn.

Creating a supportive environment

Clarifying strategies allow students to access text and work even when they have questions.

Clarifying strategies allow students to access text and work even when they have questions.

“We know kids space out. We want them to be able to space out. They are allowed to space out; we just need them to come back.” —Dan, 9th grade ELA teacher

Simple ways kids are supported in refocusing:

  • In every 9th grade classroom, lessons all share certain identical visual components. On every slide in the lesson slide deck, the learning aim is in the top left corner, the task is in the top right, and there’s a timer in the bottom corner. Instructions or context are in the center.

  • If the students are working with a certain resource, there’s a photo of the resource on the slide. So, even if you miss the teacher’s framing of an activity, you can glance up and easily identify all the materials you need.

  • By November, students are comfortable with the cognitive routines to use when they encounter something they don’t understand. (See picture: “Clarifying Strategies”)

Guiding students in building metacognition

At the end of the year, students participate in round table discussions about their learning journey for specific outcomes. The whole year supports students in gathering information that could support them in their roundtable experience.

  • Students track their own mastery across time. (See below.)

  • Rubrics at Origins are often used across disciplines to give students more perspective about how to apply a given skill—and teachers spend significant time working with student to unpack rubrics criteria. Students understand that “more of a 3 is not a 4,” but that instead, they’re being asked to engage in deeper thinking. When students receive feedback, they immediately set a goal and action plan with next steps to improve their mastery.

  • Before independent work time, students record on a google form what outcome they’ll spend their time working on. At the end of that work time, they’ll complete a google form exit ticket about how their work time went. When it comes time for roundtables, they’ll have a print-out that tracks how they spent their time.

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Engaging students with relevance & rigor

At Origins, these buzz words come alive as students engage in work that is related to their lives, tied to current events, and interesting to them.

Cross-curricular learning asks students to use background knowledge from History to demonstrate a skill they’re developing in ELA.

Cross-curricular learning asks students to use background knowledge from History to demonstrate a skill they’re developing in ELA.

  • Classrooms where the learning matters to students stand apart. At Origins, 9th grade history students are practicing research and writing with textual evidence by analyzing and reflecting on sources around race, gender, and immigration issues.

  • Cross-curricular outcomes allow students to hone their skills. In 9th grade ELA, Origins students are leveraging the same research outcomes as well as their understanding of pathos and logos to write speeches. Students self-select into topic groups based on how much background knowledge they have to tackle first amendment issues through the NFL’s stance on allowing players to kneel, the role of government in promoting gender equity, or checks and balances through the lens of immigration..

  • The Origins rubric asks students to synthesize multiple arguments. To support students in this complex task, students are asked write with “an open mind” and “a skeptical mind.” This explicit instruction supports students in working towards the highest level of mastery. (See below.)



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Big thanks to Mohamad Awad and Dan Farrell, Social Studies and ELA teachers at Origins, for this enlightening glimpse into their classrooms!

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Talking about Race & Mastery with Lonice

By Patrick Williamson

Every July, the Mastery Collaborative offers a Summer Institute to share strong practices with our community of practitioners and interested guests from the broader community of interested NYC public school educators. Participants dedicate a week of their summer to a deep dive into topics such as culturally responsive practices (CRE)—together with CRE and mastery-based curriculum design, facilitation moves, and grading policies. This year, we were honored to have Peer Collaborative Teacher Lonice Eversley from Careers in Sports High School sharing her CRE strategies and approaches. Here are some key takeaways:


CRE promoting critical consciousness

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Students should see themselves as change-makers, which necessitates seeing themselves in the content. Period. Students being able to center themselves and their history in school leads to an increase in engagement and heightened metacognition about their journey as learners. It is essential to note that this is not just sharing a history of trauma, but a co-generative dialogue that positions students as change makers and resistors. Diving into courageous conversations is necessary for CRE. As educators, we have to do the heavy lifting, to truly embody CRE content and process. CRE happens when we leverage assets and let the students do the heavy lifting of identity development.

Media representations show up in the classroom and need to be addressed

Students will be engaging with media regardless, so instead of dismissing media as unscholarly, we, must engage and bring it into the content. Through what Lonice referred to as “symbolic annihilation”, students of color are constantly seeing themselves omitted, trivialized, or condemned in the media, only to feel further ostracized by our tendency to disregard media studies as inappropriate in the classroom. CRE is rigorous and requires overtly addressing, contextualizing, and analyzing current events. One activity that she has done in the past is to present images and articles published in the media, and analyze the contrast in language used to describe the situation from one news source to another. (Ex: In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some news sources referred to white people’s actions as “finding” food or trying to survive, whereas other news sources characterized people of color—engaged in exactly the same activity— as “looters” and “thieves”.)

Addressing the “origins of invisibility”

Which leads us to the last highlight for this post: We need to analyze and push back on the stripping away of stories. Too often, our history is told by the dominant, without addressing the power dynamics at play. This lens leaves our students susceptible to an understanding history in which they are not active participants and change-makers. Depending on who is telling the story and how, people of color are robbed of subjecthood and become become objects in story, instead of leaders, visionaries, innovators, etc.

There has always been one most powerful strategy to respond to inequity: Teach it. As brilliantly stated by Lonice, “if [students] can problem solve, they can change the world.”

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A note from Patrick:

Dear MC community, as you may know I've recently transitioned to a new position with our friends at NYC Men Teach to continue the equity work we've all engaged in for the past few years. From anti-bias trainings, to presentations from rockstars like Lonice, to speed round chats at our events, I've learned so much from and with all of you. I will carry that learning with me as we continue to build community and advocate for our students, in the name of equity.

Respect and community always, PW


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THREE TAKE-AWAYS FROM MC SPRING SITE VISITS

By Meg Stentz

Each fall and spring, MC schools host visits to spotlight strong mastery and CRE practices. You can register here for this year’s visits, which run November 19- December 5, starting at Frank McCourt HS where the staff will share how they make expectations clear from the outset and focus in on rubric design.

As we gear up for the learning and excitement of our fall visit season, we look back on some take-aways from last year’s spectacular set of visits.

MC community members chat with students about their work at the NYC iSchool.

MC community members chat with students about their work at the NYC iSchool.

1. Mastery supports positive learning identity.

In a mastery-based learning environment, expectations are clear from the start. Feedback is targeted to precisely what students know and can do--and provides key next steps to improve. This approach supports students in developing a can-do learning identity, and helps them to understand the learning process itself. These are practices that help students to experience success.

Flushing International High School science teacher Jordan explains it this way:

"I was talking to a student and he said, 'I'm really bad at math." So I said, let's look at what outcome that is, and the outcome was 'Writing with evidence,' so I asked: 'Are you really bad at math or did you not write with evidence?' And he said, 'Oh, I'm not bad at math.'"

2. Mastery-based grading increases transparency and includes students in the conversation about what their grades mean.

"We used to dread giving out report cards, because there were always kids who were totally surprised, no matter how many times you spoke to them throughout the semester. There were always tears or cheers, or whatever. But with outcomes, it's much more of a conversation. It's much more narrative. Instead of, 'It's a B,' there is written feedback that really describes what that grade represents."  -Grace, teacher at Flushing International High School

3. Mastery opens the door for students to demonstrate learning in multiple and varied ways.

At Pan American International High School at Monroe, the staff values how mastery learning allows them to see mastery in students who may come to school with gaps in language proficiency or past schooling, but who take on rigorous content nonetheless. The educator team at PAIHS-Monroe wants to be sure that language gaps do not act a barrier for students as they demonstrate progress and mastery of learning outcomes in disciplines such as math and science.

Principal Brigit Bye explains: "We think about all the ways they could demonstrate this outcome, and you start listing all these things, and any of that is fine."

Thanks to all the MC schools that host visits for the MC Community! You always do us proud, and we see you and appreciate you.

Have your own take-away to share? Drop us a line at team@masterycollaborative.org

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Ask MC: Rubrics

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Ask MC: Rubrics

Dear MC,

I am struggling with grading my students’ work. I have been creating rubrics for every assessment, and it is quite overwhelming. Making all these rubrics is too time consuming. I teach algebra — are there algebra 1 rubrics that I can peruse to adopt in my classroom?

Sincerely,

Buried in rubrics


Dear Buried in rubrics,

Thanks for reaching out. There's definitely no need to design rubrics for each assessment. If you have mastery indicators for each of the outcomes in your course, it's actually best to use the same rubric for the same outcome each time you assess, so that you and students can see/track their growth over time.

Let’s say your assessment is measuring students on three outcomes. Your rubric could include three rows, one for each outcome, so you’re giving feedback about where each student is. Using rubrics based on outcomes, not individual projects/tests, allows you to use the same rubric for the same outcomes over time, and allows you all to see progress as students’ mastery grows.

Here are a few example rubrics to look at, each with a slightly different take on outcomes and rubric design. Much thanks to the marvelous MC Living Lab Schools, who share so many resources with the community.

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  • Common Core Algebra 1 rubrics from member school UA Maker

    • Notice: There are rubrics for both content (e.g. quadratics, equations and inequalities) and skills (e.g. precision, modeling). It’s possible that a teacher would assess or give feedback for more than one outcome on a given assignment.

  • Spiraled rubrics grades 6-10 from member school TYWLS-Astoria

    • Content-specific outcomes are tied to broader schoolwide skills, such as “be precise,” or “investigate.”

  • Math outcomes and rubrics from member school  Flushing International HS

    • Notice: Rubrics at Flushing are additive, meaning each level of mastery requires demonstration of deeper thinking.

You may also want to check out an earlier post by Co-Director Joy Nolan on the single-point mastery rubric.

Feel free to share with colleagues whatever you find useful, and send further questions as you dig in to this work!

Warmly,

MC


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TEACHER TALES: ONE TEACHER'S JOURNEY TO CRE

By: Meg Stentz

At the 2018 MC Summer Institute, teacher leader Dina Klein of Marsh Avenue Expeditionary Learning School, shared her experiences with implementing culturally responsive practices.

Dina described that her understanding and implementation of Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) happened in phases. First, she examined representation in curriculum, then in her classroom management, and more recently, realized how much her whiteness permeates her experiences and how students might see her.

Representation

As a first step in learning about CRE, Dina looked at the texts she uses and asked: Will every student see themselves represented at some point during the year? When her curriculum came up short, she added texts and resources from more diverse perspectives. This additive method is often a first step, but ultimately not enough, she found.

Classroom management

Having a culturally responsive classroom means in part that the way you relate to students makes them feel safe, cared about, and competent. Dina noted that the way she related to and managed her students wasn’t as effective as she wanted, or maybe the effect she was looking for had changed. Dina put it this way: “The conversation I’d been having for six years, the phrases I always used—it wasn’t working anymore.”

Dina works with MC Summer Institute participants to infuse culturally responsive practices into their own classrooms.

Dina works with MC Summer Institute participants to infuse culturally responsive practices into their own classrooms.

Dina reports that her thinking shifted from: What’s the matter with them? to: What’s the deal with my practices?  In reflecting on how she interacted with her students, and seeking to shift the power in her classroom, Dina came to a critical realization.

“I learned that I am white.”

Dina reports that the realization that race was something she hadn’t had to think about: “Being white, coming from a traditional middle class family, and being a woman in a hetero-normative relationship, were all things that presented in the classroom and my practices and I hadn’t realized how that impacted others. I want to empower all my students, and especially the students who don’t always have access to that power.”

Her realization affected every part of her teaching—and she had to address it, since CRE isn’t a checklist of tasks to make school more equitable, but instead a mindset and an approach to teaching that can shift power to better serve students.

Big thanks to Dina for sharing her learning with our community, and for taking up this crucial work. Care to share your own journey to cultural responsiveness, or where you are on the path? We’d love to hear. Write to us at team@masterycollaborative.org.


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Tune up your mastery grading practices

by MC Co-Director Joy Nolan

A warm (not to say muggy, at least here in NYC this week!) welcome back to a new school year, to educators across the MC community and beyond! We are proud that our community is deeply engaged in meaningful shifts meant to empower young people.

Are your grading practices keeping up with your diligent efforts to be clear, fair, equitable, empowering, and responsive to learners? As the school year begins, we're sharing a resource your school can use to troubleshoot and tune up your grading practices.

Note: It is a multi-page document so click the link to see all pages: Mastery Grading Reflection & Template.

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ASK MC: A MASTERY ADVICE COLUMN

By Meg Stentz

Every fall and spring, Mastery Collaborative schools host visits to share strong practices with our community of practitioners, and interested guests from the broader world of student-centered learning. Participants at MC visits visit classrooms, talk shop about practices, get resources, and hear from educators and students at each host school. Here are excerpts from a Q/A session during a visit in April to MC Living Lab School Flushing International High School (FIHS).


Communicating a mastery philosophy to parents is something all MC schools need to do, but at FIHS there’s also often a language barrier. How do you explain your grading system to your parents? Do they understand them?

Students at FIHS participate in a "tea party" where each student is a character from a novel they're reading in class. 

Students at FIHS participate in a "tea party" where each student is a character from a novel they're reading in class. 

FIHS students & staff respond:
Naudia: My parents are always asking what I did in school today and what I learned. They might ask to see my grades and see how I am doing. I open Jumprope and show them, and they are satisfied. They might ask to look at the outcomes and they can see what grades I have, and then they don't need to come to the school from far away.

Kevin, AP: The color-coding for grades in the JumpRope platform has really helped us. We do a workshop with the parents, but they can also see at a glance if it's red (not yet at mastery): that's clear.

Yesen: I can speak to that, too. One of my parents doesn't speak English, and sometimes he checks Jumprope, but also every three months or so, the school sends home a progress report, and the color coding is clear. If it's yellow (approaching mastery), he will force me to translate what the outcomes say, and then he'll tell me I need to go and talk to my teacher and learn what I need to do to improve my grade in that outcome.


How is school and grading here different from how they were in your first country?

FIHS students respond:
Yesen: In Egypt, you just get a 300 page book or so, and you study it. You take a test one time, and you have no chance to revise. You pass or you fail and have to take it again in the summer.

Gloria: Can I connect that to my experience in my country? I am glad to have JumpRope here, because in my country, the only way to know your grade is to go and ask the teacher. In Korea, they do not tell you what your grade is, and so you have no way to figure out what you need to improve.

Naudia: I agree with you. In my country, Bangladesh, there is just a pile of books you have to read, and you don't know how you're doing. At the end of the year they just hand you a report card and you see your grade and think, Oh my gosh, how did this happen?

 

Learning is hands-on and project-based. Here students explore cause & effect in a living environments class by studying diseases and im

Learning is hands-on and project-based. Here students explore cause & effect in a living environments class by studying diseases and im

What growth do you see in yourself, maybe on a specific outcome or in your learning in general, after being at this school for a few years?

FIHS students respond:
Gloria: I grew in the outcome “Challenge yourself.” When I first got here, in 9th grade, everything was not happy for me. I missed my friends, and I had just gotten here. I didn't know how to challenge myself. But then my teachers encouraged me and I learned how to challenge myself. College life will be more challenging, and you have to be able to do more.

Yesen: In 12th grade, the expectation is higher. What would've gotten a 4 in 9th or 10th grade is not enough in 12th grade, so it's important that you think more deeply. Also, using your time. In 11th grade I did not do well in this outcome. I would usually do the assignment, but I would submit it late. Now I am more careful and am submitting everything on time. I even sometimes am submitting something one day early.

Erika: I agree with what Gloria said, but for me it was different. I have been here for five years, and so I am more used to challenging myself. When I first came here I was very scared and was challenged, but the outcomes help me to see what I need to do.

 

Thanks so much to the wonderful students and staff at FIHS for hosting the MC community and sharing their mastery system with us! Do you have a question for the MC community? Write to us at team@masterycollaborative.org.

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