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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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TALKING ABOUT RACE (& MASTERY): PART 3

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By Joy Nolan and Meg Stentz

This month we’re sharing posts about the Mastery Collaborative community's explorations at intersections of culturally responsive education and mastery- based teaching and learning. This year, 141 teachers and administrators from MC member schools attended anti-racism trainings facilitated by Border Crossers, an organization that educates educators about race and racism.

We ask educators at our trainings to problematize traditional education in these three realms: grading practices, facilitation, and curriculum—and to bring their knowledge of race, racism, and cultural responsiveness to bear on reaching for more equitable practices.

Here are ideas from our community about how to make curriculum more responsive to and empowering for students. Have suggestions or questions? Drop us a line: team@masterycollaborative.org.

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Talking about Race (and Mastery): Part 2

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By Meg Stentz and Joy Nolan

In our last post about takeaways from trainings with Border Crossers and the Mastery Collaborative team about race, racism, and mastery, we shared members’ ideas about equity issues in traditional grading. In this post, we share participants’ ideas about how race can play out in our classroom dynamics in inequitable ways, and how we can plan for more just, and equitable, and effective facilitation moves.

Developing the skills to address racial incidents and engage in learning moments around race and racism is just one powerful facilitation strategy that MC community members bring to their classrooms and school communities. Here are a few of their ideas. Please read with an eye to what’s happening and can happen in your own school and classroom.

We also welcome your ideas and input about how this work can go further. Write to us at team@masterycollaborative.org with a strategy you use, or ask a question for us to tackle in an upcoming “Ask MC” mastery advice column.

 

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Talking about Race (and Mastery): Part 1

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By Meg Stentz and Joy Nolan

A crucial aspect of being in the MC community is to explore, as a community of public schools, connections between culturally responsive education (CRE) and mastery (also known as competency-based education, or CBE). In our second year as a program, an MC working group from across our member schools began to dive in and identify connections between CRE and CBE: transparency, changing power dynamics, and positive learning identity.

To deepen the MC community’s racial justice work, each MC member schools commits to sending its mastery team to a training called “Talking about Race (and Mastery)”—co-facilitated by the MC program team and our partners at Border Crossers, an organization that offers anti-racism trainings for educators. Between last year and this year, nearly 300 educators have attended this training, in Level 1 and Level 2 sessions, to build awareness about the history of race and racism—and connections to practices in our schools that can dismantle—or perpetuate—inequity.

In these trainings, Border Crossers leads participants through an active exploration of racism in institutional, interpersonal, and internalized dimensions. With this lens, we turned an eye towards examining  how bias and racism might play out in three key areas of practice in schools: grading practices, facilitation, and curriculum. Participants suggest and discuss “old school” practices that work to recreate race-based inequities, and used their understanding of mastery and pedagogy to reimagine what more equitable schooling would look like.

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Below we share participants’ ideas from one of these sessions. We hope these ideas spark your thinking, and we welcome your ideas about where we could go further. Write to us at team@masterycollaborative.org.

 

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Three take-aways

Recently Meredith Matson, Assistant Principal/Mastery rockstar, facilitated a professional development about enriching rubric criteria for the staff at MC Active Member School Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction (http://uasdc.org/). Below, three take-aways from Meredith's session.

  The MC community is always digging in to rubrics! Here, teachers take advantage of a bulletin board at KAPPA International to see rubric criteria. 

The MC community is always digging in to rubrics! Here, teachers take advantage of a bulletin board at KAPPA International to see rubric criteria. 

1. Rubrics too often contain “laundry-lists.”

Learning tasks should push students to higher-order thinking. Because rubrics guide these tasks, the criteria for mastery should reflect the deep thinking students need to engage in.

Non-example: Cite at least three sources.

Example: Provide sufficient evidence and reasoning to support your claim.

 

2. The value of transitioning from
     task-based to skill-based rubrics

In order to push the depth of knowledge/richness of criteria, focus on durable skills, rather than task-specific minutiae. Higher education programs generally don’t (yet!) prepare educators to teach in a mastery-based environment, it’s natural for teachers to gravitate towards the task-based rubrics used in traditional education.

To help her colleagues to move away from task-specific rubrics, Meredith asked them to first think about the skill or skills a given assignment is designed to assess. Then, to create criteria for mastery of that skill. (What would it look like to use evidence successfully to support an argument?) Focusing on higher-order skills, rather than on aspects of task completion, increases the rigor of rubrics—and makes expectations more transparent and contextualized for students.

3. Zeroing in on criteria for what genuine mastery looks like

A teacher commented, sagely, that teachers gravitate towards “laundry list” rubrics in an effort to make the learning criteria more demonstrable for students. While this is an honorable impulse, it rests on the false assumption that learning can be captured in laundry lists. For example, it’s easy to imagine a student citing three sources, and still not having evidence to support a claim adequately.

Without laundry lists of criteria, teachers need to get even more clear about what it looks like for students to demonstrate their mastery of skills and knowledge, for real. Assessment and grading is nuanced, but getting closer to the heart of what “mastery” looks like is where the power of this shift lies.

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Kudos to UASDC for digging in to this challenging and important work on behalf of students! Have questions about rubric criteria and grading in your classroom? Send them to team@masterycollaborative.org, and they may be featured in Ask MC: a Mastery advice column.

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The Single-Point Mastery Rubric

This post by MC Co-Director Joy Nolan has been adapted from a longer piece featured on Competency Works.

Behold the single-point rubric, my favorite tool discovery of the year. (And click here for a single-point rubric template you can copy and use.)

  You can use the middle column for either of these purposes:    *  Assess several outcomes at once for a larger task/project (most common use we've seen so far). In this case, use the middle column for a short list of  learning targets/outcomes that are in play for the assessment at hand.   *  Or, for a smaller, more focused task, the middle column can be used to list indicators/ criteria for a single outcome.

You can use the middle column for either of these purposes:

* Assess several outcomes at once for a larger task/project (most common use we've seen so far). In this case, use the middle column for a short list of  learning targets/outcomes that are in play for the assessment at hand.

* Or, for a smaller, more focused task, the middle column can be used to list indicators/ criteria for a single outcome.

  Joy leads a session on student-centered feedback at MC's 2017 Summer Institute.

Joy leads a session on student-centered feedback at MC's 2017 Summer Institute.

You can use the single-point rubric to communicate about learning in these ways . . . .

  • as a reflection tool for individual learners after a project/assessment (also a great basis for preparing for a student-led parent/teacher conference).

  • as a peer feedback tool for pairs or groups of students. You know how hard it is to get students to give each other positive feedback as well as criticisms? This rubric makes positive feedback half the exercise, by design.

  • as a coaching tool for teachers and students to use together. If you have just a few precious minutes to give useful guidance to a student, this is the tool for you. It gets to the heart of the matter as efficiently as possible.

  • as a learning and grading tool for students who struggle with reading/English. Because it is streamlined and contains a fraction of the text one sees in traditional rubrics, the language load is lighter, more useful and less overwhelming for students who don’t read easily.

Want to read more about single-point rubrics? See the full piece here

Still have questions? Write to us at team@masterycollaborative.org, and your question could be featured in our Ask MC mastery advice column!

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The resource above is an adaptation of a rubric posted at www.cultofpedagogy.com—tweaked for competency-based/mastery-based use.

Sources:

Fluckiger, J. (2010). Single point rubric: A tool for responsible student self-assessment. Teacher Education Faculty Publications. Paper 5. Retrieved April 25, 2014 from http://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/tedfacpub/5.

Mertler, C. A. (2001). Designing scoring rubrics for your classroom. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(25). Retrieved April 30, 2014 from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=7&n=25.

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Ah-ha Mastery Moments

Educators at Staten Island Technical HS, an MC Incubator school, have shifted how they message progress and learning this year, in order to de-emphasize the competition inherent in traditional grading structures. They feel that grade competition can be damaging to learners, and takes the focus away from progress and learning. In addition to this language shift, they’ve moved their grading scale from 0-100 to A-F. (See this “Ask MC” for more on the wisdom of incremental change, and please email your own ah-ha's to us at team@masterycollabroative.org.)

Here are some ah-ha moments from Staten Island Tech HS about shifting to a mastery approach with grading:

  Students at Staten Island Tech HS dig into a collaborative science task

Students at Staten Island Tech HS dig into a collaborative science task

On the power of teacher influence:

“Kids are wired to please, so if we show them that learning and progress is what we value, they value that, too.”  —Mark, Principal

“The classroom is where students experience school. If you just change your classroom, you’ve changed their whole experience.” —Bianca, science teacher

On reducing the stigma of grades:

“The letter grades create a less visceral response. If the grade is a bit lower than they were hoping, it’s a less visceral reaction.” —Bianca, science teacher

“I don’t even say the word grades anymore. I just say ‘feedback.’ Everything is feedback. We live in a feedback loop now. If they get a quiz grade they don’t like, do it again—it’s just feedback.” —Pat, writing teacher

On preparing students for postsecondary life:

“Geometry isn’t going to change much over the next 10-15 years, the academic content generally is not going to change much . . .  but the skills students need are likely to change a lot. It’s my job to keep an eye on that, and prepare students for the world they will enter.” —Mark, Principal

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Three take-aways

Three take-aways and best practices from the Living Lab visit at MS 442: “Operationalizing your mastery philosophy"

1. Pedagogical philosophy drives school design 

MS 442 came to mastery-based grading four years ago, when they were thinking about how their school could better serve students. Math teacher Lisa Genduso says, “we were always strong with supporting students socially and emotionally, always good at making students comfortable and confident...but the rigor wasn’t so high.” In a search to up their rigor, the school partnered with design thinkers to support them in thinking through their school’s goals. “They did a really good job of questioning us and listening to us,” Genduso reports. From this reflection on their school’s philosophy, the staff decided to pursue competency-based grading. The coherence of MS 442’s philosophy is striking, and suggests that other schools may benefit from the reflective and generative practices of the MS 442 staff.

Read more about MS 442’s “Intentional School Design” here.

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2. Norm second-chances: Update Weeks

Because continuous improvement is part of the school’s philosophy, students have built-in class time to revisit learning outcomes for practice and re-assessment. At MS 442 this time is school wide, and known as “update week.” During this time students are given a chance to improve their mastery level in a given outcome. “We’re giving them the language to think about which skills they need to work on,” Priyanka, a math teacher, explains. A successful update results in one demonstration of mastery. At MS 442, students need three demonstrations across time.

 

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3. Manage behavior without grading it

MS 442 uses an in-house grading tracker called “The Hive,” designed by self-taught tech-guru and math teacher, Jared Sutton. Because The Hive is custom built, it tracks not only learning outcomes, but the school’s mentoring system, and behavior tracker, as well. At MS 442, behavior is disaggregated from grades and tracked separately. “We document behavior in a way that connects to their positive behavior incentives. They’re eligible for incentives as long as there’s no unresolved behavior issue. They always have the opportunity to restore,” explains Jared. This restoration opportunity further messages the idea of growth--students at MS 442 always have chances to practice and improve.

Interested in hearing more from MS 442 student Moheeb? Check out this article from the New York Times.

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ASK MC: A MASTERY ADVICE COLUMN

MISSING WORK IN A MASTERY SYSTEM: WHAT TO DO?

Dear MC,

Progress report season just passed, and it brought up a lot of lingering questions about our grading policy. One we can’t seem to agree on is, how do we enter missing work in the gradebook? Entering a “1” doesn’t seem like it reflects what students know. But also, some kids aren’t doing homework. That should show up in the gradebook, right? Any advice?

Yours,
Missing answers about missing work

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Dear Missing answers about missing work,

Progress reports are where the rubber meets the road, and “report card day” provides a great incentive to look at how your grading policies play out practically. Kudos to you for doing the work of digging in and examining your policy!

Your instinct to enter a “1” could be spot on—maybe, maybe, depending on your school’s pedagogical approach... After all, in a mastery system that “1” should represent “Not Yet,” as in: The student has “not yet” provided sufficient evidence of mastery. Even better would be a grading system where you can enter the words “Not Yet” instead of the “1” that may feel punitive to you.

Separately, there’s a homework-related issue to discuss here. In a mastery system (or any equitable grading system), grades should be a message about where students are on the path to mastery of skills and knowledge. So, grades should not be used to reward completion of a task and/or to reward compliance (showed up on time, was not disruptive, etc.). A grade for turning in homework is a completion/compliance grade. Maybe your school needs a grading policy that specifies what kinds of tasks get entered into the grade book--these should be rich assessments of student learning.

Homework, do-now’s, and other smaller/faster checks for understanding  may not be grade-worthy evidence of student learning—but they’re invaluable information for you about how much students are getting traction with the instructional goals in your class—and they are a great basis for timely coaching and feedback to help students get the traction they need. In addition, tracking these sorts of smaller tasks may give you a picture over time of who’s making steady progress and who needs support—so while we suggest not grading these more grain-sized checks for understanding, we do suggest, tracking them in a way that doesn’t impact students’ grades, but give you a record of what’s going on on a more daily basis in your classes. Instead of entering a “1” or a “NY” for tasks that are skill practice, like homework, classwork, or formative assessment, try tracking these tasks without grading them. Let us know how it goes.

Thanks for writing, and happy progress-monitoring!

Warmly,
MC

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Ah-ha mastery moments!

Though we talk about mastery all the time, we get ah-ha moments frequently in our shoptalk with mastery practitioners.

Here are three ah-ha moments we'd like to share with you.

(Please email your ah-ha's to us at team@masterycollaborative.org, and we might share them here!)

 

Jesse at EPIC North on why he uses project-based learning:
“I know my students have mastered something when they finish a complex task. It represents about a month of work, and if they can do that, I know they get it. Knowing a kid gets it is more difficult when someone is doing day by day instruction, because then you have to choose how you know if they got it.”

  "Ahhhh, I get it now!"

"Ahhhh, I get it now!"

Bart at Hunter’s Point on messaging outcomes:
“We talk about student-friendly language, but it shouldn’t just be student-friendly. The outcomes are for the students; the language should be fully accessible to them.”

 

Luke at UA Maker on giving students multiple opportunities:
“Retakes need to be part of your course—if you value revision in learning.” 

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Ask MC: A Mastery Advice Column

How Can We make THE SWITCH AWAY FROM 1-100 GRADES?

Dear MC,

Since our teachers are now giving letter grades instead of number grades in classes, the question came up about whether we are going to use letter grades on report cards as well. We haven't done this in the past. I know that lots of our old numerical grades weren't really indicative of student learning; I don't think just using letter grades on its own is either, but I'm not sure what implications I'm not thinking about if we make that switch now.

Thanks,
Mulling over midterms

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Dear Mulling over midterms,

Switching to letter grades from 1-100 scale is a possible first step along the path to a more mastery-focused approach to grading . . . we have another grade-conscious school making this very shift this year, as a first step toward a genuine mastery grading practice. Using letter grades is a first step in a continuum—and it might be a good place to be for this school year.

Another matter: Schools are supposed to have a grading policy that is written and produced on demand by students/families who want to know the basis for their grades. So any change, from what the grades are for, to what marks are being used, should be indicated in a grading policy that students and families can see and know about.

Here is DOE guidance on grading policies, updated for this school year. Also linked is their guidance specifically for schools using mastery-based grading practices.

When the mastery lightbulb turns on, it is tempting to shift a bunch of practices all at once, but incremental change can be a sensible way to move forward. The most important thing is to message each shift in practice/policy clearly to teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders—be clear about exactly what is changing, and why. Being sensitive to where stakeholders are is a great practice--kudos to you for knowing what next step is appropriate for your school!

Warmly,
MC

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The Mission and the Message

How we found our ‘why’—and how we’ve used it to create urgency and common purpose in our community’s quest for greater educational equity.

By Julianna Charles Brown, Jeremy Chan-Kraushar, Joy Nolan, and Patrick Williamson of Mastery Collaborative, a program of New York City Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness

Any school that has embarked on shifting to mastery-based teaching and learning can tell you that messaging and mission are vital to this complex endeavor—which affects every aspect of teaching, learning, assessment, and school culture. A clear and powerful mission inspires all stakeholders to connect to and invest in the work more deeply and authentically. Without a clear mission, the work of a school or any organization is susceptible to a lack of focus, resistance from within, and confusion in implementation. As a leader, it’s hard to call the shots without a guiding mission. As a member of a community, it is necessary to have clarity about what’s happening and why.

 'Talking about race and mastery' training with Border Crossers

'Talking about race and mastery' training with Border Crossers

A strong mission statement articulates the ‘why’ that powers the work. Great missions connect the day-to-day operations of an organization with a desired larger impact, and ideally, all stakeholders can contribute to its creation. Once a strong mission is developed, it should then become fundamental to the way you speak about your work. When taking on large and complex endeavors—like transitioning away from traditional education to mastery-based models—the ‘why’ must be meaningful and inspiring enough to justify the sustained focus required to accomplish multidimensional school change over several years’ time. In working with our school partners, we help to co-create communications materials and provide training that supports school leaders and staff in talking to parents, students, community partners and others about their school's mastery-based systems. We also model the kind of mission-driven communications that practitioners can use to think about their own communications approach.

 

How we found our ‘why’

We started the Mastery Collaborative (MC) in 2015-16, to form a community for dozens of schools across New York City that were implementing mastery-based shifts in relative isolation. We dedicated that first year to creating a lively community of practice with and for member schools, and learning from them about mastery implementation models around the city. While visiting schools, we noticed a distinct feel in more advanced competency-based schools. There was positive energy in the air, and there was a shift in the adult/student power dynamic—as one school leader put it, “Students here have lots of choice and freedom, and lots of responsibility to their own learning and to our school community.”

In these schools, students regularly described what they were learning and why and were able to pinpoint how they could improve; we were seeing the self-confidence and assurance of students who valued school and felt they belong there, who were were empowered to own their learning—and we were seeing educators who believe in the young people they work with, and who understand that power is not a zero-sum game. Helping students find their power as learners only makes a class more compelling and powerful for them. Giving up a position as a lecturer at the front of the room only means finding more power as a facilitator of students’ learning. By the conclusion of MC year one, a hypothesis was forming: that there was a unique connection between mastery-based shifts, culturally responsive practices, and equity. To share out these ideas, we made program videos such as Why make the shift to mastery-based learning? and How does mastery transform school for students and teachers?

We began our second year knowing we had  to explore the connection between mastery, cultural responsiveness, and equity. The MC community of schools eagerly joined in, digging deeper into the why of mastery learning, and the philosophy that both demands and powers these complex shifts.

  This definition of educational equity has been meaningful to our team as we explore how mastery and CRE together can create more equitable learning for young people.

This definition of educational equity has been meaningful to our team as we explore how mastery and CRE together can create more equitable learning for young people.

In year 2, we asked each MC member school to create a goal for infusing CRE into their mastery-based practices. Additionally, we asked everyone in our community of educators to attend an anti-bias training called “Talking about race and mastery.” We set up a series of dates for small sessions of this training, hoping everyone could find a time to come together to explore the intersections of race and schooling. We also facilitated a working group that met online and in person across the year to explore the intersection of mastery and CRE. This group developed the Equity Snapshot, which beings to detail the ways that CRE and mastery intersect. By popular demand, we also started the yearly MC Summer Institute this past July with a Day 1 deep dive on CRE and mastery. Here are the resources from that day.

Our school-based community members contributed reactions, opinions, and ideas around our mastery-and-equity hypothesis. At  trainings, gatherings, and site visits, we invited and made time for conversations and written input about the relationships between mastery, cultural responsiveness, and equity. We made a practice of synthesizing, incorporating, and sharing practitioners’ ideas about philosophy and practices. 

We learned so much from and with educators at mastery-based schools across the city, who delved into exploring CRE and mastery: administrators, schools counselors, and teachers implementing mastery in our schools. In our anti-bias trainings and working group sessions, certain elements of mastery rose to the top as most closely aligned to academic research on culturally responsive education:

  • Transparency: path to success is clear and learning outcomes are relevant to students' lives and interests. Shared criteria reduce opportunity for implicit bias.

  • Changing power dynamics: facilitation shifts refocus the roles of students and teachers to include flexible pacing, inquiry-based, collaborative approach to learning. Student drive their own learning, and teachers coach them.

  • Positive learning identity: growth mindset and active learning build agency and affirm students’ identities as learners (academics, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.)

These findings helped to explain the distinct student-centered culture we noticed in Year 1 in the longest-practicing mastery schools—and contributes to the why for the complex work of creating effective mastery systems that are culturally responsive. Our Year 2 exploration of CRE and mastery led us toward the development of this community mission:

The Mastery Collaborative supports, advocates for, and documents the use
of mastery-based and culturally responsive practices to create more equitable environments in New York City schools.

Armed with this clear and powerful new mission, our communication strategy came into clearer focus. Now it is easier to build coalitions with others who value this work. Our mission has created a sense of urgency and a through-line for all we do.

 

Spreading the urgency of our message

One example of how we tied together our evolving understanding of the ability of mastery to increase equity in schools was the creation of a program video, ‘Why We Do The Work.’

This video highlights the voices of students, teachers, administrators, and experts from the field in hopes of connecting these dots for a wider audience. Students and teachers reflecting on past experiences in traditional settings and provides context for shifting to a more culturally responsive approach to mastery-based teaching and learning.

The video lays out our organization’s vision through quotes from Chris Sturgis of CompetencyWorks and members of the Mastery Collaborative team. Constructing a short video to translate the urgency of the work was difficult work, and was possible only after our yearlong process of inviting co-creation of our mission stance across our community. We hope that the short video can assist in crystallizing our focus and mission for all stakeholders, and can be used to galvanize the urgency this work for the MC community and beyond.

 

Aligning your mission to your message

The shift to mastery-based education is complex. It requires shared commitment to “unlearn” old ideas, approaches, and systems—and to embark on a long-term, coordinated effort with a multitude of stakeholders. A mission that is clear and aspirational provides common context, clear direction, and justification for sustained effort across a school community and across several years of change management. A mission is a filter for everything your organization or school does or might do, and a rudder to keep the course set in the best direction. So how do you create a mission that will win hearts and minds, and stand the test of time?

Here are some things practitioners can keep in mind when creating or iterating on their school's mission statement:

  • Co-create your mission statement with valued stakeholders, inviting the input and expertise of everyone in the group, when engaging in any complex philosophical change. Hear out their reservations and concerns, as well as their enthusiasm and willingness.

  • Create a mission your whole community can buy into, but that can also be tailored to different audiences. Each member of your school community has a different role in pushing the work forward, and a strong shared mission will keep those efforts cohesive.

  • Incorporate a range of voices and perspectives from across your organization as you communicate your mission to new or larger audiences. This helps to communicate the buyin your mission has, as well as how it matters to and affects various stakeholders.

Across the MC community, there is a great urgency to our work—so the way that we talk about our mission is of utmost importance. Across our community, we seek to create to conditions for students to understand and own their trajectory as learners, and to experience the motivation and joy in learning for the thrill of learning itself. We want our students to feel that their identities are seen, understood, and valued within their schools. We need to be transparent with students in regards to what they need to improve on to achieve success in any given classroom. We need to build system capacity and write policies to support this work. We need to keep seeking new allies and partners in this work, to better serve those young people who stand to benefit most, to the extent that we get it right. Your organization may share some of these urgencies, or may have other important work to accomplish. How you message your mission will partly determine your degree of success.

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