Acceleration and Mastery-Based Learning

Meet Kenny, a Foundation level student at HSC ALSJ. Though Kenny started the year in a Geometry class taught by Kelly W., he transitioned in May into Algebra 2 taught by Tom. I sat down with him to ask about this change and his thoughts in general about our mastery-based learning system. Here’s his story:

Question: How did you complete your geometry course so quickly?

Ken’s answer: When Kelly was was working with the other students, she would give me her laptop. It had all the materials and tests, so I could look through them, figure it out, and take the tests when I was ready.

After I took the final test, Kelly told me that I was finished with the course. I was proud, but a little skeptical about how we would manage the transition from Geometry to Algebra 2 so late in the year. Kelly told me that I’d start Algebra 2 the next week, but I could always bring the work back to her room if I wanted.

Tom introduced me to my new class. It wasn’t that hard a transition. I felt comfortable because there were people I knew [since we are a small school]. Some of the work involved things I’d seen before, but some was brand new. I started by learning what the whole class learns, as well as stuff I needed to know from the beginning. The class is doing review work now, so I’m seeing material from throughout the year. I think this will make getting through Algebra 2 next year faster. I should be able to finish in three marking periods at the most.

It was weird at first, but I didn’t think it was that big a deal. It gives me a better sense of how our school works. I realized that I don’t have to be held back by anyone if they don’t understand it and I do.

Question: Have you struggled in any of your classes this year?

Ken’s answer: I’m a little behind [teacher] pace in phy-chem. I fell behind because in the beginning of the year, we worked as a whole class. When the midterm came, there was material we didn’t know. After that, we broke off to work on individual topics and started working in this self-paced way. If I have to finish at the beginning of next year, I’m OK with that. If it needs to be done, it needs to be done. I should be able to finish my next science class on time. I may have to stay after here and there [for Eagle Time, our extended day program], but I should be able to catch up.

At first, I was against mastery-based learning, but I’ve come to agree more and more with it. I’m learning more than I used to. I used to learn what I needed to know for the test, but now I delve behind the material and go further. It proved to me that grades are just something on a page; they don’t prove you know everything you need to like this system does.