Idaho Department of Education committee looks at “mastery-based” education

Staff Report

(BOISE) — The Mastery-Based Education Committee of the Idaho State Department of Education (SDE) held its first meeting June 18th and 19th in the Len B. Jordan building.

The committee, comprised of volunteer education stakeholders from throughout the state and two SDE staff members, is charged with developing recommendations related to the implementation of mastery-based education. That method of instruction allows students to advance through subjects based on their knowledge and achievement in a subject rather than the time spent on a class, also called “seat-time requirements.”

The committee will satisfy the conditions of H0110, which passed this legislative session and calls for the SDE to conduct a campaign to evaluate, formulate, and promote understanding and interest in mastery-based education, for teachers, administrators, parents, students, business leaders, and policymakers.

The legislation calls for the committee to identify roadblocks and possible solutions in implementing mastery-based education. It also is responsible for developing recommendations and assisting with the implementation of 20 locally controlled program “incubators” within the public school system by the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

The general concept of mastery-based education, which has seen use in one form or another in a number of schools across the nation since the 1920s, advances students based on their competency and achievement of a specific learning goal. Students move at their own pace, which allows teachers to meet the needs of all students and engage students in their own learning.

Superintendent Sherri Ybarra has offered her full support for the committee’s work. “This is taking a prudent, ground-up approach in assessing the potential of a mastery-based system in Idaho,” she said in a prior statement about the committee’s efforts. “The bottom line is we want to do what is best for kids. If the committee’s findings show that this change would be best for kids, then let’s keep moving down that path to an Idaho solution.”

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