From my writings on a local journalist’s blog from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on January 12, 2012:
“All students do not master curriculum concepts at the same rate. This is the result of many factors. -Some students have higher IQs than others. -Some have dysfunctional family environments which may cause an inability to focus. -Some have learning disabilities. -Some have mental illness or emotional problems. -Some have physical impairments. -Generational poverty can effect the ability of some students to learn.
Students cannot master concepts unless they are taught on their correct instructional levels. The state’s curriculum requirements – although excellent in the ideal – do not address the myriad instructional levels of students within each grade level. Instead, a one-size-fits-all grade level excellent curriculum has been required of all students, irrespective of their varying functioning levels. This dichotomy has caused massive numbers of students, in Georgia, to fail grade level curriculum content. Eventually, students who are taught on their frustration levels will drop out of school.
Mastery learning requires that each student be taught on his or her precise instructional level, whatever his or her grade level. It also requires that each student be advanced through the curriculum continuum at a rate commensurate with his or her ability to actually master each concept within that continuum.
To be more specific, if a given student’s IQ is 90 and another student’s IQ is 140, they will never be able to learn the same grade level curriculum at the same rate although each can achieve mastery of the same curriculum, if their rates of learning are individually adjusted. When, however, ALL students are required to advance through grade level curriculum – at the SAME rate – some students will find themselves falling further and further behind others. (This example of IQ variation is only one factor, of many, which necessitates a variable learning rate for each student.) To achieve mastery of statewide curriculum for all students, educational leaders, and parents, must work together to ensure that mastery learning is occurring for each student throughout his or her educational career.
One reason many students have failed to master the state’s science curriculum tests is because their reading levels have not been adequate to handle the complex sentence structure, nor the specialized vocabulary, within either science curriculum tests or science grade level textbooks. Students’ reading skills should be one focus of all teachers as they instruct their students – from kindergarten through twelfth grade
Targeting pre k – 3rd grade for instruction will help to offset many variables in children. However, precise instructional placement and rate of learning for each student – from kindergarten through high school – must continuously be addressed in order to ensure the academic success of each student in Georgia. That includes curriculum areas as varied as mathematics and language arts.
The recently developed state-of-the-art computer access of each student’s standardized test scores (and academic developmental history) should help teachers pinpoint targeted individualized instruction for their students.
When I was in graduate school, I learned that there are 3 levels of learning: Frustration, Instructional, Independent. I learned that for any student to be successful in learning, he must continuously be taught on his Instructional level. Taught on his Frustration level, he will fail and give up. Taught on his Independent level, he will become bored and give up.
Precise Instructional Level placement (continually adjusted over time) is the answer for success for each student.
Instructional Level must be identified (continually over time) through testing.
Instructional Level must be maintained by adjusting Time/Rate of learning (individually)”
(1) A special “thank you” to “teacher&mom,” who also posted on this AJC blog, for the following video link regarding the excellent Finnish schools.
(2) Another special “thank you” to “Wascatlady” who posted the following comments on the AJC blog, “Get Schooled,” on August 3, 2015, and who gave me permission to post her idea, below, for scheduling in order to accommodate mastery learning relative to varied rates of learning by different students:
“What I am concerned about is late work that is just busywork–does not show mastery. I suspect there is too much of this. That a student might take longer than a semester to master a subject would not be incredible, but we need to set it up in advance so that that is a possibility. In other words, move the class that is not mastered (where there is some hope of mastery) to a credit-recovery mode where the student restudies and retakes the appropriate tests (not watered down, make-work). But we must also be willing to admit that some kids need two full semesters of regular instruction to master a skill if their preliminary skills are poor.”
For those who may wish to know my educational background:
I earned a B.A. in English from The City College of New York (CUNY), and a M.Ed. (Reading Specialist) from Georgia State University. I began my 35 year educational career as an English teacher for 7th – 10th grade students. A few years after I had earned my Masters degree, I became a reading specialist in a multiaged model school for the continuous progress of students, grades 1 – 7. Thereafter, I was promoted to the role of Instructional Lead Teacher in that same school. In the last half of my educational career, I was a reading teacher to college-bound juniors and seniors in a suburban public high school where I, also, served as the Reading Department Chair for the schoolwide reading program, and as the Student Support Team Chair for the school. Below is more detailed information about my educational experiences, which I posted on the same journalist’s blog on January 12, 2012:
“My principal (of the model continuous progress, mastery learning school, 1st – 7th grades), from whom I learned much regarding Mastery Learning, was the former Associate Superintendent for Instruction for the school system in which I worked.
As an Instructional Lead Teacher of that 1st – 7th model school for almost a decade, I monitored the progress of thousands of students, in mathematics and reading, during their years in the school. I developed a chart for recording each student’s academic developmental history so that I could make wise suggestions to teachers regarding each student’s successful academic advancement. Today, that access is available through computer data systems throughout Georgia through Georgia’s Department of Education. Teachers no longer have to take many hours to gather that information from each student’s permanent folder, in main office vaults, as had been true for me, in my era.
Later, as a high school Reading Department Chair, I supervised the testing of all students in grades 9 – 11, yearly, for over a decade in order to help teachers better pinpoint instruction for their students. We tested thousands of students. In 9th grade, alone, the range of reading levels, each year, was, invariably, from grade level 3 to grade level 16, with half of the students testing on 6th grade reading level or below.
I cannot emphasize, enough, based on my experiences above, how important the principles that I have shared on this thread are to ensure that students’ academic outcomes in Georgia become as excellent as Georgia’s present curriculum standards are.
I hope that anyone, who is an educator, who reads this post, will share this information with other educators.”
It is also my hope that parents, and others, will find the educational information that I post on “Mary Elizabeth Sings” helpful in fostering the academic and emotional development of our young people.