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Measuring Three Levels of Mastery

Students can show proficiency of academic skills at learning, functional, and nuanced levels

Overview

School officials at Bronx Arena recently transformed their definition of mastery. Their previous system relied on binary measurements, determining whether students were proficient or not. After years of use, they realized that this system was neither personalized nor efficient. Students coming into the school have incredibly diverse educational backgrounds, so the binary system left students dealing with large learning gaps struggling to achieve proficiency on certain learning tasks in a timely manner. This system was neither meeting students at their learning level nor enabling them to leverage their strengths as they learned. To better meet students’ needs and make better use of their time, Bronx Arena developed a three-tiered definition of mastery and corresponding rubrics.

Students at Bronx Arena can now demonstrate mastery for specific learning tasks at three different levels: learning, functional, and nuanced. Bronx Arena has intentionally refrained from creating specific definitions for each of these levels, though each is spelled out on a rubric that corresponds to the subject and learning task.

This new system helps meet students at their level and track their progress as they demonstrate additional skills. For example, a student can demonstrate a nuanced level of analysis in ELA but achieve proficiency at a functional level of analysis in math. This system helps students better understand their strengths and weaknesses and plot their learning progress accordingly. For example, a student who has always been a strong writer will work at “nuanced” levels of writing tasks but may struggle in math and start at “learning” levels. This approach reinforces a focus on growth – rather than grades – for students, who can better track their learning and develop their articulation about which levels of proficiency they hope to attain in each course. Students track their mastery and growth in Bronx Arena’s data tracker system.