Saturday, January 20, 2018

Mysa School

There was an op-ed in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal by the head and founder of the Mysa School in Bethesda, Maryland. The school operates from the standpoint of mastery-based education. When you finish a unit you move on - those that are quick to pick up on the subject matter don't have to wait for the rest of the class and those that are slower on the uptake stay with the subject until they too have it mastered.

I used to do a similar thing in my vocational welding classes. The students could decide what they wanted to work on on any given day. Their grade was determined by how many items were completed off the task list as well as how well they completed them. A student could work ahead, get his nine weeks grade covered and then work on what ever he felt like working on - usually some project of his own he wanted to build. I had one kid who worked super hard to get ahead and then he took the last nine weeks of his senior year off. He didn't have to do anything because he already had his grade covered. He did do things, however, because he was a go-getter who didn't like to stand around.

As an instructor the system allowed me to work around equipment limitations. Initially, I only had one TIG machine in the shop. With this system, one ore two of the students could use the machine while the remainder of the class could be working on other things. There was never an excuse for anyone to be standing around waiting their turn to get on a piece of equipment.

The system worked really well, in fact, the State of Indiana came up with the system as a result of the  V-Techs program from the late seventies - early eighties. However, towards the last of my high school career, it was decided that all grading had to be uniform and computerized. The guy in charge of the Tech stuff wasn't too interested in figuring out how to make my stuff jive with what the corporation was selling, so a conflict arose. The concept of mastery education is rock solid, though. A lot of vocational/trade schools use it. Going to be a mechanic? Take the transmission module. When you master transmissions, move to brakes, etc. It's really quite logical - and effective. I'd like to see how it works when the whole high school is doing it, like the Mysa School is.

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