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Innovative Approaches to Mastery-Based Assessment & Grading

With support from cognitive science, technology, and public policy, the time is right to refocus education on its most important purpose; advancing student learning.

Many schools are developing ways of assessing and grading students based on demonstrations and active applications of their knowledge. Here are several bright spots where assessment innovation is happening in schools across the United States.

For more innovative approaches, download our eBook, Innovative Assessment Practices.

  • A variety of project-based high schools such as High Tech High in San Diego organize learning around the skills they want students to learn, then use rubrics to assess whether student projects have demonstrated their mastery of these skills.

  • The Buck Institute for Education has developed sample rubrics that other schools can use, and advises schools on how to develop and assess projects that push student learning forward.

  • At Summit Public Schools in California and Washington State, students use an online platform to see not only their progress on skills and projects but also the content they need to learn to complete those projects successfully. In this example, student grades are composed of skills that have been demonstrated through projects (70%) and mini-assessments of relevant content (30%).

  • In Ohio, Metropolitan Cleveland Consortium for STEM (MC2 STEM) High School is organized around ten-week transdisciplinary capstone projects, which are assessed using rubrics and then 10 inquiries@freshgrade.com assigned a grade of ‘M’ or ‘I’ for each benchmark or task. Students only receive credit for the capstone when 100% of benchmarks have been mastered.

  • At Young Women’s Leadership Charter School in Chicago, student achievement is based on demonstrated proficiency in course outcomes, regardless of time, and student records always reflect the student’s best work to date, rather than past failures. “We intentionally reframe inadequate performance as being ‘Not Yet Proficient’ on course outcomes, a predicament that implies the need for further work toward a learning goal, rather than a summary judgment of failure with its accompanying consequences,” say two of the school’s founders, Camille Farrington and Margaret Small.

These innovative approaches point a way toward new forms of assessment and grading — forms that could transform the way we organize teaching and schooling overall.

How are you are approaching assessment and grading in your school? What innovations in assessment are inspiring you? Let us know in the comments below!

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