Mastery Based Grading
Would you rather have an A or have learned? Many grading systems are set up where the assessments (tests, projects, etc) make up 40%-60% of the final quarter grade, which means the balance is made up of homework and class activities.
We have moved to a model called Mastery-Based Grading where the grade is made up of just assessments--no homework grades, no extra credit, and no fluff points. That assessment has been tied to the standards, so if you know 80% of the material, you have "Mastered" that content. If you exceed 90%, you have Exceeded Mastery.
We report grades for transcripts, eligibility, and college admission. Mastery of a course would be 80% on the assessments and would earn a B. If a student Exceeds Mastery of a course's content (90% or above), they will get an A.
Can a student fail? If a student follows our system, they will do formative activities and take formative assessments to prepare themselves for the final, summative assessment. If they don't reach mastery on that assessment, they don't move on until they do reach Mastery.
This is important, especially in subjects like Math where the content builds upon itself. If a student were to get 60% or 70% on their Unit 1 test, they will start Unit 2 missing 30%-40% of the material. They would have a C or D on their assessment, but possibly an A or B if they did all of their homework. However, by Unit 5 they may have major gaps in their learning. We would make sure the students Master Unit 1 before moving on to Unit 2.
So does everyone in the Synnovation Lab get an A or B?
Everyone in the Synnovation Lab EARNS an A or B by Mastering the content.
Just like all of the courses at Sycamore High School, the courses in the Synnovation Lab are Standards-Based, which means the state-released standards drive the curriculum.
This means that students will be well prepared for the state end-of-course exams.
However, this is not the primary goal of our courses. Our teachers use the standards as the guiding framework in building the courses but seek to include more meaningful life experiences in the courses as well as make connections with the individual interests of the students.
So, our students will be prepared for the AIR tests, but ready for life beyond high school.
What is Self Pacing?
The vast majority of classrooms give tests to students on the same day because that is what makes the most sense in a traditional learning environment where you need to worry about cheating, grading, and using the efficiency of standardized pacing.
One of the aspects of Personalization is self-pacing. The main goal of self-pacing is to have the student take ownership of the velocity with which they go through the course, making sure they take the assessments when they are ready, whether that means faster or slower.
We have a number of students who are able to take tests faster than the normal 2-week window that is typically offered. We have some students who need a couple of extra days to understand the content to truly assess their learning.
Self-Pacing means that you are making a plan, working with your teachers, using your resources, and allocating more time to the subjects where you need more help.
Self-Pacing does not mean not doing history for 3 weeks. It does not mean not working. It means working on a subject and taking the test when you have mastered the material.
In the Synnovation Lab, we provide a number of different supports to help students plan and execute their daily and weekly goals. The overall goal is to finish a semester's worth of work in a semester unless slightly more time is needed to master the curriculum.