Lessons move right along before students can gain mastery
Bravo to the Globe reporters for soliciting and presenting breakthrough ideas that could help students recover academically postpandemic. Conspicuously missing, however, was addressing an inherent flaw in today’s education system: By design, most schools embed learning loss and failure for most students. That’s because today’s schools teach content, test students, and then move students along to the next unit, subject, or grade level regardless of their level of mastery. Indeed, students often receive their results after they’ve moved on. The solutions suggested in the article generally keep this time-based structure in place, which perpetuates learning gaps for many students.
We need to change the structure underlying schooling and move to a mastery-based model, which embeds student success by design. In that model, we would still offer learning experiences and still test and assess, but students would progress to the next unit, subject, or grade level only once they demonstrate mastery. By making time variable and learning constant, schools could then leverage tutoring, extended time, targeted student support, improved teaching, and more to guarantee comprehension of core concepts for every student, not just a privileged few.