• Jesse Olsen

JumpRope as a Tool to Defend and Justify Mastery

Recently, the Urban Assembly School for Music and Art (UAMA), a high school in Brooklyn, NY, contacted us with a fascinating request: their annual Quality Review - a day-long inquiry and audit of the school's overall quality - was approaching, and they needed our help.

As a truly innovative school, UAMA has been working for years to implement the Key Cognitive Strategies college-readiness model at their school. This model encourages schools to assess student learning in terms of five key learning strategies that are essential for success in college and career, and the school was diving in to implement full-school feedback based on KCS that completely replaced traditional grades.

I still remember their excitement when we first introduced them to JumpRope and our mastery-based grading tools many years ago - they saw the solution to the logistical issues that they'd been grappling with as they implemented their plans, finding themselves further and further from the safety of pass/fail credits.

While the quality of the implementation is undeniable when you walk through the school (classrooms have the language front-and-center, and students speak in terms of the KCS's), they needed some specific data to justify their implementation to the official review board. I believe that innovation must be accompanied by accountability, and that New York City's Quality Review system is quite good at giving schools an opportunity to present a holistic picture as opposed to a limited set of test scores or attendance data. That said, they're still very interested in data that backs up a school's claims of success - as they should be!

UAMA was in a terrific spot - they had years of professional development under their belt, and they had invested in our system to help collect, manage, and report on data related to mastery of the KCS strategies. For the last 18 months, every single assessment and score that teachers have given or entered - and thus, every piece of feedback given to students - has been entered in terms of these KCS strategies. Not only that, but each is associated with a course, a teacher, a date, and even a description of the assessment and the specific learning goal that was being assessed. To date, JumpRope stores over 250,000 individual scores for their ~600 students!

The Quality Review - often a source of anxiety to innovative schools that lack data - was suddenly an opportunity for them to shine! We helped them design a number of reports, based on authentic data collected over time, that helped them demonstrate the degree of mastery of various KCS strategies over time, student demographics, and even by department or teacher.

While I'm not at liberty to show the actual reports that we were able to provide, here's a couple of quick examples:

1) KCS Mastery by Student (filterable by marking period and student gender/grade/etc.)

2) KCS Mastery by Department (filterable my marking period and/or individual teacher)

3) KCS Mastery by Month (filterable by student demographic or department)

4) KCS Coverage (how many times was each KCS assessed in each department?)

I can't express how exciting it is for the school and for those of us at JumpRope to be able to support innovation within a giant educational district in this way, based on real classroom data! If your school or district is in need of practical tools to implement mastery-based grading, we're very interested to hear from you.

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