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The PROSE Newsletter: June 2015 Issue
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Volume 1 | Issue 7 | June 2015

Mastery-Based Memoirs from our Trip to Maine

By Cynthia Warner, Senior Director of Strategy and Operations, Office of Innovation (iZone)
Maine was the destination of 14 New York City educators because of a proficiency-based diploma requirement passed by the state. By 2018, every student in Maine must graduate with a proficiency-based diploma that recognizes the student has demonstrated mastery of key knowledge and skills and is therefore ready to graduate. In the words of Maine’s state department of education, “Proficiency-based education refers to any system of academic instruction, assessment, grading and reporting that is based on students demonstrating mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn before they progress to the next lesson, get promoted to the next grade level or receive a diploma.” In this transition to a proficiency-based learning system, districts across Maine are supported by state guidelines but retain autonomy to design and decide their proficiency-based approach.
 
The 19th century zoologist, Louis Agassiz, instructed field scientists to “study nature, not books,” which became the motto of the nature-study movement.
 I’m not sure if Agassiz, the 19th century scientist, endured similar travel woes, but a plane cancellation meant our team drove, found later flights, and even arranged transit on intra-airport shuttles in order to arrive in time for our two days of school visitations. Our Field Trip team -- comprised of teachers, administrators, UFT representative, and central office staff -- thus arrived in Portland feeling as though we had earned our upcoming learning experience!
 
We were a team who had been trying or implementing versions of what is variously termed competency-, mastery-, outcomes-, or standards-based learning (in Maine, “proficiency” is the preferred term). Generally, this is marked by the effort to shift the focus of both curriculum and grading towards a demonstrated ability to do particular things (learning targets): learners might look at a progress report that shows “I can measure liquid volume and weight” and terms like approaching, meeting, or exceeding for that target.

We were generously hosted by four schools that introduced us to their implementation journeys with proficiency: Memorial Middle School, Daniel F. Mahoney Middle School, South Portland High School (all part of the South Portland School District), and Casco Bay High School, a Portland school founded in 2005.
 
Field Notes
Below are some of the key insights I culled from our time exploring the implementation journeys of four schools in and around Portland. Over the next several weeks, I will post reflections on each of these insights here and would love to hear your thoughts -- as a reader or as someone who participated in this visit!
 
Key motivators: why do we do this here?
  1. “Revision: That’s where the learning happens”
  2. “Learning is a year-long event”
  3. Leaving behind the “seemy underbelly of the traditional grading system”
 
Key tensions and insights: what is it like to do this here?
  1. If we’re not counting points, what are we counting?
  2. “It changed everything I knew about teaching.”
  3. Do we all understand “understanding” in the same way?
Visit the iZone blog for more.
By Monica White, Ed.D, Senior Director of Special Projects, Office of Innovation (iZone)
Through PROSE, several schools are thinking about how to organize their school for mastery-based learning (MBL). There are many understandings of what MBL is and even more of the conditions needed for success. Thus, PROSE, in collaboration with iZone, offered an opportunity to explore these using an innovation field trip, a strategy the iZone has used to facilitate learning about various innovations in other school districts that can help inform our practice. Particularly, Innovation Field Trip: Mastery in Maine focused on bringing NYC educators to innovative school districts that are leading in policy making and implementation on proficiency-based education (a close variation of MBL) in South Portland (and Portland), ME.
 
From May 18th-20th, a team of educators including a principal, an assistant principal, teachers, union representation, and central staff embarked on a learning expedition to gather insights on the implementation journeys of these two school systems following the statewide policy to implement proficiency-based diplomas for its graduate. (To learn more about this, visit the Maine Department of Education website.) During our visit, we heard from representatives from South Portland schools and their central office leadership. From the two middle schools and high schools visited, our group got to witness a full implementation arc of a school system shifting schools from a traditional learning practice to that of proficiency-based education -- planning, early stages, and experienced.
 
Visiting Casco Bay High School (CBHS) in Portland, ME, we witnessed a different implementation stage of MBL -- refining. CBHS was founded 2005 on proficiency-based learning principles. Walking in on their senior legacy presentations already in process afforded us an opportunity to be immersed in their demonstration of the outcome of a proficiency-based mindset as a core value for powerful learning. With that context in mind, classroom visits and circle discussion with teachers and leaders enabled us to dig deeper about the practices and structures that led to such a commanding display of ownership of learning from a broad spectrum of students.
 
For me, a few key takeaways of the success of proficiency-based education in Maine across the schools visited were having:
  1. Clarity of expected outcomes and process for learning across the school community.
  2. Structures that support continual review of work products and their impact on student learning.
  3. A professional learning organizational culture that fosters continual improvement.


To learn more about the Innovation Fieldtrip: Mastery in Maine insights visit http://izonenyc.org/blog/.
 On the Horizon: September 2015 Launch  The PROSE Panel is asking all PROSE schools, current and new, to join us for a September launch at the UFT Headquarters where we present 2015-16 PROSE priorities, the PROSE school support structure and share our collective PROSE implementation goals. Registration will open late August. We look forward to our partnership this coming year. Have a happy and safe summer.
RESOURCE CENTER: Mastery-Based Learning Policy: The DOE Office of Academic Policy and Systems has updated the Mastery-Based Learning FAQ to provide clarification for mastery-based schools seeking programming flexibility. Please review these updates and contact the PROSE team if you have further questions about the policy. The PROSE team will host a joint meeting with OAPS early in September for schools to learn more about these policy clarifications.

 Policy Update

Answers to many of the Frequently Asked Questions from PROSE schools have been posted on the PROSE Knowledge Base.
 

PROSE Academic Policy Outreach
The PROSE Team is currently working with the Office of Academic Policy and Systems to clarify and share academic-policy related requests. Most schools who made such requests in their initial applications and/or check in forms should have received communication from the team to schedule a conference call. If your school has academic policy questions that you would like to have addressed through PROSE, please email.
The PROSE program is comprised of a set of 126 schools that share the rich diversity in student populations of other schools across the city.
Meet the PROSE Team: Jacquii Leveine

Jacquii Leveine is the Director of Professional Learning and Knowledge Management for PROSE. Prior to joining the PROSE team, Jacquii  served as the Director of Professional Learning, Faculty and Supervision for iLearnNYC where she oversaw the design and implementation of a comprehensive professional learning program that supported 260 iLearnNYC schools in blended pedagogy, and the integration of digital curriculum within the iLearnNYC platform. Jacquii has served in the Department of Education as Director of Special Projects for eLearning, Assistant Technology Director of the Bronx, Staff Developer and Teacher.
"We support this program because it allows school leaders to develop innovative strategies that they can implement hand-in-hand with a supportive staff. Their success stories can then be replicated by their colleagues at other schools across the city."
~CSA President Ernest Logan
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Copyright © 2015 Office of School Design & Charter Partnerships, PROSE, All rights reserved.


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