Mastery in Maine Insights

By Monica White

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 a the 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 Fieldtrip: 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)–South Portland, (and Portland,) ME.

On May 18th-20th a team of educators including principal, AP, 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 implementation proficiency-based diplomas to its graduate. (learn more here). During our visit we heard from representation 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 on 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.

Stay tuned to the iZone blog to read more about the Innovation Field Trip: Mastery in Maine.



Monica A. White, Ed.D. is a Senior Director of Special Projects for the Office of Innovation.