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How Idaho Is Making Mastery Education a Reality


The EdFly Blog

  • Digital Learning

    Digital Learning

    Technology can revolutionize education and help ensure no student is bored or left behind. The Foundation supports the use of technology to offer students access to a high-quality, customized education and empower teachers to help their students succeed.

Last week Kelly Brady, the Director of Mastery Education* for the Idaho State Department of Education, explained why she believes in this approach to learning. Read Kelly’s first post here.

Today, Kelly is sharing a second post, explaining just how Idaho is making Mastery Education a reality for its students.

*Mastery Education, also known as competency-based education, is an approach to learning that allows to students to advance as they master course material.

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Idaho is taking an approach to Mastery Education that deeply recognizes the many stakeholders that must be involved to successfully shift from traditional education to Mastery Education.

Our shift dates back to a 2013 recommendation from Governor Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education that encouraged mastery-based education. Two years later, Idaho House Bill 110 passed unanimously with the support of The Idaho Education Association, Idaho School Boards Association and business/community leaders across the state.

The bill directed the Idaho Department of Education to develop a process for identifying 20 school districts or charter schools to serve as “incubators” for Mastery Education beginning in the 2016-17 school year. The bill also established a committee of teachers and leaders that met in the summer of 2015 to explore challenges and co-create solutions, as well as a statewide awareness campaign to really help people across the state understand what Mastery Education can do for Idaho students.

Currently, we are out talking to superintendents, principals and education leaders to share more about the network program. Interested schools/districts are encouraged to submit a letter of intent and take “The Mastery Education Readiness Survey” to self-assess direction, motivation, leadership, student focus, curriculum, instruction, technology, comprehensive data system, risk-taking, organizational structure, ownership and communication. To date, we have received more districts interested than we will be able to include in the initial cohort. We will soon release an official application and a committee will be formed to evaluate the applications and select our incubators.

Next year we’ll have 20 school/district incubators that will form a professional learning community around Mastery Education—the Idaho Mastery Education Network. We will gather data and learn from our challenges as we move along. We will capture our successes and show others across the state the potential of Mastery Education with real stories of real kids in real classrooms.

We know this isn’t a silver bullet, and we still have a lot to learn. Already we’ve learned that you have to take it slow and really understand the needs of your state for a large-scale transition like this to be successful. You have to involve your communities—all stakeholders—and really listen. You can’t just thrust change upon people. You have to make sure they understand how and why this change is what is best for them as individuals and as a state. You have to put yourself out there, connect with others on similar journeys and form relationships that challenge you to learn and to grow. You have to be a resource who is always willing to admit what you don’t know and commit to finding and sharing the answers. You have to build interest, get people excited about the potential and empower them with ways to get involved.

As an educator, it couldn’t be a more exciting time. We have a set of opportunities now that have never existed, and we owe it to our kids to make the most of these opportunities.

You can learn about Mastery Education in Idaho in this presentation, on our FAQs flyer and the Idaho Mastery Education website. We think sharing our story will help inspire other states to do the same, and we’re always learning so we’d love to hear from you.

Kelly BradyKelly Brady is the Director of Mastery Education for the Idaho State Department of Education.  Brady’s mission is to support Idaho schools beginning the transition to a Mastery Education system where student progress is based upon a student’s demonstration of mastery of competencies and content, not seat time, age or grade level of the student. 

Prior to joining the SDE in October, Brady spent 30 years educating in classroom with K-8 students in both private and public schools.  She devoted her last thirteen years, teaching in a unique program for highly gifted students. This program allowed students to progress through curriculum at an accelerated/flexible pace in conjunction with the development of appropriate social and emotional intelligence. The school day was structured around the student’s needs, preferences, and strengths. With her vast experience, Brady believes that all students deserve the opportunity to achieve their highest potential.

Brady graduated from Boise State University, where she received a B.A. in Elementary Education and a M.A. in Curriculum and Instructions.  She also has a K-12 Gifted and Talented Endorsement and PCI Parent Coach Certification®.  Brady lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband Tim where they love to ride bikes and spend time with their four grandchildren. 


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