Phoenix Middle School adheres to a mastery-based approach to education. This approach requires students to demonstrate all essential knowledge and skills of a specific course, as determined by district graded course of study. The underlying assumption is that it is more important to assess how well each student achieves the specific course goals rather than how much each student achieves in relation to the other students in the class. All students at Phoenix are expected to perform at mastery level.
At Phoenix, we believe that learning is more than accumulating points and competing for the top grades in the class. It is crucial that students grow to be accountable for what they are learning. Teacher feedback is important, but only in the sense that students use it to understand their strengths as well as the areas that need improvement. One way we address academic accountability is through “mastery grading”. Our dream for every student is to see them motivated intrinsically rather than by an endless competition for points and percentages.
There are two equally important concepts about mastery grading that parents and students need to grasp: types of assignments and assessment.
Types of assignments:
Phoenix assignments are driven by the Ohio Department of Education content standards, as well as the Worthington Schools graded course of study. These assignments are designed to reflect a natural learning curve: introduction, practice, and mastery. Introductory assignments are used to present new concepts/skills; practice assignments (these typically make up the majority of work at Phoenix) give students opportunities to develop their understanding of the new concepts/skills; mastery assignments enable students to demonstrate their solid understanding of the material presented.
To foster an environment that supports growth and risk-taking, assessment at Phoenix looks different than it does in more traditional programs. Teacher feedback on introductory and practice assignments is in the form of a check, check+, check-. A check indicates the student’s work is “on target”. A check- is given for incomplete work and/or significant misunderstanding of the presented concept/skill. In rare instances, a teacher may use a check+ to indicate that the student has gone above and beyond expectations of the assignment.
There are 4 possible assessments that can be given to mastery assignments. An “M” (Mastery) is earned on a mastery assignment if the student has demonstrated a solid understanding of the concept or skill to the teacher’s satisfaction. Following directions and presentation are also factors considered in the assessment. If aspects of the assignment are missing or clear understanding is not evident, a teacher may give an assignment a “P” (Progressing). An “NP” indicates “Not Progressing”; this is rare and is reserved for work not turned in or work that is absolutely unacceptable. Equally rare is the assessment of “E” (Exemplary) on a mastery assignment. The goal for a mastery assignment is M; Phoenix teachers reserve an “E” for work that “knocks our socks off”.
One last note on this matter: please DO NOT equate E, M, P, and NP with A, B, C, D…this is not a traditional grading scale that just uses different letters. It may take time to understand this new way of thinking, but please bear with the program, ask questions of us, and talk to your student!
At Phoenix, we expect students to do their “best work, the first time, on time.” Turning work in when it’s due is an expectation of Phoenix students. Meeting deadlines will not only help Phoenix students “stay afloat”, but is a life skill that is integral to success outside the classroom. If a student does turn work in after it is due, the content assessment will not be devalued due to tardiness. However, the student’s ability to turn in work on time will be appropriately assessed under “Work Habits and Behaviors” (see next section).
Students and parents should be aware that late work and assignments that are not at mastery do not go away; students will still be responsible for current work while they are working to catch up on work that is tardy. This can become problematic very, very quickly!! Keeping up with work and honoring deadlines is crucial to academic success at Phoenix.
****Note: Unlike traditional assessment programs, assignments not at mastery at the end of the quarter will carry over to the next 9 weeks. ****
Assessment of Work Habits and Behaviors:
Phoenix teachers also assess students on a number of work habits and behaviors that are crucial to academic success:
Work is completed and handed in on time. Students come to class on time.
Q: Quality of Work:
Includes handwriting, quality of presentation, general neatness issues (no torn paper, ripped-out holes, stains, smudges, wrinkled papers), errors corrected appropriately / neatly, etc.
A: Active Engagement in Class:
Actively listening to teachers and other students (good eye contact, not whispering to others, not using class time for recreational reading, drawing, completing homework for other classes, etc.), participating in class discussion, taking notes when appropriate, completing in-class work, working cooperatively in groups, making good use of independent work time in class.
Students come to class with all papers, assignments, and materials needed. The student has a successful system for organizing work for each class. Locker is neatly maintained.
D: Directions / Formatting:
In class, the student listens to and follows directions correctly and consistently and will appropriately ask questions for clarification if needed. On written assignments, papers are headed correctly and completely as directed by teachers. Written directions are read and followed. If assignments are word-processed, Times New Roman font, size 12 should be used unless otherwise noted; paragraphs should be double-spaced. Word-processed documents should be printed with blue or black ink. All handwritten work to be turned in should be completed in pencil or with blue/black ink pens (unless otherwise noted by the teacher).
On each quarterly progress report, teachers will assess these work habits/behaviors listed above on a mastery scale as follows:
E - Always
M - Consistently / On a Daily Basis
P - Sometimes
NP - Rarely / Never
The Mastery Assessment Portal (M.A.P)
The Phoenix Mastery Assessment Portal (M.A.P.) is the online grading/reporting system unique to Phoenix Middle School. It is our “electronic grade book” that is accessible by students and parents. M.A.P was designed by Phoenix staff especially for the Phoenix community, and maintained by Phoenix teachers. It can be reached by clicking the quick link on the Homepage of the Phoenix website, or directly at phxmap.org. This is the only way for students and parents to view grades; all students and parents must be registered on M.A.P.