Goodbye to Grades? Mastery-Based Learning Is Becoming the New Standard

A new learning strategy could be the end grades as we know it. But the individualized learning could make this revolutionary way to teach better for students.

Mastery Based Learning
Photo: Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock

From New York to Vermont, and from Illinois to Idaho, a new kind of education standard is taking root. It's called mastery-based learning, and it means no grades. That's right; no A's, B's or C's. Instead, students focus on grade-appropriate skills competency. As in, being able to solve a certain type of math problem, or read at a certain level, or construct a thesis. Once they get it, they move on. Otherwise, they continue to focus on that particular set of skills.

According to The New York Times, in some regions, like New York City, elementary, middle and high schools are adopting this type of skills-based evaluation system voluntarily, while in others, states have mandated that these changes take place. And obviously, some parents and educators are all for abolishing grades, while others have met such a massive overhaul to education with much resistance.

Understandably, some parents worry that mastery-based learning will adversely affect their kids. Does it put children at a disadvantage for when they go out into the real world, where concrete results rule? Is it just another example of the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality that marks a major departure from how you and I grew up?

But for every doubter, there is a believer. Some swear that learning based on mastery instead of grades, or a "one size fits all" approach to teaching, has changed kids' lives. It makes sense that when kids are allowed to learn at their own pace, they can thrive. Not having to learn something just to get that "A" also takes the pressure off, which may also help foster favorable conditions for learning. And it's true that kids are still being graded in some way, but on specific skills instead of entire subjects, just lumped together.

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So-called competency-based learning, which relies on small-group sessions and online learning tools to help kids learn their way, is still in the testing stages at many schools across the country. But could it be coming to a school near you? And how would you feel about saying bye-bye to grades for your kiddo?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger/mom. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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