At the start of each week, all MYSA students receive an individualized “menu” of activities and projects, delineated by course (e.g., Appetizer, Main Course) based on the amount of estimated time and engagement required to complete them. Menus consist of independent assignments, longer-term projects, and assessment activities with the purpose of carefully gauging student understanding and progress.
MYSA School utilizes a “mastery-model” program, in terms of evaluation and assessment of student progress. We have the tremendous privilege of freeing teaching and learning from traditional subject-matter and grade-level boundaries. Learners quickly adopt a language of culture relatively absent of customary grading scales and the imaginary lines that prevent multi-age students from working together. When prompted, even by the end of one year at MYSA, learners eschew defining themselves based on grade level.
MYSA faculty determine mastery of academic content and skills based on various national standards in core subject areas. We decide the threshold at which students must reach to earn mastery in primary subject areas and the constituent secondary sub-categories of skills and dispositions (e.g., Writing>text type and purposes>narratives). Learners can achieve mastery of academic content standards in any order or combination, depending on the units of study and individual student needs or interests. Although writing standards, for example, may be taught and applied in a more formal language arts exercise, evidence of mastery in forms of writing can come from assignments and projects in other subject areas, such as a science lab report or written explanations of geometric proofs.
Learner mastery at MYSA precipitates higher academic standards and expectations. For instance, a student may master a year’s worth of Algebra in a single semester, in which case she or he is free to move forward. Writing or science may be a challenge for this same student, so they could conceivably remain at relative grade-level in just those subjects. At MYSA, however, we understand that children learn in different ways and at different speeds. Individual learning is also variable within or between subjects, depending on preferences and dispositions, or what may be going on in a particular student’s life outside of school. But what we refuse to do is prohibit a learner from an academic experience that is designed against his or her needs.