Mastery Connect: Standards Based Grading made manageable
What it is: Mastery Connect is both an online standards tracking tool (parts of it are free) and a free iPhone/iPod/iPad app. Because the app is truly free, I’ll start with it. The Mastery Connect app is a handy way to keep the Common Core standards accessible while you teach. The app sorts the common core standards by grade level, subject and strand. This is REALLY nice for quickly locating and referencing standards. Mastery Connect the website is the real gem. The site is brilliantly designed, easy to navigate, aesthetically pleasing and best of all, it works the way you think it should. With the Mastery Connect Master Tracker, teachers can assess core standards, monitor student performance and report student progress to parents and administrators. Master Tracker makes formative assessment that is standards based manageable to keep track of. Rearrange standards in the Master Tracker based on the order that you teach them in. View only the standards you are currently assessing, and view the entire standard as a pop-up. Within Mastery Connect, teachers can create and share common assessments. Similar in feel to other social networks, Mastery Connect lets you connect with other educators to share assessments, interact and offer each other support. It is easy to expand your PLN into the space, just find teachers with similar interests and goals and start sharing!
And now for my VERY favorite part- bubble sheet scoring. Mastery Connect uses GradeCam technology to make assessment about as quick as it could be. Just hold up bubble sheets to your webcam or a document cam and it is instantly scored and entered into the Master Tracker associated with the student it belongs to and the standard it is addressing. Seriously cool. I am not a big fan of multiple choice testing (mostly because I think it is a lazy way to find out what a student knows and doesn’t give a true picture of what a student knows or can do) but I think I have figured out how bubble sheets can be used by teachers during formative assessment. Students get immediate feedback from Mastery Connect and can see where in the standards they need some extra work. Teachers can view class wide item analysis of assessment and can track progress by standard.
Students can also use iDevices (iPad/iPodTouch) with the bubble sheet app. This is connected to Master Tracker so as soon as students input answers, it shows up live. Are you feeling your assessment work-load lighten yet?
Students can also take assessments using any web browser. It really is a tool that works for schools with minimal tech, to schools that have ubiquitous tech.
Mastery Connect exports to ANY gradebook or student information system. A one touch export feature makes it about as quick as it could be!
Mastery Connect makes it quick and easy to keep parents informed of student progress. Student reports can be quickly created and emailed or printed out for parents. You can also enable parent notifications that will notify parents of student progress as it is entered.
How to integrate Mastery Connect into the classroom: Mastery Connect is actually the tracking tool we will be using at the school I am starting, Anastasis Academy. We are doing away with traditional A, B, C, D, F grades all together. I have yet to be convinced that traditional grading is productive and helpful for students (or teachers for that matter).
At Anastasis Academy, we are using the Common Core Standards as a framework for setting learning goals. I see these standards as the critical-mass-of-knowledge that students need to be successful in learning. Hear me say, I DO NOT believe that these standards are comprehensive of everything a child should, or wants to know. They are simply the framework that we will use to build the rest of learning around. They will help us to ensure that we have a rough road map of where we are headed in learning. Students, teachers and parents will sit down for a conference each block and use those Common Core Standards to help map out learning goals. You will notice that we don’t leave this up to teachers alone. We want our students to have ownership and a say in what their learning looks like. We don’t want the teacher to be the holder of all the keys, slowly revealing learning to students as they see fit. Instead, we want students who can look at the learning ahead of them, and offer input about how they would like to go about that learning with parents and teachers acting as guide. The Mastery Connect app will be SO helpful in this process. Everyone will be able to access those standards easily at any time they need to recall them. Brilliant.
We will use Mastery Connect a little differently than I’m sure most schools will. Instead of bombarding students with multiple choice “bubble” quizzes and assignments, our bubble sheets will be for teacher use. For example, we may create a bubble sheet based on a standard with the specific skills or content that we are looking for. As we formatively assess students, the teacher can fill in that bubble sheet either on paper or on the iPad for instant input into Master Tracker.
Tips: I have been extremely impressed with all of the Mastery Connect tools. Not all of it is free but the portion that is not free is very affordable ($4/student/year). I like that Mastery Connect offers parent, teacher and student all of the information and tools they need to understand where they are and how they are learning. The people at Mastery Connect have been dynamite, they are helpful, flexible and friendly!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Mastery Connect in your classroom!