Freeport School District Personalized Mastery FAQ JOURNEYS

By Roberta Selleck / May 24, 2014

The following questions and answers were taken from a recent webinar presented by Roberta Selleck, Superintendent of Freeport School District.  The questions pertain specifically to Freeport’s approach to Personalized Mastery.

Freeport school district is a small town district in Illinois and is in the early stages of implementing Personalized Mastery.  Follow the Journey of one of Freeport’s middle schools, Carl Sandburg Middle School, for more information on how this Journey unfolds.

Q – How does Personalized Mastery differ from the traditional education model?

A – With traditional education everything revolves around the calendar.  You have 9 months or X number of days to learn.  There are semester classes and tests at certain times.  Children are expected to learn at the same pace and are given overall letter grades.  The system gives students ‘permission’ to advance to the next topic with only partial understanding in many cases.  With Personalized Mastery each student is given the right amount of time to learn – some students need more time while others need less.  There are pre-assessments to discover what a student does and does not know.  We can focus on what they need to learn.  Students know what is expected (standards are transparent), they can track their progress and move at their own pace.   Students become true partners in their learning.

      Traditional Model Personal Mastery Model
  • Time is the constant
  • Learning is the variable
  • One size fits all
  • Students advance with only partial understanding
  • Teachers advance to next lesson knowing that some students do not fully understand
  • Learning is the constant
  • Time is the variable
  • One size fits one
  • Students know what is expected and advance at their own pace
  • Students partner in their own learning and share the responsibility

Q – How are you handling the financial aspect of the Personalized Mastery approach?  Did you secure additional grants?

A – No grants or additional funds were used in either Adams 50 (Selleck’s prior district) or Freeport.  You can implement Personalized Mastery within your existing budget but you may have to shift resources based on needs and focus.

Q –Regarding the distinction between Personalized Mastery and student centered learning, are they one in the same from your perspective or different?

A- Student centered learning is a critical component of Personalized Mastery.   However, Personalized Mastery holds students and teachers accountable to demonstrate mastery which is validated through summative assessments. In a learner-centered classroom, learning is engaging and meaningful but there is no guarantee of increased academic achievement unless you hold them to mastery.  That is the fundamental difference.

Q – Given that you are focusing Personalized Mastery on the early grades, what is the plan for Freeport high school? Once the students leave the middle school and move to the high school, will they experience personalized mastery or traditional education?

A – Freeport School District’s vision is to prototype two or three schools this Fall (2014).  Then in 2015-16, Personalized Mastery will be implemented K-6 district-wide and then rolled up one to two additional grades per year.  Our hope is that Personalized Mastery will be the norm throughout our district, including the high school.

Q – Do you use the shared vision, code of collaboration, and parking lots for adults as well as children?

A – We use and model these tools throughout our organization.  They are not only in the classrooms but also assist us with our administrative business.

Q – What are some other schools that have embraced a philosophy similar to Personalized Mastery?

A – Examples include: Lyndsay School District, Lyndsay, CA; Barack O’Bama Charter School, Compton, CA; Highland Tech, Anchorage, AK; Many districts in the state of Maine.

Q – Where can I learn more about competency-based learning?

A – A great source of info:

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About the author

Roberta Selleck

Guest blogger Roberta Selleck is the Superintendent of Freeport School District

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