Acton Academy Salado believes in Mastery. In fact, we believe in it so much that our eagles cannot move forward until they have mastered a subject. We agree with Sal Kahn (yes, Kahn Academy Founder) that children need to master subjects in order to really comprehend future subjects. In his ten-minute Ted Talk, “Let’s Teach for Mastery, not Test Scores” Sal addresses the absurdity of not teaching for mastery in comparison to a building a house.
In many educational institutions, due to time constraints and the pressure of standardized testing, many students may only grasp 70 to 80% of a particular subject before they are forced to move forward with the rest of their class and study material that builds upon the very 20 to 30% of the material they still do not understand. Since making a C or B is considered passing, schools feel it is appropriate to promote that student to the next level of material. But, what if we built a house that way? What if only 80% of your foundation got poured? Would you allow the contractors to start building out your entire first floor? What about if only 80% of the first floor got finished? Would you allow the constructors to build a second floor since they technically passed the first floor with a B? Of course not! Common sense tells us that the foundation is one of the most, if not the most, important aspects of home building. Why? Because everything else is built upon it. So, back to our student analogy, well, actually reality. This student will eventually get to a “floor” in their academic progress that becomes too stressful and unstable for them intellectually. Why? Because, they are still lacking the previous foundation’s or floor’s information and comprehension. Thus, due to a lack of mastery, this student will now hit a level of frustration and possibly even quit due to a lack of foundational preparation. Frustration that is completely preventable.
So, why does this happen? Personally, I think that it’s a stronghold in our educational system that is failing students. The idea that “just passing” is “good enough” is leading our youth down an educational journey of frustration. Also, teachers would have to teach for mastery. This means, every student would have to master each subject prior to moving forward. Potentially, that could require a teacher to teach to a class of 18 students 18 different ways, because they are all moving at a unique pace. Is this impossible? Absolutely not. Has it been done before? Yes. Did it work? Amazingly well! Why aren’t all schools doing it now? Well, because the schools still feel like 70% is passing.
One thing I love about Acton Academies (mine included) is that we are determined to allow our eagles to MASTER subjects. Each child has a unique set of SMART goals they set and reach each week. Every child is given the time they need to master their material before moving forward. And, every child is given the opportunity to move forward without having to wait on his/her peers to finish learning a subject matter. (Great for those intellectually gifted heroes).
Every eagle that enters our studios is embracing his/her Hero’s Journey and mastery is a huge part of that journey. Not only do our eagles master the material intellectually, they also get multiple opportunities to engage in quests and actually perform what they are learning. Thus, they not only read about it, they actually get out there and do it. Rote memorization will never work at Acton Academy Salado.
Mastery is a life-long characteristic that only enhances the lives of those who embrace it. Yes, it takes effort to master something, but isn’t it worth it? Life is so much more fulfilling when you are reaching past your potential. Learning is so much more fun when it is challenging. Mastery can help build confidence in an individual that lasts a lifetime. Mastery is hard work. Mastery takes determination. Mastery is worth the effort. Children should always be given an opportunity to master things.Mastery becomes a lifestyle to help us achieve those things that mean a lot to us. Mastery keeps us laser focused and able to overcome obstacles that try to hinder our progress of reaching our goals. Achieving a Mastery mindset separates those of us who embrace a Hero’s Journey from those who never learn to fly.
It’s a decision.
It’s a lifestyle.
It’s inspired into every eagle at Acton Academy Salado.
Here’s a link to Sal’s Ted Talk that’s definitely worth checking out: https://www.ted.com/talks/sal_khan_let_s_teach_for_mastery_not_test_scores?language=en