Ybarra seeks consistency in mastery education program

Schools chief Sherri Ybarra is asking for a consistent process for handling Idaho’s fledgling mastery-based program before attempting to expand it further next year.

Sherri Ybarra

During Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting in Lewiston, Ybarra highlighted the need for a standard and transparent process for awarding credits and defining mastery.

The concept of mastery in Idaho dates back to Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education and its 20 education reform recommendations from 2013.

Generally, the concept of mastery suggests that students would only advance in school once they have mastered a concept or subject — instead of simply attending class for a school year or academic term and avoiding a failing grade.

Kelly Brady, who oversees mastery education at Ybarra’s State Department of Education, presented four options for awarding academic credit and defining mastery. Those options included student- and teacher-designed assessments; passage of exams measuring mastery; submitting a portfolio that demonstrates mastery; and providing some sort of certification of training, letters, awards or diplomas demonstrating mastery.

“The worst thing in the world would be to have 170 definitions of what competency is depending on what district or charter school you attend,” State Board President Linda Clark said.

The State Board took no official action Wednesday, but Ybarra asked for a board subcommittee to review and study the issue and work on recommendations.

“This is bigger than the State Department of Education,” Ybarra said.

Mastery proved to be sticking point for the 2018 Legislature, which killed a proposal to expand the program. In her 2019-20 budget request, Ybarra will again seek expansion.

Ybarra attended the State Board meeting rather than join a Republican bus tour political campaign that kicked off Wednesday morning in Boise.

The board meeting continues Thursday, and will be streamed live online.


Clark Corbin

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday