Nogales International: Let schools stay flexible

Originally published by Stephen Schadler, Assistant Superintendent the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District, on March 5, 2021 in the Nogales International.

Educators will often point out that when time and resources are constant, as in the traditional educational system, learning is the variable.

But a current effort at the Arizona Legislature recognizes this reality and seeks to correct it by allowing flexibility in how schools account for time. This flexibility will, in turn, unbridle technology resources and make learning the constant – and at a very high level.

House Bill 2862 would allow public school districts to offer a mastery-based model of instruction, which is an instructional approach where students need to demonstrate a deep level of understanding of a topic or subject area before progressing onto another topic or subject area. This is in contrast to the current model, in which all students typically progress at the same pace, whether they’ve mastered material or not. The bill would also permit school districts to deliver required instructional time through both direct instruction – in person or remote – and project-based learning.

This represents an important shift in education. It allows schools to focus on the mastery of learning rather than how much time a student spends in a chair or in front of a screen. Students who need more time to master a concept will get the time they need instead of falling behind. Those who master a concept earlier than their peers can move on to the next standard without waiting for classmates to catch up, or spend their time delving deeper into topics of passion or interest, at the grade level that is most appropriate for their demonstrated level of learning. Time spent completing hands-on assignments in real-life environments may also count towards learning.

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