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An Interview with Mastery Portfolio

In our opinion, education technology ought to accomplish two things:

  1. It should create better outcomes for students.
  2. It should also make teachers’ jobs and lives easier.

Sounds like a simple premise, but EdTech that hits both targets is not always so easy to find. But every once in a while, you run across a classroom management tool that accomplishes both of these tenets in a wholly transformational way. That tends to happen when you run across educational technology developed by classroom teachers. Mastery Portfolio is a shining example of a company that accomplishes that feat. 

If you’ve read our articles, taken one of our quizzes, or used our lesson plans before, we hope we’ve made it clear that we aim to empower teachers. From educator wellness resources to classroom activities that enhance your lessons, we share the tools and insights that will make the most positive impact for you and your students.

After we discovered Mastery Portfolio, an assessment software that pairs state standards with philosophy-aligned best practices, we reached out to see if we can ask the team a few questions. We’re so glad they agreed.

Mastery Portfolio is an assessment software with a lot of humanity behind it. We’re curious about the genesis of the idea. What unique problems does this tool seek to solve?

The founding team were full-time classroom teachers struggling to paint the picture of progress for the families we serve.

We got on sales calls with all kinds of online standards-based gradebooks to throw money at the tool of our choosing, and we couldn’t find one that was truly philosophy-aligned and focused more on goals, feedback, and progress and less about ranking and sorting students with points and averages. We built our own prototype of our ideal tool, and it was so well-liked among our colleagues that we decided to start a company to offer it to other schools.

We are truly in the business of empowering students and teachers to show growth in a variety of areas, making it easier to set goals, track them, advocate for help along the way, and celebrate progress as they go.

Now, Mastery Portfolio is an equitable assessment design firm that partners with schools to holistically bring their vision for innovative, responsible, equitable educational outcomes to life for their community.

Sometimes that looks like implementing standards-based grading, sometimes it’s designing career and technical education pathways, and sometimes it’s building competency-based programs—if you can envision it, we can help you implement it.

We are truly in the business of empowering students and teachers to show growth in a variety of areas, making it easier to set goals, track them, advocate for help along the way, and celebrate progress as they go.

Tell us about whom the software serves. What is the experience/situation of the teachers who use these tools?

Our tools and workshops aren’t one-size-fits-all. We serve educators and administrators who are changemakers, innovators, those who take careful notice of student thinking and use assessment and inquiry to understand exactly what students know and need to learn.

[Teachers need] a way to tell that story to parents and administrators in order to evangelize for improvements they are making over the status quo.

Many of our teacher-users are the people in their buildings who are at the forefront, bringing energy and innovation to the classroom and needing a way to tell that story to parents and administrators in order to evangelize for improvements they are making over the status quo. If that describes you, send us a message or schedule a call.

We want to know you and help you co-design a path to implementing more effective and equitable assessment practices, whether that starts with strategic planning, teacher-team-based workshops, or our technology tools, or something else.

It seems like The MasteryBook is a great resource for teachers. Can you tell us more about what that is, where teachers can find it, and what results they can expect from using it?

Mastery Portfolio’s inaugural app, The MasteryBook, finally offers a standard-first feedback and assessment tool (think “gradebook” but so much more) that is flexible, configurable, and designed with teaching and learning best practices at the core. It’s a technology tool that reflects and captures the complexity of the teaching act and of student learning and progress.

Teachers can enter any kind of assessment data and share it with students and families. Students can set goals, upload evidence of mastery, assess themselves, and develop a portfolio of their best work.

Too often we talk to teachers who have to “hack” their current gradebook to get it to do what they need it to in order to showcase student progress. With The MasteryBook there’s no hacking necessary—use it as designed and your teaching and your students’ motivation will improve measurably.

Teachers can enter any kind of assessment data and share it with students and families. Students can set goals, upload evidence of mastery, assess themselves, and develop a portfolio of their best work. Putting students at the center of learning both empowers them and alleviates the load on teachers, freeing them up to be facilitators and coaches, which research shows is effective in driving student achievement.

You’ve mentioned the need for software that inspires action. What’s more, the assessment tracking tools seem to look at the needs of each individual student. Why do you think these unique features are so crucial in today’s classroom?

In a world where traditional jobs and career pathways are being automated at an increasing rate all the time, our students need to learn how to learn, to assess their own competency, reflect and set and attain goals while incorporating feedback. The MasteryBook builds these practices in for students by giving them all the information and functionality they need to do so collaboratively with their teacher.

We can no longer afford for students to be passive recipients of their education or the assessment of that learning—they need to be in the drivers’ seat, managing their own goals and achievement data. Many educators are ready to trust them with this, and the ones who are ready are coming to us for a more flexible tool and professional learning support that aligns with continual learning.

If you could change one thing about public K–12 education, what would it be?

If we free ourselves of our own concepts of what a school day looks like—the 45-minute blocked schedule, the siloing of courses into departments, the limitations of access to teachers and mentors during free periods—we could create a school environment that reflects the workplaces students are destined to inhabit. This also includes dismantling traditional assessment practices like standardized test taking and grading with letters or numbers based on arbitrary metrics.

A project-based, mentorship/coaching model for education is more dynamic, engaging, and reflective of real work. This model will enable us to assess and develop students’ transdisciplinary skills like effective communication, time management, problem-solving, and leadership.

As I talk to other entrepreneurs, it becomes increasingly apparent that people specialize in their careers earlier and earlier—and if those special industry-relevant learning experiences don’t start in high school, we are already behind.

If we ask the business owners and community leaders of today who they want to employ in four years, they will not tell you someone who can use the quadratic equation—they will tell you they need someone who can write a new equation for modeling the rate at which their proprietary AI algorithm will start to deteriorate given a certain amount of stimulation or new learning experiences.

As I talk to other entrepreneurs, it becomes increasingly apparent that people specialize in their careers earlier and earlier—and if those special industry-relevant learning experiences don’t start in high school, we are already behind.

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