Based in part on groundwork laid by the city’s experimental high school, the New Haven public schools have won a half-million dollars to start shifting high schools from a system based on seat time to one in which kids have to show “mastery” of skills to move through high school.
Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF), which describes itself as “the largest charitable organization in New England focused exclusively on education,” chose New Haven as one of seven urban districts to receive a total of $3.15 million to support new forms of “student-centered learning.”
New Haven will receive $450,000 over a 20-month period, the school system announced Thursday. Click here to read a narrative of how the schools propose to use the money.
The grant builds on a new mastery-based system pioneered at High School in the Community (HSC), the city’s union-run “turnaround” school. In a dramatic effort to end social promotion, the school now requires students to show “mastery” of various skills before moving up; they can no longer pass through high school with Cs or Ds. Teachers at HSC developed new ways of grading kids, and new curricula, based on the Common Core State Standards, a new national curriculum adopted by 45 states. The system allows kids to learn at their own pace instead of moving up on a standard timeline based on seat time.
According to the grant application, the new money will help New Haven expand mastery-based learning to five other high schools: New Haven Academy, the Metropolitan Business Academy, Sound School, Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School and Wilbur Cross High School. The first of four of those schools have already been working towards a mastery-based system; Cross, the city’s largest high school, would be a new addition.
Some money will also go towards the city’s new vo-tech high school program, Gateway Technical Institute (GTI), which is set to debut this fall. Steve Pynn, the principal of GTI, will oversee the administration of the grant.
Proposed expenditures include $112,500 for 75 teachers to get professional training over the summer, and $195,000 for “professional development contractors.”