During my years at Haslett’s alternative high school, I used Renaissance Math, a web-hosted, mastery-based math program that more or less ensured my colleague and I would be able to communicate information about student mastery to one another. That was just the way it was set up. Instead of calculating a percentage or letter grade, it featured a list of objectives to be checked off when mastered. Information about student mastery was stored by the program, allowing students to move from one class to the other, picking up where they left off. Credit was granted to the student when 100% of the power standards from a given course had been met.

At the mainstream high school, however, we have a more traditional setup. Our online grade books are basically averaging machines. Plug in a number and it gets averaged with all the others. At the end, you get a very scientific-looking number, namely, a percentage rounded all the way to the hundredth place! But what does this really mean? What objectives were mastered? What objectives have yet to be mastered? If a student in my class got a 67.44% D+ in the course prior to mine, what areas need to be bolstered in order for him to be able to keep up with my more advanced subject matter? In a mainstream high school, the answer to all of the above questions is simply, “We don’t know.”

Skill/Point Recovery was my attempt to bring some of the positive aspects of my alternative high school experience to the traditional, point-accumulation setting.

The following gives a brief summary of the activities that went into my approach.

Before the test: Each chapter, along with the assignment sheet, students receive a Mastery Tracking Form (PDF) allowing them self-monitor their mastery of chapter objectives as assignments and quizzes are attempted. Following an assessment, I let them know what questions are associated with what objectives, and, using this form, they place a check or a question mark next to the objective(s) assessed. Using this form over the course of the chapter, it becomes clear whether which areas are “persistent question marks.”

During the few review days before the test, I poll students on which objectives they need most help with. If a large number of students request a certain objective, I develop a mini-lesson to re-teach the material, seeking out new ways to help students understand. If fewer students struggle with an objective, I work with those students one on one or in a small group setting. Students can seek out help on their own, targeting their study on the particular objectives that are giving them the most trouble.

After the test: The day after the test, the class begins with an item analysis of their own test. Each test item has already been tied to a particular learning objective. Using the provided Skill Point Recovery Worksheet (PDF), students identify the skills they have yet to master, giving preference those that will earn them the most points back in the least amount of time.

Skill/Point Recovery is held after school, from 2:30-3:30. The different courses I teach are given a roughly equal number of days to come in. Students who have 80% of their homework complete are allowed to sign up starting in the morning.
If there are enough students trying to recover one objective, a whole class or small-group mini-lesson may be provided. This occurs for the first 30 minutes. Often a number of student tutors will be present, providing individualized help. At 3:00, the retesting starts. Students request those objectives that they have studied and that I feel they are ready for. Testing continues until 3:30.

Awarding of points back: After each session, I correct the assessments and provide a Skill-Point Recovery Receipt (PDF) indicating the objectives for which the students demonstrated mastery. This receipt contains the following information: the original score, the objectives tested, the objectives mastered, and the new score obtained by adding back all lost points associated with a mastered objective. Each weekend, I change each student’s test grade in our online grade book to reflect the new level of attainment. In keeping with the spirit of mastery assessment, earlier assignments and quizzes are either “no counted” or raised to the level of this improved summative assessment grade.

Download a Word version of Mastery Tracking Form to use as a template
Download a Word version of Skill/Point Recovery Worksheet to use as a template
Download a Word version of Skill/Point Recovery Receipt to use as a template
Download a proposal I submitted for an expansion of Skill/Point Recovery (PDF)

Click here to read parent and student comments about Skill/Point Recovery
Click here to read an article I wrote with Ken O’Connor about my experiences with Skill/Point Recovery