The Regents exams are a major challenge for students who intend to graduate from high school in New York. These exams are challenging, and require content knowledge of each subject, reading and writing skills to understand and analyze dense texts and problems, and test-taking stamina. We prepare for Regents through content and skills blended into classroom instruction, but for the most part Regents prep is something students should pursue through our after-school, Advisory and Saturday workshops. For Voyages students classroom learning is first and foremost about building our minds and hearts as powerful learners; test prep comes second.
The VOYAGES school year is broken up into twelve-week trimesters. Consequently, our students have the opportunity to earn a minimum of 18 credits in one school year (6 each trimester.), and additional credits during Summer Session and through our blended learning coursework.
We follow a block schedule. In addition to the 5 academic sections during the day, every student is required to attend period 5, Advisory.
What is Mastery Teaching and Learning?
From the New Visions PROSE proposal, to the NY State Board of Education:
"In the push to meet the challenge of Common Core Standards...and prepare our students for authentic success after high school, our school has shifted toward a definition of quality that is linked to student mastery. Our school system has fallen back on “seat time” as the ultimate guarantor of quality to limit poorly designed and instructionally unsound “credit recovery” practices. Research is clear that providing students with targeted interventions to address outcomes-based objectives is more effective....
We define mastery based courses as ones that require students to show clear evidence of meeting standards as a prerequisite to earning credit. For courses culminating in Regents exams, demonstration of mastery includes meeting graduation requirements. Mastery based non-traditional courses allow us to collaboratively design innovative courses to meet the needs of accelerated and struggling students, and reduce student disengagement by ending the practice of having students repeat entire semesters or years of courses regardless of what they previously learned."
From Retakes Done Right, by Rick Wormeli:
"Many teachers reason that they are building moral fiber and preparing students for the working world by denying them the opportunity to redo assignments and assessments—or if they do allow retakes, by giving only partial credit for redone assessments even when students have demonstrated full mastery of the content. These are the same teachers who set a deadline for submitting work and then give students who do not meet the deadline a zero, thinking that the devastating score will teach them responsibility.
In reality, these practices have the opposite effect: They retard student achievement and maturation. As hope wanes, resentment builds. Without hope—especially hope that teachers see the moral, competent, and responsible self inside them, waiting to shed its immature shell— students disengage from the school's mission and the adults who care for them. Our education enterprise is lost."
How does this look for students?
The Voyages Habits Rubric