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Model Programs and Practices

California Distinguished Schools 2019

Model Program and Practices


Name of Model Program/Practice: Mastery Based Learning and Grading and Strategic Intervention.


Length of Model Program/Practice: 3-10 years


Target Area(s): Closing the Achievement Gap


Target Population(s): Hispanic, Two or More Races


Strategies Used: Mastery Based Learning and Grading, Professional Learning Communities, Data-Driven Decision Making.




One of the major practices that has contributed to our success is Mastery- based Learning and Grading.   At LIBRA Academy, we have designed systems and structures to institutionalize the practice of Mastery- based Learning and Grading, whereby teachers collaborate in their PLC to determine common core skill-based learning targets, common rubrics, and tiered assessments.   Additionally, LIBRA teachers are skilled in engaging students through inquiry-based instruction that focuses on building literacy across all content areas.  In every classroom, instructional strategies engage students through analysis, discussions, making inferences, engaging in arguments, justifying their reasoning, and drawing conclusions.  We also systemically developed timely and ongoing intervention based on analysis of data drawn from several sources, such as: class grades, formative assessments, and interim or periodic assessments, to provide intense intervention and enrichment to students who may be failing or who are not achieving proficiency of the learning targets.

Mastery-based Learning and Grading is a growth-mindset approach to K-12 teaching and learning, based on the expectation that everyone can learn when provided with the right conditions and support. It offers all students and teachers an alternative to traditional instruction and grading. By refocusing classroom grading, assessment, instruction, and lesson planning on clear learning targets, and by implementing research-based systems honoring individual variation in learning styles, Mastery Learning and Grading allows more students to succeed academically and ultimately to take charge of their own learning.

One of the most impactful and significant accomplishments at LIBRA has been our progress toward full implementation of Mastery Learning and Grading Practices.  In accordance with the philosophy and practices of Mastery Learning, our staff has aligned its grading and assessments to the following common practices within each department:

  • Universal 4–pt. rubrics
  • Common learning targets within departments aligned to common core literacy skills as well as content standards
  • Re-teaching and re-assessment opportunities based on student assessment results

Over the past 3 years, our entire staff has attended District-facilitated professional development on Mastery Learning and Grading practices; although every department is at different levels of proficiency with these new practices, we do see some commonalities in each department.  Evidence of mastery practices is demonstrated on teacher syllabi, tiered assessments, curriculum maps, differentiated assignments, and student A-G course pass rates.  

Another distinguishing practice from other schools is LIBRA’s strategic and intentional Intervention program.  This model of intervention is based on systemic, continuous improvement in which data-based problem-solving and decision making is a practice across all levels of the departments and PLCs to support all our students. We regularly analyze our achievement data drawn from learning target tiered assessments, class grade, and interim/periodic assessments to determine which students need re-teaching. Based on data analysis, we compile rosters of students needing intervention and distribute to our teachers who will re-teach the targeted areas.  We embed this intervention time in our schedule every Wednesday and Thursday, making this program timely and accessible to all students.


Our Intervention program is organized into four-week cycles. We repeat the cycle based on the mastery of learning targets addressed during the intervention.  Students who master their learning targets are then exited out at the end of the four-week cycle.   We attribute our high academic achievement and performance on this timely, strategic, intentional, and targeted student intervention that is based on students’ academic proficiency at a given cycle. LIBRA Academy’s intervention is geared towards supporting primarily mathematics and literacy; however, students in need of support receive targeted re-teaching in any core subject area.  Our strong belief that all students can succeed with the appropriate support is why our intervention time is incorporated into our weekly bell schedule. 


Implementation and Monitoring

Mastery- based Learning and Grading practices have been implemented for three years and our Intervention program has been an integral part of our instruction since our inception.  Teachers meet in their departments and professional learning communities to review their assessment data, review their learning targets, and rubrics, develop curriculum maps, and pacing. We also engage in school-wide data dialogue where we analyze department grade marks and interim assessments to identify which students to target for intervention and enrichment, as well as personalization of instruction.

Results and Outcomes

The implementation and systemization of Mastery- based Learning and Grading, in synergy with our Intervention program, have helped us achieve positive results and outcomes in terms of student achievement and high graduation rate.  Since 2016-17 our school has recorded 94.1% graduation rate, exceeding both the State and District by more than 10 percentage points.  Furthermore, in 2017-2018, we earned a 97.1% graduation rate, exceeding both the State and District by 17 percentage points.  In addition, our Smarter- Balanced Assessment (SBAC) outcomes have risen since 2016-17 and exceeded that of the State and District in English Language Arts.  In 2017-2018, our Smarter- Balanced score was 54% meets/exceeds in English Language Arts.  In Math, our percentage of proficiency has grown steadily over the past 3 years, with a total of 29% meets/exceeds in 2017-2018; a 7% growth over the past 2 years.  We also exceeded the District’s SBAC Math proficiency levels by 6% points (23% LAUSD).

Another celebratory outcome of our Intervention program and Mastery-based practices, is the high percentage of students we demonstrate as on-track for graduation, based on their successful completion of the A-G high school course requirements.  For example, of our current Class of 2019 seniors (141 students), only 2 students are behind in only 1-2 required courses!  We attribute this student success to our model practices and programs.  In addition, our Advanced Placement enrollment has gone up since 2015-2016 from 130 students to 185 students; an increase of 30% more students enrolled. The AP exam pass rates for our students has increased in all subject areas tested. For instance, our AP Spanish exam pass rate increased from 87% passing rate in 2015-16 to 93% in 2017-18.

At LIBRA Academy, our model practice of Mastery-based Learning and Grading, in conjunction with our Intervention program, have assisted our stakeholders in making our mission and vision come to fruition: to provide a public, high quality educational program for the students in this community.  We continue to strive for excellence in every aspect of our students’ tenure here at LIBRA, and live up to the motto given to us by our students: At LIBRA, it’s not cool to fail!”