Student choice in level of mastery and how to demonstrate mastery

Lindsay High School uses a performance-based approach, allowing students to demonstrate mastery at their own pace.

Photo of Stephen Pham
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In 2007, Lindsay Unified School District launched a district-wide plan to roll out competency-based/performance-based learning. This means that students now progress through competencies at their own pace, only moving on when they demonstrate mastery.

At Lindsay High School, student proficiency isn't recorded in the conventional letter grade system. Now, students are graded by level of proficiency in each learning objective on a scale of one to four, where 3 is proficient and four represents mastery.

Students are empowered to drive their learning by getting the choice into the level of mastery for each objective. Students are required to show proficiency (scoring a 3 on the rubric) or challenge themselves and show advanced knowledge by working toward a 4.

If a student chooses to show advanced knowledge, they can choose from a variety of tasks to do so, often involving more complex content, applying knowledge to a complex task, or teaching the content to others as a learner coach. 


Grade Level: High school (can be scaffolded for younger students)

Content Area: ELA (can be applied to any content area)

Find out More

For more resources, check out Lindsay Unified's profile or other strategies on mastery based progression.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dalton McCurdy

Thanks for sharing this. It's a really interesting model! One follow-up question, as students work toward achieving proficiency, does the role of the teacher shift at all? I'm wondering what type of support/coaching goes into supporting students through this process or is it all self-driven choice?
Also, how specific are the rubrics used to assess proficiency. You mentioned a 1-4 scale, would you be willing to share out an example of one? I would love to see what these look like.

Photo of John Faig

I imagine the role of the teacher becomes more like a coach and curriculum designer. The teacher will know students well to help them formulate a worthy project from a basic description. Moreover, the teacher could suggest real-world problems that tend to be interdisciplinary in nature. The principal said it well when he said, "it is not about us providing tools or assignments. It is more about them telling us this is what I need from you."

Photo of Stephen Pham

I would agree with John -- the teacher would release responsibility and the "heavy lifting" to the students, giving guidelines on how to demonstrate mastery but ensuring students own the process. I would guess that there's a balance of student choice and teacher coaching to figure out the best form of demonstrating advanced knowledge.

I don't have access to a rubric, unfortunately, but you can see more here ( on how Lindsay approaches the 4-point scale. Hope this helps!