Mastery Portfolio, an investor-backed company, seeks to disrupt the concept of traditional grading that seeks to rank and sort children based on point and letter-based systems to a standards-first and mastery-focused model.
Starr Sackstein has been an educator for 20 years and is a full-time educational consultant, instructional coach, and speaker. She received National Board Certification in 2012 and was recognized as an outstanding educator that year by Education Update. She is also a certified Master journalism educator through the Journalism Education Association (JEA) and served as the New York State Director for JEA.
Sackstein will bring her deep experience and portfolio of schools to the Mastery Portfolio team. In her position, she will build out a team to support schools’ commitment to making the grading and feedback cycle work for students. She joins the ranks of Mastery Portfolio’s leadership team, led by Constance Borro (Yale ’08), Chief Executive Officer, and Benjamin Nockles (NYU ’08), Chief Technical Officer. Borro and Nockles are seasoned educators with a combined 23 years of teaching experience in the classroom. They bring their perspective, experience, and entrepreneurial passion to transform how instructors record, assess and view data that is standards-first and mastery-focused.
“We are thrilled to welcome Starr to the team as we look to make Mastery Portfolio a standard for classrooms across the country. There are many EdTech giants who offer software and a lot of consultants who offer workshops and training, but not a lot of outfits that do both well. We know that theory and practice have to meet on the ground and in the classroom, and that is what we offer,” said Constance Borro, CEO and Co-Founder of Master Portfolio. “Our software is also built to be standards-first, not retrofitted to standards-based grading, and is totally customizable for schools without added fees. This level of flexibility and customization is almost unheard of in the EdTech world. But each school is unique, so the software and workshops reflect that.”
Sackstein’s background in educational leadership is diverse, and she leads the industry in her thought leadership through speaking engagements, blogs, and social media outreach. She was named an ASCD “Emerging Leader” class of 2016 and had the opportunity to give a TEDx Talk called “A Recovering Perfectionist’s Journey to Give Up Grades” and has spoken on The Red Dot Cafe in affiliation with TEDx San Antonio about grading practices. She is the author of many educational books and blogs on Education Week Teacher at “Work in Progress” and has contributed to several other publications. Starr has traveled the world sharing ideas about assessment reform internationally and hopes to continue changing the system for kids everywhere.
“My career has been a balanced equation of hard work, vision, and luck. I’ve taken risks when it felt expedient to do so and so far, each one has offered real experience and growth which has exposed the next turn in the road. Sometimes as educators, we get started on a path and stay the course for a lot of different reasons. I stayed in the classroom for 16 years and then moved to leadership and then to consulting and publishing and now to the biggest and most exciting shift yet – COO and Partner at Mastery Portfolio,” stated Starr Sackstein.
Mastery Portfolio provides web-based tools and professional development experiences designed to improve education practices and break down barriers to standards-based grading, an innovation in education that focuses on learning and helps increase achievement. Through this school of thought, the student’s score is not the goal, rather the learning and continuous improvement is the key objective.
Benjamin Nockles, CTO and Co-Founder of Mastery Portfolio said, “Most schools are stuck in a 19th-century grading pattern that rewards procedural thinking and systematic compliance, yet according to a recent study, over 80% of today’s college graduates are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. This antiquated system is inadequate for preparing our 21st-century workforce, and it also reduces students to a grade or a percentage. It also provides a sorely lacking picture of progress and learning, and completely misses a lot of talent rooted in creativity and problem-solving, skills that are not consistently assessed. Our mission is to develop and disseminate the training and the tools to address these problems through a revolutionary assessment and feedback cycle.”
Through the web-based platform teachers are able to fully implement a 21st century mastery curriculum and allow both students and parents to visually see their mastery level and growth throughout the school year. Parents in schools that have implemented the Mastery Portfolio system are seeing the value in the standards-based measuring techniques and appreciate the added insight into their child’s learning journey.
“What we really should be after as parents is our children understanding the material. Are they able to really inhabit it and use it and apply it as they go forward? I no longer think about it in terms of ‘Did they get an A?’ I think about it in terms of whether they understand the material,” said Dara Pizzuti, parent of two students in Mastery Portfolio classrooms. “ Before I saw the Mastery Portfolio reports, I’d never realized how much I was flying blind when I got report cards for my kids. Now I get these reports and I know exactly what my child understands and what she needs to work on.”
Mastery Portfolio helps schools build a roadmap and implement innovative grading schemes in their classrooms through their software and professional development workshops facilitated in-person and virtually. Through easy custom reports and customizable dashboards, both students and parents are able to see what they have accomplished and what areas need improvement. They are currently serving public district, public charter, and independent schools and are poised to expand to more schools this coming year.y
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