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Ready for Flight - Elma School District Pioneers Mastery-Based Learning in Washington State

AJAC Signing Day in Elma

What is Mastery-Based Learning?

Based on the principles outlined in Washington State Laws WAC 180-51-051, Mastery-Based Learning challenges the conventional grading paradigm. Instead of relying on rote memorization and fixed timeframes, it champions a "Show What You Know" methodology. This allows students to earn academic credits by showcasing their comprehension and proficiency of Washington State Standards. While the law indicates that Mastery-Based Learning is accessible to all students across the state, Elma School District stands out as a trailblazer. The district has been proactively building infrastructure to support this innovative approach, ensuring that students progress based on genuine ability and understanding, not just time spent in the classroom.

Why is MBL Important and What Opportunities Does it Present for Elma Students?

Mastery-Based Learning (MBL) at Elma School District offers students a tailored approach to their education, allowing them to showcase their proficiency in academic standards in a variety of ways. This includes preparing for a trade via our pioneering Registered Apprenticeship Program or gearing up for higher education through our unique partnership with Arizona State University. With these initiatives, students aren't confined by traditional pathways, but instead can shape their educational journey to align with their personal and career ambitions.

Elma's decision to implement MBL arises from an evolving educational environment and the desire to align more closely with individual student goals. In recent years, over half of Elma High School students sought alternative educational avenues like Running Start or alternative school. With MBL integrated into Elma's curriculum, students now benefit from a richer, more individualized learning experience right at home.

What distinctly positions Elma at the forefront is the integration of exclusive opportunities such as the Registered Apprenticeship Programs and the collaboration with Arizona State University. These pathways extend beyond the conventional, giving students access to university-level coursework and thorough apprenticeships. Such offerings not only set the stage for academic advancement and college credit acquisition but also equip students with coveted industry-relevant certifications.

Elma's Distinction at the State Board of Education Meeting

At their recent meeting, the Washington State Board of Education spotlighted Elma School District's trailblazing work in Mastery-Based Learning. On Wednesday, October 11, we were honored to present to the Board regarding our steadfast implementation of Mastery-Based Learning and our overarching aim to ensure every student is prepared for a fulfilling career. Being the only entire district in the state to embrace this inovative educational method fully, Elma serves as a shining example of the transformative power of progressive education, especially when it's driven by a clear vision and unwavering dedication. Mastery-based learning has proven instrumental in achieving these goals.


Elma's achievements in the realm of MBL haven't gone unnoticed. Their work has garnered attention from reputed publications, including a feature by the Seattle Times, accessible here.

For more information on Mastery-Based Learning, visit here.

For more information on Elma’s Mastery Based Learning work, contact Mark Keating,