BLEND Question Banks and Mastery Tracking for Motivation

Today’s Contributor: Lacey Faulkner, Math Dept. Chair & CIC at Reagan High School

I’m excited to share a thing my team and I have been working on.  It has been a long time coming, and we’re proud of how it’s turning out. The idea of mastery tracking started one summer, when AISD had some money, and they paid our PLC to do some planning. We used the hours to break the Algebra 1 TEKS into 61 student friendly learning goals.  This is roughly 7 goals for each of our 9 units of study. We made interactive notebook dividers for each unit of study that list the learning goals and provide students a place to track their learning on each of the skills.

Our plan was to move towards standards based grading with our quizzes. We planned to write multiple versions of each skill quiz, so students would have multiple chances to demonstrate mastery. We would grade the quizzes on a 5 point scale where demonstrating mastery meant earing a 4 out of 5 or a 5 out of 5. Any other score was considered a Not Yet. Students could study the skill and have another opportunity to demonstrate mastery on another version of the quiz. Sounds great, right? In theory. In practice, it was a nightmare. The time it took to create multiple versions of each quiz and hand grade them turned out to be unsustainable. I would say by unit 3  the end of unit 1, we had abandoned the practice.

This year we’re back at it, thanks to BLEND. The question banks feature in BLEND is a tool that reduces some of the time suck of standards based grading. This summer, my fabulous teaching partner, Anna Foster created an (empty) question bank for each of the 61 Algebra 1 learning goals. She and I, along with the other members of our Algebra 1 PLC have spent time adding questions to the banks. We aim to put around 20 questions in each bank, then set up quizzes for each skill that pull 5 random questions from the desired bank. When setting up the quizzes, we allow 3 attempts per student.

If a kid takes Skill Quiz 1.2 and scores 3 out of 5, she can take the quiz again. BLEND will pull 5 more random questions from the Skill 1.2 Question Bank. If a kid can demonstrate mastery in 3 or fewer tries, the teacher doesn’t have to intervene. If a kid requires more than 3 tries, teachers have the chance to do a reteach of the particular skill with the student before allowing an additional opportunity to take a quiz.

We are also tracking the skill quiz data in our classrooms which helps to facilitate small grouping for reteaching and interventions. The mastery tracking poster is displayed in each of our classroom. This is the brainchild of Anna Foster. She designed a spreadsheet that lists each of the skills by unit across the columns, with a  row for each student. When a kid earns a 4 or 5 out of 5 on a skill quiz, they get a stamp on the mastery tracking poster. My favorite part of the mastery tracking poster? It keeps my students motivated to try again. Kids want to earn their stamps, so they put in the extra effort to try again. They ask me questions to improve their understanding. They ask their peers questions to get the help they need. Never underestimate the power of a stamp to motivate a student.

Skill Mastery Tracking Chart. The dark black lines indicate skills that were not tested because the team did not have the time to finish the question banks. But hey, next year. It’s a process.

Unit divider for student notebooks. Notice the spaces for students to track their mastery of each skill.


  1. Lacey, this is an inspiring post in so many ways. I love how you highlighted the power of PLCs/teaching partners to collaboratively tackle content building in BLEND, and that your team has embraced the iterative nature of the work. The systems and structures you’ve built for students both online (standards-based quizzes) and offline (mastery tracking chart/unit notebook dividers) could be applied across subject areas to help students take ownership of their learning and work towards mastery. Thank you for sharing with our learning community. I can’t wait to connect others with these examples!

  2. Lacey,
    This is such a huge transition that you should be proud of. This is a goal of mine for the next school year and you have provided me with so many structures and supports to help in this process. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is great! Thank you for sharing. I hope that we can move in that direction as well.

  4. Thanks for sharing! I use charts and question banks too and have been really interested in moving more towards mastery tracking. Your post has made me feel even more motivated to keep shifting towards it.

  5. Lacy, Thank you for this wonderful post and all the work behind it. You have inspired me to create a similar chart for the AV and Design skills I want my students to master.

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