CompetencyWorks is an online resource dedicated to providing information and knowledge about competency education in the K-12 education system. Drawing on lessons learned by innovators and early adopters, CompetencyWorks shares original research, knowledge and a variety of perspectives through an informative blog with practitioner knowledge, policy advancements, papers on emerging issues and a wiki with resources curated from across the field. CompetencyWorks also offers a blog on competency education in higher education so that the sectors can learn from each other and begin to align systems across K-12, higher education and the workplace.

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Congratulations to Pahara Institute’s 2015 NextGen Leaders

July 28, 2015 by

We know that several sectors of the education innovation field share the problem of lack of diversity. The consequences of this are huge, as we risk not drawing upon the best knowledge and robust networks. We undermine our creativity as a field and fail to credential ourselves as trustworthy to people and communities of color. Most of all, the very fact that our leadership is too, too white suggests to me that we are in fact either operating with explicit bias or allowing ourselves to have implicit bias to shape our field. If we have this problem in our organizations, it is very likely that it is also shaping our practice, technical assistance, and advocacy.

The Pahara Institute is trying to correct this problem by “identifying, strengthening, and sustaining diverse, high-potential leaders who are reimagining public education.” I was delighted to identify at least four members of the Pahara Institute 2015 NextGen Network who are working in organizations that are advancing competency education or blended learning.

Keara Duggan

Keara Duggan

Keara Duggan is a Senior Consultant on the Education Elements Design & Implementation Team. In this role, she partners with school districts to design, launch, and support personalized learning models to accelerate student achievement. She is deeply passionate about ensuring under-served and rural students have access to an excellent education.

Keara began her career as a Teach For America corps member, serving as a third grade teacher on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. Since then, she has managed development, operations, programming, communications, curriculum design, and professional development projects for education organizations in the non-profit and for-profit sector, including Education Pioneers, Teach For America, InsideTrack, and Brooklyn Historical Society. She has also been privileged to be an inaugural member of the Rural School Leadership Academy. Keara received an M.A. in Public History from New York University and a B.A. in History and International/Intercultural Studies from Claremont McKenna College.

Carlos Moreno

Carlos Moreno

Carlos Moreno is a passionate educational leader committed to supporting school and district leaders who are creating high-quality, non-traditional schools. He is currently National Director of School Network Support & Innovation for Big Picture Learning, a nonprofit organization that has developed over 150 such schools in the United States and internationally since 1995.As Big Picture’s National Director, Carlos leads and supports a team of regional directors, designs and coordinates Big Picture’s several annual convenings, and coordinates leadership development and support services for principals in Big Picture’s Network. He also leads Big Picture’s work with scores of non-Big Picture schools that wish to incorporate elements of the Big Picture Learning design. (more…)

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Learning Progressions: Are Student-Centered State Standards Possible?

July 27, 2015 by

Stepping StonesIt’s interesting – we have this enormous set of academic standards (Common Core, Next Generation Science, and other state standards), but it’s not 100 percent clear if they were designed by backing out of what a group of experts think students need to be “college and career ready,” or to what degree they were established by how students really learn, moving from one concept to the next. If we were really committed to student learning, then we would want to make sure that the way standards are organized is based on the very best of what we know about how students learn and how instruction can help students learn.

There has been substantial research into how students actually learn and the best strategies to help them advance to the next concept. This set of research has produced learning progressions (also called maps or trajectories, but I’ll just use the phrase learning progressions). It’s helpful to think about learning progressions as the stepping stones across a river – there are many ways across, but some are definitely better than others.

Achieve held a meeting in May, gathering the researchers and state leaders to talk about the learning progressions and the potential value to our efforts to establish competency-based pathways. It was a fascinating meeting because of the incredible potential of these powerful instructional approaches and because of the number of remaining issues that need to be resolved.

What are Learning Progressions and How are They Valuable?

One of the big issues (although it should not stop us from moving forward) is that there is no one agreed upon definition of learning progressions among the researchers who have developed them. In fact, their field would be much more influential if they did a bit of field-building among themselves. Examples of the definitions highlighted at the Achieve meeting include:

  • Increasingly sophisticated ways of thinking about or understanding a topic
  • A framework for formative classroom practice that reflects how students learn within a domain
  • Building blocks to mastery of knowledge and skills addressed in college- and career-ready standards

(more…)

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Re-Thinking Assets in Competency-Based Transcripts

July 21, 2015 by

ClassroomOne of the opportunities that emerges in competency education (or competency-based education in the world of higher education) is to revise the transcript – both high school and college – to reflect the competencies that students have developed. This can include academic, technical, and the personal traits (habits of learning & work) that students have demonstrated. The Great Schools Partnership has worked with states, districts, and New England college admission directors to develop a prototype proficiency-based transcript. In addition, according to Inside Higher Ed, “The Lumina Foundation has kicked in $1.27 million for NASPA to partner with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) to explore how to collect, document and distribute information about student learning and ‘competencies,’ including what is gleaned outside of the traditional academic classroom.”

At the high school level, the emphasis has been on developing a proficiency-based transcript that would be accepted by and helpful to the admission process. At the college level, the focus is on creating a transcript that would tell the story of an individual’s overall skills to an employer. For example, we can anticipate that new transcripts might expand to include digital badging so students can demonstrate their credentials or micro-credentials specifically related to technical skills.

This is also an opportunity for us to begin to re-think how we define assets. Our focus on college and career readiness in the K12 sector and the tightening of the pipeline from college into the workplace in higher education has expanded to think more broadly than just academic and technical skills. We now recognize that those “soft skills” that are so hard to develop – such as creativity, collaboration, communication, and problem-solving as well as the personal traits such as persistence – are equally important. (more…)

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Districts Seeking Districts on the Journey of Competency Education

July 20, 2015 by

JourneyHow is a district that wants to start re-designing around competency education going to learn about what it is, how to do it, and implementation strategies? The best way is to learn from other districts. And the best way to find others is through networks.

There are several networks in place already…although it is likely we need a few more in anticipation of increased districts in each state beginning the journey. Below is a list of networks we know about. Please let us know if there are others that should be added to the list.

  • Digital Promise’s League of Innovative Schools has started a network of districts that have already begun to implement blended learning, and that now want to build the competency-based structure.
  • The iNACOL Symposium has a strand on competency education. It’s not an organized network ….but its probably the best place to find and meet others working on competency education.
  • Great Schools Partnership and its affiliated networks New England Secondary Schools Consortium and League of Innovative Schools can be very helpful in networking within NE.

(more…)

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Assessing Work Study Practices in a Competency Education School

July 19, 2015 by
Brian Stack

Brian Stack

Introduction

Five years ago, when my high school first implemented its competency education model, we as a faculty reached consensus on our purpose of grading. We believe that the purpose of grading is to communicate student achievement toward mastery of learning targets and standards. Grades represent what students learn, not what they earn. This helped us establish a common set of grading practices that every teacher agreed to use in their classrooms. They include things like the separation of formative and summative assessments (with formatives carrying no more than 10 percent weight for an overall course grade), the linking of summative assessments to performance indicators which link back to competencies in our grade book; the use of reassessment; the use of a 4.0 letter rubric scale for all assignments and assessments; and the separation of academics from academic behaviors. This article will focus on this last grading practice – from how we developed our academic behaviors to how we assess them and how we are using these grades to better prepare our students for their college and career futures.

At my school, we believe in the importance of separating what it is we want our students to know and be able to do (academics) from academic behaviors like working in groups, participating in class discussions, and meeting deadlines. While we firmly believe these behaviors are critical to academic achievement, comingling them with academic grades does not give us an accurate picture of the level of achievement our students have reached with their academic course competencies. When we first proposed this idea five years ago, separating behaviors was a big mind shift for many of our teachers who were accustomed to giving participation points as part of a course grade or taking points off of an assignment when they were turned in after a deadline. Early in our design phase we were charged with the task of finding a meaningful way to hold students accountable for these important work study practices without compromising the purity of our academic grades that we set out to establish. (more…)

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What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

July 16, 2015 by

CompetencyWorks in the News


Steps to Help Schools Transform to Competency-Based Learning
, a Mind/Shift article by Katrina Schwartz, features Chris Sturgis and CompetencyWorks’ recent report: Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders. A panel of district leaders implementing competency education presented a webinar on this report; you can find the archived webinar here.Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AM

School Designs

Competency Education Policy

  • States considering policies to support competency-based education are on the rise, according to a recent iNACOL blog post. Policy levers that support competency education and personalized learning include innovation zones, school finance changes, planning grants, new assessment frameworks, and pilot programs. Read more here. (more…)
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Catapulting Toward Competency Ed

July 15, 2015 by

CatapultThere is a new resource available for school designers that want to launch innovative schools. Check out the New Schools Venture Fund Catapult: Invent 2015. It’s for schools that will open in 2016. They don’t have a restrictive list of what it means to be innovative – but they do identify some of the ideas they find exciting, including:

  • Competency-based models that truly allow students to progress along a path and at a pace that best meets their needs;
  • New and better ways to integrate digital content with teacher-facilitated instruction which advance the current state of blended instruction;
  • Development and/or integration of novel approaches to measure academic and/or non-academic dimensions that support an expanded definition of student success;
  • Creative and scalable approaches that enable students to develop and explore their interests and pursue their passions; and
  • Bridges between early childhood and K-12 systems and ways to integrate the two.

Hurry, hurry, hurry. Applications due August 15th.

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State Policy: Resources for Getting Started

by
susan_patrick

Susan Patrick

Looking for a few resources to send state policy makers to get started on competency education? Here are some suggestions.

How Are States Advancing Competency Education?

The report Necessary for Success: A State Policymakers Guide to Competency Education (iNACOL CompetencyWorks) provides an overview and recommendations for state policy.

There is also a short briefing paper on Aligning K-12 State Policy with Competency Education that you can use and adapt for your state.

This article provides an overview on Iowa’s initiative.

New Hampshire’s efforts have been well-documented, including NH’s Story of Transformation and From policy to practice: How competency-based education is evolving in New Hampshire.

Maine also has been documenting their efforts. You can find resources here.

Background: Overview of Competency-Based Education

States considering policies to support competency-based education are on the rise. Policy levers that support competency education and personalized learning include creating innovation zones, supporting school finance changes, planning grants, implementing new assessment frameworks, and starting pilot programs.

Five approaches in state policy to enable competency-based education:

  1. Competency-Based Education Pilot Programs
  2. Innovation Zones
  3. Competency-Based Diplomas
  4. Competency-Based Task Forces
  5. Flexibility for Competency-Based Assessments

(more…)

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