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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It Starts with Pedagogy: How Lindsay Unified is Integrating Blended Learning

March 30, 2015 by
Elements of a Blended Learning Environment

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This is the fifth post in a series on Lindsay Unified High School. See the firstsecondthird, and fourth posts. 

The first thing you need to know about blended learning at Lindsay Unified School District is that they never use the term blended learning.

Joe Vagt, Director of 21st Century Learning and Technology, explains:

In our process of developing a personalized, performance-based system, we have had rich conversations about pedagogy, instruction, and assessment. We didn’t see blended learning as something new or different – it’s just a way for us to use technology in a way that provides even more opportunities for our learners.

When I went to the pre-conference workshop with Heather Staker at the iNACOL Symposium, it confirmed for me that we had the pedagogical pieces in place. We also already had a strong orientation to learner ownership, offering students choice in how they convey their learning. Essentially, the philosophy of performance-based learning was the same as that of blended learning.

The question we have to ask ourselves now is how to leverage technology to make our philosophy even more viable throughout the district. Technology is another tool to make PBS (performance-based system) a reality.

How is LUSD thinking about using technology to support learning and teaching?  (more…)

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3 Ways Parents Can Spot Student-Centered Learning

March 26, 2015 by

Kids ComputerThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on February 26, 2015.

Recently I had the opportunity to learn alongside my seven-year old daughter, as we used the occasion of yet another snowed-in February day to scratch the itch of one of her many curiosities. Driven partly by me and largely by a friend at school, she’s been talking a lot lately about computers and how they work so we sat down together to try the Hour of Code. It was fun for the two of us to share a learning experience that we were both coming to completely new.

So many of our experiences alongside our children often involve us teaching them things that we ourselves have already experienced or mastered. It didn’t take long, however, before I realized the greatest lessons for me in that hour wouldn’t be about coding. What I gained that snowy afternoon was a set of new insights into how my daughter learns, what motivates her, what frustrates her and how my interactions either supported or discouraged her learning. I was floored by how much she was able to learn in just one hour–the same hour that could’ve instead been spent watching half a movie or playing another spirited round of tag with her sister through the house.

So what was it about that learning experience that made it so powerful? (more…)

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An Interview with Brett Grimm: How Lindsay Unified Serves ELL Students

March 25, 2015 by
LUSD

From the LUSD website

This is the fourth post in a series on Lindsay Unified High School. See the first, second, and third posts. 

Tom Rooney, Superintendent of Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD), tells the story of how a father came to the high school after his son had graduated, demanding to know how it happened that his son couldn’t read. It was one of the turning points for Lindsay Unified School District, sparking the transformation to a performance-based system that wouldn’t allow the situation to develop ever again.

I had the opportunity to interview Brett Grimm, Assistant Principal of Curriculum & Instruction at Lindsay High School, on how the district approaches English language learners. His candidness and willingness to share insights is greatly appreciated. Over 30 percent of students at LHS are English language learners. Of the six K8 schools in LUSD, two are dual language.

What does your ELL program look like in a performance-based district? (more…)

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Hear Ye, Hear Ye – All Those Who Live in New England

March 24, 2015 by

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation just opened up a request for proposals for their Amplifying Student Voice and Leadership work. Through this RFP, the Foundation will select up to four new youth organizing groups to build public understanding, support, and demand for student-centered learning. These new grantees will be located in Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont, or a combination thereof. Through this work, the Foundation seeks to amplify student voice and leadership across New England.

Below are the links to the materials you will need to apply to this RFP:

Request for Proposals

Nellie Mae Budget Template

Please respond to Delia Arellano-Weddleton, Program Officer, with any questions.

I think this is an incredible opportunity – we need so many more youth organizing groups in our country, no matter if we are designing the purpose or if it is open so that youth organize around the issues that are important to them.

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It’s Not Just About Time

March 23, 2015 by

SedonaWhen asked if Arizona is moving to competency education, I’ve never been quite sure how to reply. It’s home to Carpe Diem, one of the earliest models of a school integrating personalized learning, a competency-based structure, and blended learning. In terms of state leadership, it developed the Grand Canyon diploma, a state policy designed for students to advance when they are ready based on passing an examination in secondary school. However, even though the Grand Canyon diploma does create a gateway by using an examination to determine proficiency, there is nothing that assumes that schools will actually be competency-based[1].

Something is brewing in Arizona to take the next step to supporting districts and schools to become competency-based. Although it appears there won’t be any more action by the state legislature this year, it is worth considering the elements of a bill that creates innovation space for schools. The bill requires the Board of Education to create a process to approve of competency-based innovation pilot programs if they have outlined their plans academically and financially to better meet students’ needs. Approved pilot programs are able to operate for an initial five years, after which a review process must occur. (more…)

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Colorado Takes Another Step Forward with a New School in Denver

March 19, 2015 by
Happy Haynes

Happy Haynes, DPS Board President

Colorado is an interesting state to watch as it takes steps – both big and little – toward competency education. Home to Adams 50, the courageous district that moved forward because they knew that there had to be something better for their students, it’s one of the only states to have established a policy for a proficiency-based diploma – by the start of the 2015 school year, every district in the state must pass guidelines so that by 2021 students will meet or exceed minimum thresholds for college and career readiness. These guidelines will “signal proof of competency … rather than merely completion of seat‐time requirements.” (Read more about the graduation guidelines here.) To support this ambitious work, the CO Department of Education has a study group on competency education, including a site visit to Lindsay Unified.

Now Denver Public Schools is taking a step forward with a new competency-based high school. (more…)

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An Interview with Principal Jaime Robles, Lindsay High School

March 18, 2015 by
Jaime Robles

Jaime Robles

This is the third post in a series on Lindsay Unified High School. See the first and second posts. 

“I could have used the personalized, performance-based system growing up.”

Jaime Robles, Principal of Lindsay High School, understands why we need to transform our schools. He grew up just a bit south of Lindsay in an agricultural community, a first-generation resident and the first in his family to go to college. He saw many of his high school friends disengage from school.

Here are a few of the highlights of our conversation. You can also hear from Robles directly on this video.

What does it mean to be a principal in a performance-based system?

As an instructional leader, I focus my job on three goals. First, my job is to keep the compelling purpose of supporting our learners alive. It’s easy to slip back into doing things just because that’s the way we’ve always done them. Second, my job is to empower our staff. They need to have the freedom to do their jobs in supporting our learners. Third, I operate from a position of service and collaboration. This is very important because if I used top-down leadership, I wouldn’t be able to empower staff. These three elements go hand in hand.  (more…)

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Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning

March 17, 2015 by

Insights from Experts Paper

Today, CompetencyWorks released a new paper, Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning: Insights from Experts. The paper is based on a two-day conversation with twenty-three incredibly insightful people who work in competency education, personalized learning, and blended learning – and the paper only captures a small portion of the rich conversation. (See A Mountain of Knowledge to Climb for more background) There are several parts to the paper, including:

  1. an exploration of the relationship between personalized learning, competency education, and blended learning and the concerns about equity that arise in each;
  2. issues that district leadership will want to consider in managing change, such as providing greater autonomy to schools;
  3. guidance for competency-based schools to enhance their instruction through blended learning; and
  4. how districts that have integrated blended learning can take the next step towards becoming competency-based.

Blended learning can help in competency-based schools in so many ways – sometimes with a tidbit of risk we need to guard against. We all know that high quality adaptive software can be helpful for students to develop their foundational skills.  Blended learning can also help to offer  students the opportunity to take what they are learning and go deeper, or begin to use what they are learning in knowledge creation. These aren’t discrete activities such as extra credit or helping peers. This is the opportunity for students to be highly challenged. Blended learning can be used to offer additional challenging projects that students can take on (call them honor projects, if need be) to strengthen their learning by asking them to further apply their skills to new situations (Level 4 Depth of Knowledge). Students will be able to access the challenges or problem-based learning independently so teachers can stay focused on supporting students who are still struggling to reach proficiency. The risk here is that schools only offer deeper learning to the high-achieving students, which is totally unacceptable. So we need to create both/and – embedding Level 4 work for all students into the school design at some point in the schedule and curriculum, and offering Level 4 work for students who have advanced to proficiency in the unit or course.

Another way blended learning can be helpful is to allow students to advance to the next level of learning once they have reached proficiency on a unit or course.  This requires us to strip the ceiling off the education system by offering units online so students can advance. The risk is that that this will turn into a dynamic that so-called faster students are considered the better students. I’ve already visited schools where students talk about faster and slower students – it was done respectfully but was definitely a way for some students to differentiate themselves from their peers.

There are also challenges in using certain types of online learning in competency-based schools. These are raised in the paper and hopefully vendors will take these into consideration as they further develop their products.

We’d like to hear from you — How is your district/school using blended learning? What are the lessons learned and insights? What would your advise be to districts/schools about how to best implement blended learning to support students build and apply their skills?

 

 

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A Mountain of Knowledge to Climb

March 16, 2015 by

Mountain to ClimbTomorrow, CompetencyWorks releases a new paper, Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning: Insights from Experts. I thought you might be interested in the background that led to the paper.

How can an emerging field of work advance quickly and with quality? It’s a question that foundation staff are constantly talking about, not to mention state and federal policymakers as they try to advance new ideas rather than enforce compliance with the old.

When Susan Patrick and I started talking about this idea, we realized that the model of state policy + supports certainly was a strong approach. However, it is unlikely that every state is going to be ready to to take the leap and invest in a high quality approach to helping districts convert. Furthermore, we think of competency education as a primarily bottom-up strategy – educators turn to it when they come to the conclusion that the traditional system is actually undermining their efforts to help students learn. So how can we advance the field when it requires voluntary leadership…or ownership of the idea? (more…)

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