Author: Chris Sturgis

Vermont: Comprehensive Policies of Personalization and Proficiency-Based Learning

February 27, 2017 by

This is the sixteenth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

Instructional practices shall promote personalization for each student, and enable each student to successfully engage in the curriculum and meet the graduation requirements… Schools must provide students the opportunity to experience learning through flexible and multiple pathways, including but not limited to career and technical education, virtual learning, work-based learning, service learning, dual enrollment and early college… Students must be allowed to demonstrate proficiency by presenting multiple types of evidence, including but not limited to teacher- or student-designed assessments, portfolios, performances, exhibitions and projects.
– VERMONT EDUCATION QUALITY STANDARD

 

vermontVermont understands that personalization and proficiency-based education go hand-in-hand. In order to allow greater flexibility, schools need processes in place that create greater accountability for students to reach proficiency and make progress.

Authority from several governing bodies was needed in order to put into place a comprehensive policy that could serve as a platform for a personalized, proficiency-based system. In 2013, the Board of Education approved the Education Quality Standards, which went into effect the next year, while the state legislature passed Act 77 to expand flexible pathways.

Implementation Support

The combined power of these two policies has created a clear message that the state is taking a new direction. However, local control is respected in Vermont (as in most of the other states). Thus, supervisory unions have substantial leeway in how they organize a personalized, proficiency-based system. The Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) is providing substantial support in the form of training and sample resources, with the understanding that the supervisory unions will develop systems that reflect their communities and build upon their strengths.

Vermont hopes to help supervisory unions and schools reach a deep understanding that can help them launch implementation efforts through a seminar series organized by the Great Schools Partnership. The series includes sessions on proficiency-based learning, personalization, flexible pathways, student work and norming, grading and reporting, community engagement, assessing transferable skills, student voice, instruction, and graduation. To date, more than half of the state’s supervisory unions have participated in the training.

Supervisory unions receive $22,000 for teams of five-to-seven people who participate for two days per month over the course of the school year. The strategy is that at least one member will be trained as a facilitator to support implementation and to train others. The next step is for teams to create implementation plans. In addition, the AOE has created a number of tools to support supervisory unions and schools as they think through the questions they will need to answer for implementing each of the policy elements.

Other efforts that are supporting schools in developing personalized, proficiency-based systems include New England Secondary School Consortium’s League of Innovative Schools, the Vermont Professional Learning Network, and Partnership for Change, which is providing support to Winooski and Burlington. (more…)

Rhode Island: Putting Together the Pieces of a Competency-Based System

February 24, 2017 by

This is the fifteenth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

Rhode Island aspires to provide an educational system in which every student is enrolled in rigorous learning environments that meet their individual needs and through which students progress based upon their demonstrated mastery of essential, aligned, and agreed-upon rigorous academic and 21st century skills. Starting in early childhood, students have access to personalized learning experiences that are experiential, blended, flexible, and differentiated; as a result of these experiences, students will be able to control the pace, place, and content of their learning experience while meeting state and local Requirements.

– 2020 VISION FOR EDUCATION: RHODE ISLAND’S STRATEGIC PLAN FOR PK-12 & ADULT EDUCATION 2015-2020

Update: In February 2017 RIDE published Rhode Island’s Shared Understanding of Personalized Learning. You can find it at the new website eduvateRI

rhode-islandRhode Island was the first state to establish a proficiency-based diploma. The initial policy establishing a Diploma System, passed in 2003 by the Board of Education, set up proficiency-based graduation requirements in six content areas: math, English language arts, social studies, science, technology, and the arts. In addition, performance-based assessments were included as a graduation requirement to ensure students could apply their skills at higher levels as part of the state graduation requirements. The state now offers four types of performance assessments – comprehensive course assessments, exhibitions, graduation portfolios, or the Certificate of Mastery awarded by the RI Skills Commission – of which districts must select two for their graduation requirements.

The Diploma System

Under the Diploma System , students earned a diploma based on meeting three sets of requirements: the successful completion of a minimum of twenty courses covering the six content areas and two performance-based assessments. Students were required to demonstrate proficiency in the standards in each course, with districts determining the level of proficiency for graduation. A system of enhanced diplomas was introduced in 2011 with a Commissioner’s Seal on their diploma for demonstration of bi-literacy.

Since the establishment of the Diploma System, the Board of Education has added secondary school requirements of practices they consider essential for creating an aligned system. These practices include: (more…)

Supporting Teachers at D51: A Conversation with the Professional Learning Facilitators

February 23, 2017 by

#7 supporting teachersThis article is the seventh in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Leigh Grasso, Director of Academic Achievement & Growth at D51, emphasizes, “We are shifting from a focus on professional development to professional learning.” And there are a lot of people focusing on helping the adults in the system learn. In the district decision-making/communication structure, there is the Learning System Support Team (LSST) that includes Content Facilitators (CFs). There is also the team of Professional Learning Facilitators (PLFs) who are organizing Design Labs for teachers.

I had the opportunity to speak with some of the PLFs, Amy Shephard-Fowler, Heather Flick, and Bil Pfaffendorf. As part of the Learning System Support Team, they are charged with creating and managing the overall the overall design for the structure of professional learning opportunities such as design hubs but work collaboratively with other LSST members, teachers, and administration in the design of the content to support the implementation of the performance-based system.

Background

As explained to me, D51 didn’t have a lot of systematic professional development in previous years. Four days a year were dedicated to event professional development with little choice available to teachers. In 2009 -2010, D51 completed the Comprehensive Appraisal for District Improvement (CADI) process and, in so doing, the emphasis on pedagogy went to an extreme emphasis on regimented delivery of curriculum and direct instruction. This left some teachers feeling like they had little autonomy and as if they had limited flexibility to meet the needs of their students. Flick explained, “We have the perfect storm to bring performance-based learning to the Grand Valley. They are ready for a system that is focused on our students.”

Feedback: The Key to Continuous Improvement for Designing Professional Learning

(more…)

New Hampshire: Building an Integrated Competency-Based System

February 22, 2017 by

This is the fourteenth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

All children deserve and are capable of a rigorous learning environment where they demonstrate competence and confidence to move on when ready.
– NEW HAMPSHIRE’S STORY OF TRANSFORMATION

 

new_hampshireNew Hampshire’s move toward competency education started with the pilot of competency assessments in 1997, expanding from the original four high schools to nearly thirty by 2003. The pilots sparked conversation about the importance of measuring what students can do, not just what they know.

Even as one of the top performers in education in the country, New Hampshire knew they needed to do better to stay economically competitive. In 2005, they decided to redefine the Carnegie unit credit based on seat-time and replace it with a competency-based credit. Districts were charged with creating competencies and awarding high school credit based on those competencies by the 2008-09 school year. New Hampshire wanted credits to mean something.

In 2013, they took another step forward, revising the Minimum Standards for School Approval so that the structures of schools within the K-12 system would be designed for students to reach proficiency rather than allowing them to be passed on without addressing their gaps and weaknesses. The updated minimum standards made the expectations explicit that students should be able to access educational opportunities customized to their individualized needs and circumstances. Their boldest move of all was to believe so deeply in their teachers and their ability to create a system of calibrated, performance-based assessments that it opened the door to a new method of accountability.

New Hampshire’s Theory of Action

New Hampshire’s theory of action is two-fold. First, it seeks to create a culture of improvement based on support and incentives rather than blame and punitive techniques. Second, it assumes that state policy and local control must be balanced with formal processes for input or, whenever possible, co-designing. Even

though the Department Education has substantial administrative authority, it consistently uses collaborative processes to create a shared vision, reach consensus on major systems changes, and build capacity within districts and schools. The state consults with education associations and creates formal processes to enable those districts that want to roll up their sleeves to participate. (more…)

Laying the Foundation with Culture and Climate

February 21, 2017 by

This article is the sixth in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Steve Schultz and Rebecca Midles from Getting Smart

The first of District 51’s five phases of implementation is Laying the Foundation. The foundation they are speaking of is the culture and climate in which personalized, performance-based learning can take root. They describe this as “a culture where each student has ownership of his/her academic, social and emotional learning resulting in readiness for success in life.” This description helps you understand their vision for a personalized, performance-based system – the policies, procedures, school design, schedules, learning experiences, supports, and instructional cycle – that is going to help students build the skills they need to become lifelong learners.

D51 has focused most of their attention on creating a robust, empowered culture of learning with the growth mindset, social and emotional learning, and Habits of Mind at its very core. It’s important to remember that the features of their system and their process are also shaping the creation of the culture and climate. (See The Vision of Performance-Based Education at D51.)

There are three things that stood out for me about their efforts that are different than I’ve seen in other districts:

  • Integration of the sixteen Habits of Mind into a Social & Emotional Learning Framework that is organized into developmental bands that will stretch from K-12.
  • Focus on growth mindset that emphasizes helping students learn how to be aware of self-talk and how to create productive self-talk.
  • Growth mindset is also influencing the efforts of designing the elements of the performance-based learning system and personalized support for teachers.

A Culture Rooted in the Growth Mindset

D51 talks about the growth mindset constantly – in professional learning sessions with teachers just becoming familiar with performance-based learning, in meetings with principals to build a culture of reflection as they stretch themselves to strengthen their understanding of their tasks as leaders, and in presentations in the community. It starts at the top – superintendent Steve Schultz models the growth mindset through reflecting on his own learning and a constant fail forward orientation.

Building the Culture and Climate to Support Growth Mindset

D51 has identified five strategies to help people, both students and adults alike, to learn to have a growth mindset. Posters are found all over the district highlighting the five steps: Brain, Mindsets, Self-Talk, Feedback, Goal. I’ve expanded on the third strategy, productive self-talk, as it is the first time I’ve heard a district focus this specifically on it. Click here for the Growth Mindset Learning Continuum.

Growth Mindset

1.Teach About the Brain: Students need to learn about the brain and how it works. Two important points that directly relate to the growth mindset: 1) their intelligence is not fixed and it can change, and 2) their intelligence can get stronger or weaker depending on effort that actually rewires the brain. I heard a facilitator in a professional development session call out with what sounded like true joy, “LET’S REWIRE!” (more…)

Maine: Making the Most of High-Leverage Strategies

February 20, 2017 by

This is the thirteenth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

Maine Definition of Proficiency-Based Education
Any system of academic instruction, assessment, grading, and reporting that is based on students demonstrating mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn before they progress to the next lesson, get promoted to the next grade level, or receive a diploma.

 

MaineMaine’s journey to a proficiency-based diploma can best be described as a bottom-up and top-down process. In 2007 and 2008, districts in Maine began the journey to personalized, proficiency-based systems. First, the Department of Education began to partner with the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC), now part of Marzano Research Labs, to provide training to districts on how to engage communities in creating shared vision, help teachers learn how to create the culture and practices for personalized learning, and convert to proficiency-based systems. The DOE then provided limited funding to those districts interested in creating more personalized learning experiences to continue ideas outlined by the RISC. When this funding was discontinued, vested districts created a professional community of learners, the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning.

With extensive district collaboration, the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning became a catalyst for personalized, proficiency-based learning in Maine. The MCCL districts played a powerful role as proof points when the Department of Education organized a statewide listening tour, followed thereafter by legislative tours that launched state-level conversations and informed the strategic plan Education Evolving. The result was the passage of LD1422, An Act To Prepare Maine People for the Future Economy by the state legislature in 2012.

LD1422 requires a standards-based education system that enables multiple pathways for pursuing and demonstrating learning, leading up to a proficiency-based diploma. It also requires the Department of Education to provide specific types of support and technical assistance to districts. The standards-based system is organized around the Maine Learning Results, established in 1997 and upgraded in 2011. Maine’s proficiency-based diploma policy requires students to be proficient in eight content areas – Career & Education Development, English Language Arts, Health Education & Physical Education, Mathematics, Science & Technology, Social Studies, Visual & Performing Arts, and World Languages – as well as the five cross-disciplinary Guiding Principles. (more…)

Mastery Collaborative Resources

February 18, 2017 by

Mastery CollaborativeThe NYC Department of Education’s Mastery Collaborative is making their online sessions available for all of us to learn from. The links to recording and slides are below and I’ve added links to the schools CompetencyWorks has visited.

Thanks to the Mastery Collaborative for their leadership and their generosity

 

Carroll Gardens School for Innovation—Aligning outcomes across grades/departments

CGSI Session Recording // CGSI Slides

Article on Carroll Gardens School for Innovation

 

Flushing International HS—Designing outcomes that drive learning

Flushing International Session Recording // Flushing International Slides

Article on Flushing International HS

 

Frank McCourt HS—Developing, norming, and using mastery-based rubrics

FMHS Session Recording TBD // FMHS Slides

 

Harvest Collegiate HS—Building a school-wide philosophy of mastery

Harvest Collegiate HS Recording // Harvest Slides

(more…)

Growing into the Framework: D51’s Implementation Strategy

February 15, 2017 by

This article is the fifth in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Growing into the Framework

Superintendent Steve Schultz doesn’t ask “How are we going to implement?” Instead he thinks, “We have forty-four schools. How are they each going to grow into the framework?” The job of the district is to help learn, grow, and co-create with schools the new performance-based system (P-BL). The answer is through a more personalized approach that lets schools and educators start where they are in their current learning and move forward from there.

Five Phases of Implementation

Everything is in motion at District 51, and everyone is moving forward with the understanding that the different pieces will eventually need to be aligned. Thus, everything is draft and everything stays open until related work is done. Paul Jebe, Director of Educator Effectiveness, likened it to the whirling tea cups at Disneyland, bringing back that experience of loving every spin while simultaneously praying that it might be over soon.

Still in their first year of implementation, D51 has intensive activity in three of their five phases of work underway – so don’t make the mistake of thinking phase suggests sequence. There is a cohort of seven demonstration schools that are hungry to put the entire model into place as soon as it is ready. (When they sign up to be a demonstration school they are committing to demonstrating to others what performance-based learning looks like – it’s important to understand that they are not pilots.) The trick is that given the simultaneous development of many of the pieces, the demonstration schools might find themselves operating in the third phase even if they are missing some pieces from phases one or two. In a few more years, there will be efforts underway, schools and educators in all five phases as they continue to design, refine, skill-build, and engage.

D51 1

Remember, D51 describes the journey to transformation described in the previous article separately from the implementation strategy. Both are important – the journey captures the new conditions (strong learning culture, shared vision, collective ownership, personalized, transparency, and data-driven) that will shape the system (i.e., the paradigm shift), and the phases are how the work is being organized. Below is a quick scan of the phases and the different sets of work underway. (more…)

Massachusetts: Home of the Early Innovators

February 14, 2017 by

This is the twelfth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

We were evolving, with a greater range of learning opportunities for students. The question was how could we further institutionalize so that we offered a cohesive and consistent set of educational experiences that also allowed for personalized learning experiences? We think competency-based education is the answer.
– CYNDY TAYMORE , SUPERINTENDENT, MELROSE PUBLIC SCHOOL, MASSACHUSETTS

 

massachusettsThe Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the only state in New England that has not taken proactive steps toward introducing or advancing competency education statewide despite there being no significant policy obstacles beyond the end-of-year grade level accountability exams. Massachusetts has deployed a state exit examination as its high-leverage strategy to improve student achievement and ensure proficiency. Currently, students must score at a passing level on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System in English, math, and science.

As in other states, however, individual schools and districts often move ahead of the state leadership in building new approaches and working collaboratively around challenging issues. Massachusetts is home to two of the early models of competency-based education: Diploma Plus and Boston Day and Evening Academy. There are also a number of other schools across the state using rich, personalized learning strategies to engage students in their learning. For example, in Chelsea High School, a number of practices such as performance-based assessments and inquiry-based learning have deepened the learning opportunities. Plymouth high schools are creating more personalized approaches, including authentic assessments and involving students in leadership and decision-making. (more…)

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