August 22, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
The courageous people of Ferguson have been standing up for their young men as well as forcing all of us to face the crisis that threatens African American boys’ survival, ability to graduate high school, get a job, and be actively engaged as fathers to their children. However, there is no reason that they have to be standing alone. It’s up to all of us to eliminate the patterns of structural racism and implicit bias that reinforce inequity and threaten the lives of African-American young men.
All of us in the field of competency education want all children to succeed. Our intentions are good. However, how can we really be sure that we ourselves do not carry some bias deep in our minds when the leaders in our field are almost all white? If we are committed to equity in our schools, how can we build the capacity in our organizations to be able to systematically address structural racism and bias?
I think that we have evidence that we do have a bias problem in our field. The leadership in the field and our organizations for the most part are very white. Our success in advancing competency education is threatened if we fail to correct this situation by increasing the racial diversity of our leadership. First, many people see lack of diversity as a sign of organizational weakness. If you can’t figure out how to have diversity on your board and staff, how can you effectively train others or develop policies that don’t reinforce racial equity? (more…)
August 20, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
“In industries where mistakes and errors lead to significant and far-reaching consequences – such as power plants, air traffic control towers, and electrical power grids – organizations must adjust their operations to proactively prevent failure. . . . [W]hat distinguishes high reliability organizations is not the absence of errors but the ability to contain their effects so they do not escalate into significant failures.”
I’m just diving into A Handbook for High Reliability Schools . . . The Next Step in School Reform by Marzano, Warrick and Simms. It’s a brilliant idea to think about what it would take for schools to become a high reliability organization. Certainly a student failing to receive an adequate education, failing to be prepared to pursue post-secondary education and training, has far-reaching consequences. It’s a pathway to poverty and fragile families.
What makes education a bit different from business is that mistakes and failures are part of the learning process. So we have to be able to distinguish from the customer making mistakes as part of the learning process, yet have the educators “contain the effect” so that the outcome is success.
The authors describe how schools can become so powerful and so timely in responding to children that the natural errors in learning will produce learning gains. Essentially, schools can become high reliability, taking “proactive steps to prevent failure and ensure success.” I already had a vision of how powerful schools can become, and reading this book took it to a whole new level.
The authors propose five levels of operation for a high reliability school: (more…)
August 13, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
Two major events are coming up that are opportunities to network among innovators in education.
1) SXSWedu, March 9-12 , 2015: Last year Susan Patrick of iNACOL did a standing-room-only briefing on competency education. There are four events proposed on competency education for the 2015 meeting. Two are on higher education and two on K-12. Jump onto the Panel Picker to vote for your favorites:
2) iNACOL’s Blended and Online Learning Symposium, November 4-7, 2014: This year’s speakers include Sal Khan and Michael Horn. There is a full competency education strand, with Rose Colby leading The Competency Education Toolkit for Curriculum, Assessment, Instruction, and Grading; and Brian Stack, principal at Sanborn Regional High School, on How to Support a K12 Competency-Based Grading & Reporting System. Jennifer Davis from CCSSO and Adam Rubin from 2 Revolutions will be there to help you learn how to use the Roadmap for Competency-based Systems; Springpoint will have a team to reflect on Designing New Competency-Based High Schools; and Kim Carter and Elizabeth Cardine from Making Community Connections Charter School will be there to describe how they are Igniting Learning, drawing on cognitive sciences, motivational theory, and educational research.
by Chris Sturgis
There are so many great resources coming out this summer!I haven’t even had time to watch and read everything….but wanted to make sure you all know about them.
Statewide Transformation: First, a big shout out to New Hampshire for sharing their learning. They’ve created a web page New Hampshire’s Story of Transformation complete with videos so you can hear from their leadership and innovators directly. It’s a great resource that explores how they think about student engagement, how they are providing support to educators, and the history of their process towards competency-based education. You can also hear from Paul Leather as he provides a synopsis of the state’s approach.
State and District Updates:
August 11, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
The word is tossed around these days, and I always have to think about why disruption is good for students, especially those that are underserved, rather than the companies that are grabbing a piece of the market through a new product or service.
In summarizing the new paper by Michelle R. Weise and Clayton Christensen, Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution, Michael Horn writes in his blog Move over MOOCs, it’s online, competency time:
As they argue, online, competency-based schools represent the right learning model—focused on actual mastery of knowledge, skills, and dispositions—with the right technology of online learning, targeted at the right customers—non-consumers who are over-served by the value proposition that traditional colleges and universities offer and searching for a new value proposition from college aligned around workforce needs—paired with the right business model that is low cost, low-priced, and sustainable. (more…)
August 7, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
Are you trying to get on top of the literature on competency education? iNACOL has put together a summer reading list. In addition, here are highlights about competency education and related topics that have been in the news recently:
K-12 Competency Education
Competency Education in Higher Education
August 6, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
Leaders in higher education and K12 should take the time to read Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution by Michelle R. Weise and Clayton M. Christensen of the Christensen Institute. The paper explores how online, competency-based programs are disruptive to higher education. The paper is an easy way to get on top of the issue, including a great introduction to disruptive innovation, inefficiencies in the traditional system, and the basics of online, competency-based programs. Don’t skip the appendices – you’ll find a quick summary of public policy and descriptions of higher education innovators.
The authors argue that the combination of online learning and competency education – modularization and mastery – is where the real power for disruption lies by offering a new business model:
The vanguard of online competency-based learning providers is developing technology to ensure that time is truly the variable factor and learning is fixed: Assessments are built into the system to ensure students’ proficiency; students can take assessments as many times as necessary until they have mastered the competency; and instructors can rely on an analytics dashboard and cater to students’ needs like a personalized tutor when necessary. (more…)
August 5, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
Every week, we are getting more emails and calls from districts across the nation about how to move forward in the process of converting to competency education. After we get these calls, we try to put together wiki pages with the resources so that others can get access to them, as well. So I’ve put a number of the links below. As always, a wiki is a work in progress, so if you have ideas of what else should be added, just send them my way. Or if you know about a topic, we’d love to have you put together a wiki page on a question, issue or topic.
Other burning questions you’d like to get some help on? Just leave a comment.
July 30, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
Colorado took a big step last year by establishing state policy for a proficiency-based high school diploma. As the Colorado Education Initiative explained the policy, the new graduation guidelines “signal a move away from seat time and toward enabling students to advance based on mastery of Colorado Academic Standards; provide students with a menu of options to demonstrate mastery rather than a single exit exam; emphasize multiple pathways for students to engage in learning; and elevate the importance of next generation student outcomes.”
There are a lot of pieces starting to come together that suggest that Colorado may start catching up with the New England states:
- State Leadership: Colorado has formed a Competency-based Study Group to better understand the benefits and challenges of implementing competency education. The study group is being facilitated by Achieve. Members of the group will be visiting Lindsay Unified School District in CA and will have a daylong seminar with former state and district officials from Maine. It’s so important for state and district leaders to take the time to visit the competency-based districts and schools to help them understand the fundamental shifts of focusing on proficiency rather than time.
- Expansion of Competency Education: In addition to Adams 50, one of the early innovators of competency education, Colorado Springs District 11 and Thompson School District are participating in an initiative to expand next generation learning, in partnership with the Colorado Department of Education and The Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) and funded by Next Generation Learning Challenges. Each district will focus on two schools. Adams 50 has done an extraordinary job in elementary school and is getting results. They will focus on Westminster High School and Ranum Middle School as part of this effort. (See CW post about how high school transformation was constrained by lack of innovation on part of SIS provider.)
- Intermediary Capacity: Intermediary organizations play a critical role in advancing new reforms, leadership development and the transfer of knowledge. Several support organizations based in CO have substantial capacity around competency education. The Colorado Education Initiative (formerly CO Legacy Foundation) is now actively supporting competency education along with it’s other initiatives including health and wellness and STEM. (Here is their description of competency education.) Colorado also is working with the Marzano Research Laboratory (MRL), which has incredible expertise around formative assessment, standards-based grading and a new effort on high reliability schools that includes competency education. MRL has recently acquired the Reinvent Schools Coalition, adding even more capacity. The Regional Education Lab – Central (run by MRL) also is building capacity around state policy issues to better serve its states — Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
If you know of other states that are building momentum, we’d love to hear the details. We want to make sure that we continue to support network building as more states convert to competency-based education systems.