June 17, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
from LUSD website
We often think of innovation as an urban phenomena, a natural outgrowth of concentration of an industry, strong peer networks, and competition driving toward excellence. However, Lindsay, California shows us that innovation can take place anywhere, even in a town of 12,000, beribboned by orange groves at the edge of California’s Central Valley.
The Lindsay Unified School District is well on their way to transforming their entire system to a personalized, performance-based system. The conversations among district management teams vibrate with how they can fully implement a system in which all students are able to achieve. Students are part of the process – taking advantage of the new possibilities and helping to solve problems as they pop up. The high school began implementation in 2009 and they are now beginning to roll it out to middle and elementary schools.
This case study will be in two parts. This initial post will be on the design elements and the second part will be on the big take-aways from my site visit.
Lindsay is partnering with the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC), so many of the design elements will be familiar to those who have visited Maine or Adams 50.
Overarching Design: LUSD describes their system as performance-based: “In a performance-based system, students work at their performance level and advance through the curriculum when they have demonstrated proficiency of the required knowledge or skills.” LUSD identifies the following benefits of a performance-based system. Note they use the phrase “learner” instead of student and “facilitator” instead of teacher. (more…)
June 13, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Ingenium Schools website
Is competency education a reform better suited for rural and outer ring suburbs than urban districts? That’s one of the questions I get asked a lot in the back of the room at meetings. No one ever asks that question during the regular sessions, leading me to think that the question goes beyond the size of the districts, and that the question is actually asking will competency education work in areas of concentrated poverty? Or perhaps, in our racially segregated country, people are using the code word “urban” to mean will it work for African-American students?
It is true that many of the district-wide reforms, supported by the work of the Reinventing Schools Coalition, started in rural districts and have taken hold in rural and suburban districts. However, we now have a proof point that the very same model is taking root in south Los Angeles at Barack Obama Charter School (BOCS). And they are getting results – last year they had a 150 point gain in one year based on the California Standards Tests. (more…)
June 10, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Maine’s Center for Best Practices has released a new case study The Power of Principals — I consider it a must-read for anyone starting down the path of proficiency-based education. It’s the story of how Regional School Unit 20 has advanced toward personalized, proficiency-based learning over the past three years. Here are my three big takeaways:
1) Three important questions to guide design. The case study starts with the story of Searsport District High School. After losing its accreditation and getting a federal Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration grant, they began transitioning to standards-based reforms. In redesigning their school, Searsport District High had focused on two questions:
- What should kids who graduate from Searsport District High School know and be able to do when they graduate, and
- How shall we design curriculum, assessment, instruction, and reporting to ensure that they do know?
The case study explains: There was a third question, though, that they hadn’t yet addressed: What will we do if a student does not know what they need to know?
In response to this question, Searsport devised its system of academic interventions… The intervention system developed two branches: skill-based interventions, for when the student was not getting a standard or learning target, and behavior-based interventions, for when the student was choosing not to complete assignments. In both cases, it was seen as essential that the intervention occur as soon as possible after the need was recognized, certainly during the same day. Check out the flow chart on page 5. (more…)
January 9, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
We are now starting to see whole networks of schools move towards competency education. The Asia Society, which has 34 schools in their International Studies Schools Network (ISSN), has four schools (Newfound Regional High School in Bristol, NH; Sharpstown International School in Houston, TX; and two schools in Denver, CO – the Denver Center for International Studies and the Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello) working together to build a Graduation Performance System (GPS) as the basis for a mastery-based system that awards credit based on proficiency in core courses. They are designing the GPS with an eye towards integrating anywhere/anytime learning opportunities that include community- and digitally-based learning environments.
The ISSN has a focus on preparing students for global competence, with an activist dimension, that includes but goes beyond the Common Core and our national focus on college and career readiness
The ISSN schools have organized curriculum and learning pathways into 6 core subject disciplines and 4 domains of global competence (investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas, and take action). They continue to use grade-level benchmarks as a way of organizing learning progressions and assuring proficiency along the way.
Competencies are designed with “I Can” statements. For example: I can develop a mathematical model that fits a particular situation. This means that I can use mathematics to create a representation, description, or quantification of some aspect of a situation. It also means that the model should use all the relevant data and information provided. (more…)
September 26, 2012 by Chris Sturgis
From Adams 50 website
Over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations with district and state leadership about introducing competency education through different entry points and roll-out strategies. There are certainly many strategies – looking for natural leadership, as in Muscatine, Iowa; transforming credits from time-based to competency-based, like in New Hampshire; or opening the door to credit flexibility, like in Ohio. And many opportunities—improving graduation rates, educating over-age and under-credited students, and online learning.
What’s missing from these conversations is the opportunity for communities, educators, and parents to learn about competency education and decide for themselves whether it is the way they want to go. It’s hard to balance district and state leadership with an empowered process in which communities are part of the decision-making. Usually we depend on getting “buy-in,” which is essentially a marketing strategy rather than an engagement strategy.
That’s not the case in the districts described in the case studies available at the Center for Best Practices at the Maine Department of Education. These districts invested heavily in engaging educators, parents, and the broader community. Educators even had the chance to vote whether or not their schools would embrace competency education. According to the case studies, this unleashed the full creativity and determination of school personnel to shape very dynamic processes in which students were much more empowered.
Adams 50 also invested heavily in community engagement. They were able to sustain a leadership transition because community leaders, parents, and educators understood the value of the competency education reform, even when they weren’t yet seeing results. (Check out the Adams 50 website that describes their Competency-based System.)
So I’m left wondering: Is engaging educators and community the first step that we need to take in every community to build the environment for effective and sustained competency education?
August 28, 2012 by Chris Sturgis
Time is the Variable. From Adams 50 web
We have all been watching and learning from Adams County School District 50 (Adams 50). This district, on the outskirts of Denver, embraced competency education with early support of the Reinventing Schools Coalition (the folks who led the way in Chugach, Alaska). They have been staying the course, even with changes in district leadership. They have been staying the course even when they weren’t seeing positive indicators.
And it is paying off — According to the article in the Denver Post, Francis Day Elementary school jumped two levels from turnaround status to performance status. Other positive indicators are that enrollment in the district has started climbing back up and there was no principal turnover this year. (more…)
by Chris Sturgis
I don’t think there is a word for it…probably time to make one up. I just love the feeling of “a-ha!” – when I get an itsy-bitsy glimpse of understanding about our world and our work. I had two “a-ha!s” when I caught a glimpse into the Muscatine Community School District’s (Iowa) efforts in competency education.
The Muscatine Journal covered a school board meeting where a competency education pilot was described.
It starts in the classroom: Muscatine has 26 volunteer teachers that are going to pilot competency education in their classrooms. They are from elementary, middle and high school as well as their alternative school. They are doing their own research and figuring out how to integrate standards-based grading into their classrooms. (more…)
August 13, 2012 by Brian Stack
From SRHS website
This past spring, two members of my administrative team at Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, New Hampshire had the opportunity to present our school’s competency-based grading and reporting system to admissions representatives from each of the New Hampshire Colleges and Universities. A very interesting conversation unfolded when the team passed out two competency-based report cards from two students at our school. Both students had earned a final grade of an “80” in their Forensic Science class, but both had very different grades in each of their competencies for that particular course. One had an “exceeding” grade of 95 for the crime scene management competency (students will demonstrate the ability to use and understand how observation is used in order to collect and gather evidence in scene investigation). The other student had an “inconsistent progress” grade of a 75 for the same skill. This evidence suggests that one student perhaps had a more complete understanding of the scientific inquiry process that goes into a forensics investigation, while the other still had work to do to bring that skill to competency.
The ability to be able to “dig deeper” into what a final grade represents and how it can be used to report learning not only intrigued the admissions officers, but it generated an entire discussion around what else a competency-based grading and reporting system could do for students. Indeed, this model should be the way of the future for all high schools. Our school made the leap from a traditional to a competency-based model over a period of about three years, and I challenge you to explore how you might make the same leap at your school. (more…)
July 31, 2012 by Erica Stofanak
While that last planning year was filled with excitement and adventure, we hadn’t anticipated the journey that was to come. (See previous post and related resources on the wiki)
Spaulding High School has just completed year one of its implementation phase and has leaned so many valuable lessons ranging from just-in-time learning to re-learning to reassessment, just to name a few. While we don’t necessarily have all of the answers yet, we certainly have generated a few solid questions that we are actively responding to.
Among those questions falls perhaps the biggest: How do you manage re-learning and reassessment within the constraints of school?! We are implementing a progressive way of assessing and promoting students within a very traditional setting which presents constraints. Some of these constraints include: bells, scheduling, teacher contracts, and access to technology. (more…)
by Erica Stofanak
As the Rochester School District embarks upon its K-12 Full-Competency Based System of Instruction and Assessment, we continue to build steam. While the push came from the state to embed competencies into the state’s high schools, what Assistant Superintendent Mary Moriarty realized was that the philosophy and practices of this structure were vital to the success of not just our high-school aged students but all of our students. As such, the fall of 2013, the Rochester School District will open all of its schools’ doors with a Competency-based model in place.
Our work began several years ago when our administrative team at the high school began site visits in order to build an understanding of just what it meant to be Competency-based. Through these visits it was observed that many schools were engaging in a process to makeover their framework but not much was changing in the day-to-day work that was going on within classrooms. These schools weren’t to blame. They simply weren’t provided support or a model to which they could aspire. Individual schools were tackling this Competency beast in isolation. (more…)