Category: Reflection

Aim for Individual Mastery and the Rest Will Follow

May 26, 2015 by
Julia Freeland

Julia Freeland

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on May 20, 2015.

As debates about ESEA reauthorization continue on the Hill, Congress is grappling with the question of how to square current accountability structures with emerging personalized learning models. A recent Bellwether Education Partners report, A Path to the Future: Creating Accountability for Personalized Learning, summarized the apparent friction facing policymakers:

Personalized learning aims to change instruction in ways that customize students’ experiences—and, ultimately, lead to systemic changes in how students are assessed and progress to more advanced content. Standards-based accountability seeks to mold the K–12 system by creating common expectations for student performance—and, ultimately, incentives for instructional changes to help students achieve them. In other words, personalization and accountability meet in the middle, creating challenges for policymakers when the two appear to be in conflict.

The report’s side-by-side comparison of personalized learning approaches and standards-based efforts raises important questions about the potential minefield of trying to reconcile these two worlds. But it also conflates inputs with outcomes. Indeed, the apparent tension between standards and personalization dissolves if we can better delineate prescriptive inputs and desired outcomes.

Personalized learning is a means, not an end. Standards are an end, not a means. Debates about both, however, tend to muddle these distinctions. (more…)

Is Competency Education a Disruptive Innovation? The Answer is No

May 8, 2015 by

Disruptive InnovationOnce upon a time when Susan Patrick and I were just starting to understand the field of competency education, we described it as a disruptive innovation…until Michael Horn explained why it wasn’t.

Competency education can be considered an innovation, just not a disruptive one. It may be reaching underserved consumers, but not necessarily with a different value proposition. Competency education isn’t a new product, technology, or service that is introducing new values and benefits to new sets of consumers. It just doesn’t meet the definitions of a disruptive innovation as developed by Clayton Christensen.

But if it isn’t a disruptive innovation, what is it?

I’m not done thinking about this, but wanted to share my thinking to date. The better we get at explaining what competency education is, the better off we will be as a field. (more…)

10 Principles to Move Your School Toward Distributive Leadership

April 16, 2015 by
Nicole Assisi

Nicole Assisi

This post originally appeared at Next Generation Learning Challenges on March 5, 2015.

The most intimidating part of leading and teaching in a blended learning school is not the technology. It is not the data crunching, either.

In fact, the scariest part of blending and personalizing learning is giving up control.

Giving up control is the key to finding success as a leader, teacher and even parent in a blended school. First and foremost, you must trust the people around you. For teachers, that means giving the right tools to students, and then trusting students to drive their learning. Parents must trust in this new paradigm for learning and trust in the school leaders.

But administrators may have the trickiest part to play—they must share the leadership role, and trust “their people”—their students, teachers, parents. This distributed leadership approach is a collaborative effort undertaken between people who trust and respect each other’s contributions. By using principles of distributed leadership, school administrators can empower people to make great decisions, learn from mistakes and reach new heights.

Here are my 10 guiding principles for blended learning schools moving to a distributive leadership structure. (They’re inspired by the awesome leaders and colleagues with whom I share this work!)

1. Remember: Everyone is a Novice & an Expert (more…)

Warning: Delayed Graduation Possible

February 26, 2015 by

This post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education on February 23, 2015. 

MINIMUM GROWTH WARNING: AT YOUR CHILD’S CURRENT RATE OF PROGRESS AND ACHIEVEMENT LEVEL ON THE STATE ASSESSMENT, THE PROBABILITY OF YOUR STUDENT GRADUATING ON TIME IS _____ %.

What if parents received these notices on their child’s report cards?

Since 2009, every credit card bill in the United States has been required to notify consumers exactly how long it will take to pay off the debt if making only the minimum payment. This was mandated by Congress in order to establish fair and transparent policies related to consumer debt.

Karla Blog image

Isn’t a child’s education just as important? Don’t we owe full disclosure to parents and educators? Don’t they deserve fair and transparent information? (more…)

Performance-Based Home Schooling

February 10, 2015 by

7 alaskaThis is the seventh post in the Chugach School District series. Read the firstsecondthirdfourthfifth, and sixth posts here.

Why do parents choose the Chugach homeschool program? Parents want a clear roadmap of what their children need to accomplish, ways to determine if they are learning, and indicators that help them understand how they are doing. Parents want to make sure their kids are learning everything they need to without any gaps or holes in their learning.  – Annie Dougherty, head homeschool teacher

One of the eye-openers for me during my visit to Chugach School District was the conversation with CSD’s FOCUS homeschool teachers. It had never crossed my mind that homeschooling programs could be performance-based, or that they play a powerful role in education throughout Alaska and for families with high mobility (parents of course enrolling students for a whole host of reasons). CSD serves 230 students all across the state, from both rural and urban areas. The teachers, living all over the state, work with between forty to sixty students at a time. I could try to summarize our discussion, but I think you’ll appreciate hearing it directly from them.

The Benefits of Taking Time Out of the Equation

Janet Reed started off the conversation with, “The performance-based system takes time out of the equation. Parents really like it that kids can spend more time where they need it. They also really appreciate knowing their kids aren’t just being shuffled forward.” (more…)

Never The First to Finish: Why Pace Matters

February 9, 2015 by

HourglassThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on January 30, 2015.

Remember how it felt to be halfway through a math quiz and a classmate gets up and turns it in to the teacher? Maybe that other student rushed, or maybe he or she just happened to be super speedy. Either way, I always came to the same conclusion: I’m just never going to be that fast.

Years have passed since I’ve had to take a math quiz. As an adult, I’m comfortable with my own strengths and weaknesses and the time it takes me to do particular things. But as a mother of a fourth grader, I relive those math quiz memories every time she comes home and says, “I’m just never going to be that fast.”

She is what you might call “slow and steady.” But many of her peers, some on grade level and some above it, sail through these drills.

The slower pace is not usually an issue at home or with homework. She does not get frustrated with the amount of time it takes to do her math work. She enjoys “crossing her t’s and dotting her i’s.”

But bring in a timer, and it’s a different story. I noticed this first when we worked on a website the school recommended for supplemental math work at home. I had to put a post-it note over the timer in the upper right of the computer screen. (more…)

Teaching Through the Culture: Native Education in a Performance-Based System

February 4, 2015 by
5 student at t

A Student at Tatitlek

This is the sixth post in the Chugach School District series. Read the first, second, thirdfourth, and fifth posts here.

Living in New Mexico, I think and learn about Native education more than I ever have before. In Alaska, over 16 percent of the student population is Alaska Native, which means it is even more important that schools there are designed to fully serve the interests of the eleven language groups and twenty-plus dialects: Athabascan, Alutiiq (you might be more familiar with this spelled as Aleutic), Yup’ik, Cup’ik, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Inupiaq, and St. Lawrence Island Yupik.

Above all else, Chugach School District values it students, families, and communities; therefore, they value the culture of the Alutiiq people who live in Chenega Bay and Tatitlek. The CSD performance-based system has been co-designed with Alutiiq communities. Given that CSD is the first district to design a competency-based district, it raises the question, “Is competency education rooted in Alaskan Native values?”

There are several aspects of how Chugach School District embraces Native Education within a universal structure and process:

1. It Starts with Respect; Respect is Shown Through Listening and Partnership

It all started when school board and community members from Whittier and the Alutiiq villages of Chenega Bay and Tatitlek questioned district leadership about low achievement scores and the fact that their children were not reading and writing at grade level. The first response was the same as in most districts; a scripted reading program was selected and implemented throughout the district. However, the district leadership listened and realized there was a fundamental issue that needed to be addressed: the CSD education system wasn’t designed to meet the needs of their students. The next step was redesigning to be able to personalize education and adapt to the changing needs of students, families, and communities. The school board made a five-year commitment to ensure there would be time for effective implementation and mid-course adjustments. (more…)

On Perseverance in the Classroom

January 22, 2015 by
Eric Toshalis

Eric Toshalis

This post originally appeared at Students at the Center: Teaching and Learning in the Era of the Common Core

Have you ever sat through a difficult or dry lesson and were told by your teacher when you began to struggle that if you simply tried harder, you would succeed? If so, didn’t it sound like your teacher was saying, “If you just banged your head harder against this brick wall, you could break through!” You likely realized then what researchers have known for decades: that simply isn’t true. While effort is important when attempting work of any kind, perseverance in school is frequently depicted as a quality either a kid has or doesn’t have, as if the circumstances surrounding that student’s struggles were irrelevant. And far too often, teachers and others use concepts like perseverance to blame students from disadvantaged backgrounds for “lacking motivation,” when it is the learning environment itself that is largely to blame.

I’ve been thinking about this concept of perseverance because I recently had the opportunity to review the report, Equity in Competency Education: Realizing the Potential, Overcoming the Obstacles, by RAND authors and commissioned by Jobs for the Future’s Students at the Center initiative. I applaud the authors for tackling a tricky subject often glossed over and under-researched in the rush to advocate for competency education. Their treatment presents a broad and well-organized array of scholarship that highlights the enormous potential of competency-based reforms to elevate achievement and enhance equity. However, the paper raises a lingering concern: discussions of the concept of perseverance can easily devolve into a blame-the-victim ideology rather than an improve-the-context search for solutions.

Perseverance can be a seductive explanation of student failure due to the way it shifts attention away from pedagogical factors that may hinder students’ achievement and instead draws attention toward perceived deficits in students’ motivation. This effectively absolves adults of responsibility for students’ struggles. Given the culture of blame that surrounds the profession of teaching these days, it’s not surprising that some would seek shelter in explanations that deny culpability in student failures. I would argue, however, that to overcome academic struggles, it is the educator’s responsibility to teach the skills necessary for success and to present material using techniques that motivate students to engage. In this way, perseverance is less a prerequisite of learning and more a product of good teaching. (more…)

Ownership, Not Buy-In: An Interview with Bob Crumley, Superintendent Chugach School District

January 20, 2015 by
Bob Crumley

Bob Crumley

This is the fourth post in the Chugach School District series. Read the firstsecond, and third posts here.

In October, I had the chance to meet with Bob Crumley, Superintendent of the Chugach School District. He’s worked his way up, starting as a teacher in the village of Whittier, becoming the assistant superintendent in 1999 and superintendent in 2005. Crumley has a powerful story to share, as he’s been part of the team that transformed Chugach into a performance-based system and sustained it for twenty years.

Crumley has tremendous insights into every aspect of creating and managing a personalized, performance-based system. The emphasis on empowerment, situational leadership-management styles, and courage reminded me of my conversation with Virgel Hammonds, Superintendent of RSU2 in Maine. Below, Crumley addresses several key elements of managing a performance-based system:

Personalized is Community-Based: On the Importance of Community Engagement

Creating a personalized, performance-based system starts with engaging the community in an authentic way. Our entire transformation started with the communities and school board challenging us – they wanted to know why their children were not reading at grade level. Our communities were not sure they trusted the schools and teachers. This was partially based on the history of Alaska and how Native Alaskan communities were treated. However, it was also based on the fact that we were not currently effective in helping our children to learn the basics or preparing them for success in their lives. We had to find a way to overcome that.

The superintendent at the time, Roger Sampson, was committed to responding to the community and implemented a top-down reading program. Reading skills did improve, but it also raised questions for all of us about what we needed to do to respond to students to help them learn. With the leadership of Sampson and Richard DeLorenzo, Assistant Superintendent, we took a step back in order to redesign our system. (more…)

Calibrating the Competency Conversation

January 14, 2015 by

Policy Practice PhilosophyThis blog originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on December 19, 2014. It was adapted from a brief presentation I gave at the North Carolina New Schools and The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation daylong workshop, Preparing Educators for the Competency Learning Revolution.

If I tried to define competency-based education in the fewest words possible, I would say: in a competency-based system, students advance upon mastery.

But if you haven’t already, you’ll find that the concepts of “advance,” “mastery,” and even “upon” are subject to debate. Indeed, competency-based education is a topic that actually becomes more complex the more you learn about. I’ve often felt in conversations on this topic that the category or theme of competency-based education is so immensely broad that people are actually using it in a wide variety of ways and as a result, are talking past each other. We need to be clear about what it is and why it is important. We also need to be clear about the level at which we are discussing and debating this subject: Are we discussing a philosophy of competency? Debating a policy? Or prescribing a practice inside the classroom? These three categories beget different questions, concerns, and insights into how to build a coherent competency-based system. Champions of competency-based reform can hopefully begin to clarify the similarities and differences in these spheres of philosophical, political, and practical considerations in order to move the system forward on all three dimensions. (more…)

WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera