Category: Reflection

Reflections after Two Years of Performance Assessment Cohorts in New Hampshire

October 22, 2014 by

Originally posted on September 22, 2014 for the Center for Assessment’s Reidy Interactive Lecture Series.

Let’s now return to the question posed in an earlier post: what have we learned about the possibility of sparking systemic implementation of performance assessment? These reflections come from the NH Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) districts, as well as recent check-ins with team leads who participated in 2012 and 2013 Performance Assessment Network Cohorts. Half of these team leads reported that the work has been brought back to the rest of the school, and teachers outside of the group that attended the institutes are using performance assessments, while in other schools, QPA implementation has been more limited to the teachers who attended the institutes.

A strong, coherent vision helps people see the big picture

Administrators need to understand the big picture first and then set up the enabling conditions for the implementation to happen and the work to be sustainable. Participating in the 5-day training helps administrators develop their own instructional leadership and understanding of performance assessment. As one team leader noted, “[we] need administration to attend sessions, to show the seriousness and importance of this work, and get a solid team of committed individuals.” A recent post by a PACE district elementary principal illustrates how one district has integrated the training into their vision.

It takes time and effective structures to create a collaborative professional culture

A collaborative culture enables educators to use QPA protocols to engage in quality design, analysis, and instructional decision-making. PACE districts and 11 of the other administrators reported having Common Planning Time (CPT) built into their schedules. About half of those administrators said that the CPT was being used to specifically develop the QPA work. Two other schools that didn’t have CPT had time for the QPA group to meet to advance the work on their own. Structures provide the space, but the CPT must be used effectively. As one teacher at a PACE district school noted, “If we hadn’t done all work in the past becoming PLCs [professional learning communities], setting goals for our teams and norms, having expectations of our teammates then we wouldn’t be where we are. We couldn’t sit at a table and talk about what happens here.”

(more…)

How Do We Ensure Equity and Prevent Tracking: Holding All Students to the Same High Standards and Expectations

October 17, 2014 by
Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick

To ensure equity in new learning models that are competency-based, holding all students to the same high academic standards is critical.

Giving students choices and agency on how, when, where they learn is key – so that students have access to online resources, tools, digital content, online courses and modules with robust feedback loops to help them learn any time and everywhere.

Standards, world-class knowledge, and skills are critical as the floor (not the ceiling) of expectations for each and every student.  From the report, Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education: “Standards set the benchmark foundation for student success. We must ensure robust competencies and high standards for all students. (more…)

Considering Competency-Based Education? Reconsider How You Assess

October 16, 2014 by

This blog originally appeared here on The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) ed.review’s edudebate series on assessment titled “What Alternatives to Standardized Testing?”and reposted at Christensen Institute.

 

From Next Charter School website

From Next Charter School website

Testing reimagined: How and when we should be assessing competency

 

We can all remember the cycle of emotions involved in taking tests: trying to cram as much into our heads, sitting the test, and eventually receiving a grade, weeks later, already immersed in new subject matter. Our grades may have clearly communicated what we knew on the day of that test. But opportunities to go back and learn what we’d missed rarely presented themselves.

 

Competency-based education presents an alternative philosophy of when and on what terms students take tests and move on to new material. In competency-based models, students advance upon mastery. A different spirit of assessment sits at the fulcrum of competency-based approaches: students only move on to new or more challenging material once they can show that they’ve mastered more basic skills and concepts. This means that students will often advance at different paces, and sometimes along different pathways. This also means that a competency-based system requires paradigm shifts in both how and when we assess students’ mastery.

 

How are students assessed for mastery?

 

Competency-based high schools in the US use a variety of modalities to assess students. A number of these approaches are being used in the state of New Hampshire, which has mandated that all high schools measure credit in terms of competency rather than time. Some schools like Sanborn Regional High School still use many traditional pen and paper exams, but with one key difference: they offer “reassessment without penalty” for students scoring below an 80%. Therefore students do not fail, but rather revisit material until they are able to retake tests to demonstrate mastery. (more…)

When Teachers Can Implement At Their Own Pace

October 15, 2014 by

bull dog for van meterI recently had the opportunity to visit Van Meter School in Van Meter, Iowa with Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills at the Iowa Department of Education and facilitator of the Iowa Competency-based Education (CBE) Collaborative. Two faculty members accompanied us from Drake University’s School of Education, Dr. Randy Peters and Dr. Laura Kieran. They are members of the CBE Collaborative, bringing vision, curiosity and dedication to scoping out the future of competency education in Iowa.

Van Meter Community School District is a small district located 15 miles outside of Des Moines. It has one school building comprising K-12. Total attendance is 677 students, of whom 158 chose to open enroll into the district (students in Iowa can enroll in another district of their choice). The Mission of Van Meter Community School District is “to personalize learning for each student’s success, today and tomorrow.”

Van Meter is transitioning to full-school competency education, but has been doing standards-based grading school-wide in K-12 for three years. Elementary Principal and Director of Teaching and Learning Jen Sigrist explained the evolution: “We had a few teachers trying it before (five and six years ago), which led to each secondary teacher trying it for at least one class four years ago. After that, we made the move district wide. The last team to come on board was 5th grade mostly because they were not included in the secondary conversations and were preparing kids for the secondary by giving traditional letter grades in the past. They were happy to jump on board with the entire district three years ago.” (more…)

Seeking Similarities

October 14, 2014 by

Stephanie_060 (2)This past summer I got the chance to enter into the world of competency-based higher education. I knew embarrassingly little about this part of the field even though I previously founded a competency-based high school (more here). Over the past few months, I have been inspired by and had my eyes opened to this vibrant body of work.

In higher education, there is a rapidly growing group of leaders and educators who care deeply about education equity and the learning needs and outcomes of their students. To me, they seem to be radical and boundary-pushing. These are my kind of people—I presume they are yours too.

Over the next few months, I hope to share many of their stories with you. In this storytelling, I think that you will come to find what I have: camaraderie, lessons and challenges to your thinking about this work and the reasons why we do it. I have also decided to stay involved on the higher education side of the work – I think that they can really benefit from the stories and ideas and the lessons that we in K-12 have learned along the way. (more…)

Re-Imagining School Info

September 25, 2014 by

Information design challengeI’ve been thinking a lot about report cards since I read Hot on the Paper Trail about the power of receipts by Baratunde Thurston in Fast Company. Thurston opens with a question posed by and Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey, “What if we see the receipt more as a publishing medium? A product unto itself that people actually want to take home, that they want to engage with, be fully interactive with?”

It got me thinking: What if we saw the report card as more than a static report? Could it become a tool that children want to take home, a tool that could be fully interactive for students, parents and teachers?  I started pushing my thinking. What if we “badged” report cards? Parents could put a bright chart on the fridge and students could bring home stickers every time they hit proficiency on a learning objective.  What if school sent an email or tweet to parents every time a student hit the proficiency mark, which could be easily retweeted to grandparents? (more…)

My Personal Journey Coming to Grips with White-Skinned Privilege

September 23, 2014 by

Image 1I frankly don’t know where to begin. I was asked to write a blog because I am supposedly one of the few white people in the field of education reform who has successfully diversified their education reform organizations. First of all, I hope this is not true and that there are many white leaders with wonderfully diverse boards and staff. Secondly, while I would agree that I was able to help diversify my organization, the Center for Youth Development and Education within the Commonwealth Corporation, the word “successfully” begs for more explanation.

So here goes.  While I considered myself a radical educator at the time, I frankly had no real clue about white-skin privilege or the reality of racism that people of color face daily in this country. I was the head of a group of approximately twenty professionals in the Boston area, which included four black and brown people.  When I left, the numbers were about 11-11.  But just counting the demographic breakdown doesn’t begin to surface the heart of the issue. (more…)

An Update From Oregon’s Business Education Compact

September 22, 2014 by

OregonAs you all know, Oregon is a state leader in proficiency-based education, first establishing credit flexibility in 2002. (You can learn about their progress in putting together a variety of elements on the wiki.)

The Oregon Business Education Compact (BEC) has been active in advancing proficiency-based education, supporting pilot schools and providing training to educators on classroom practices. In some ways, the conversion to proficiency-based education has started in classrooms across Oregon, which embraced standards-referenced grading. Now, schools are  opening their arms to the more systemic whole-school conversion. (more…)

Let the Lifting Begin

September 11, 2014 by
weight lifter

From wikicommons

This is the second post in the series on how to get started in converting your school to competency education. See Part 1, Just Start.

Futurist author Joel Barker said, “Vision without action is merely a dream.” Once upon a time, I had a dream of being an Olympic weightlifter. My name is called. I slowly rise. I adjust my weight belt as I approach the barbell. The red jumpsuit is really uncomfortable in all the wrong places. I squat with my back straight to make sure I use my knees just like my former supervisor told me when we unloaded boxes at the grocery store. I know he would be happy that his obsession with proper lifting had finally sunk in. I make the necessary grunting sound and heave upon the rod that connects the mere 350 pounds. Unlike the Olympic athletes I watched as a child, my barbell does not even budge. Sure I have a grand vision for how to clean and jerk that weight, but a vision is only the first step on a path to the true heavy lifting.So now that you have a great purpose statement for why your school or district exists –  something just short of “To make the world a better place” – and you have determined HOW you will work to realize that purpose, it is time to get to the heavy lifting.

To help move the purpose and the vision of the school from the dream state to a reality, we needed action. We created a three-year professional plan, identified what needed to happen the first year, and then created action plans for those items. The primary activities were developing a framework of skills, scoring scales and assessments. (more…)

No Laughing Matter: Productive Assessment and the Value of Taking a Pulse

September 10, 2014 by
Chris Rock

Chris Rock. Photo from Wikimedia.

Growing up, I was always a fan of standup comedy. From the comics of my father’s age, (Billy Crystal, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison….) to those that cut their teeth more recently, (Dane Cook, Chris Rock, etc…) the comedic skills that these players demonstrate is not always natural. It takes countless hours to develop material, back stories, delivery methods, articulation, and other tools of communication that help put the audience right where the comic wants them.

In practice, the content and the strategy develop over time. Mainly, this is due to the fact that they are consistently assessing where the audience presently is and they are adapting their show to get the most engagement. This engagement becomes the fuel for the comic and helps to build the relationship between the showman and the audience that are hopefully hanging on every last drop of the experience. (more…)

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