Category: Reflection

Turning Mistakes Into Learning: The Power of High Reliability Schools

August 20, 2014 by

Handbook for High Reliability Schools cover“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…)

EAA Pioneers Flexible Blended Learning Spaces

August 18, 2014 by

Originally posted Aug. 3, 2014 at Getting Smart.

Students at computers

From Getting Smart.com

Five Detroit schools utilize flexible learning spaces to accelerate student learning. These innovative environments reconsider four components of teaching and learning:

  • Space & time: creative ways of using space, furniture, scheduling and location to promote student learning;
  • Staffing and roles: rethinking flexible ways to use staffing to personalize learning;
  • Grouping of students: different approaches to grouping students and providing individual work time to ensure growth; and
  • Resources: maximizing supports from the teachers, technology, and peers to promote deeper understanding.

The flexible learning space, called a hub, provide a student-centered environment where student responsibility grows from primary grades to high school.

Students participate in a blended instructional program where they access information from the teacher, technology, their peers and their own inquiry. The same content is provided in 3 different ways—independent virtual courses, hybrid courses and as individual searchable libraries of content aligned to the standards. (more…)

Why is competency-based education so hard to study?

August 15, 2014 by
Julia Freeland

Julia Freeland

Originally posted August 13, 2014 by the Christensen Institute.

A few research pitfalls seem to be creeping into the still nascent world of K-12 competency-based education: first, the challenge of moving from discussing high-level theory to describing precisely competency-based practices. And second, going from identifying specific practices to designing sufficiently specific, appropriate evaluation to measure the effects of those practices.

Both of these tensions can make conversations about competency-based education feel speculative. The term “competency-based” often describes a wide range of classroom practices, but schools that call themselves competency-based may not subscribe to all such practices. And even when these practices are spelled out, we have yet to study them in isolation, to understand which—if any—drive student growth and in what circumstances. In order to really study competency-based models, the field may need more specific categories than “competency-based” to translate the theory into practice; and we likely need new research paradigms to evaluate these specific practices. (more…)

Momentum is Building in Colorado

July 30, 2014 by
Colorado flag

From wikipedia.com

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.

 

Mindsets and Student Agency

July 28, 2014 by

Originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of Unboxed, a publication of High Tech High

Eduardo Briceño

Eduardo Briceño

Deeper learning requires students to think, question, pursue, and create—to take agency and ownership of their learning. When they do, they acquire deeper understanding and skills, and most important, they become more competent learners in and out of school. They become better prepared to succeed in academics, but also in 21st century careers and in life.

We can’t force students to develop agency and drive their own learning. It must come from within. Deeper learning instructional practices, such as using student-centered and self-directed learning methods, encouraging collaboration, and incorporating real-world projects, interviews, case studies and explorations, result in prolific learning when students are ready to drive their own learning. But using these practices is not always sufficient for students to truly take the reins. So what else do they need in order to get in the driver’s seat, take agency, and dive deep? And how do we help them do so?

(more…)

Next Gen Accountability: Ohio & Beyond

July 22, 2014 by

Originally published July 16, 2014 by Getting Smart.

Ohio Council of Community Schools

From ohioschools.org

Accountability is a gift. We don’t often think of it that way but, done right, it’s a bargain that provides autonomy, resources, and supports in return for a commitment to a set of desired outcomes. That’s how it’s supposed to work with your kids; that’s how it’s supposed to work with schools. At work accountability provides role and goal clarity like when your boss explains, “Here’s what I expect and how I’ll support you; if you don’t achieve desired results, here’s how the situation will be remedied.”

The University of Toledo and and its designee to authorize schools, The Ohio Council of Community Schools (OCCS), hosted a  school leaders conference today to discuss the next generation of accountability. As the Fordham Institute Ohio staff noted, there were a number of changes made to Ohio testing and accountability system in the last session including accountability provisions.  Following is a discussion of how accountability should work–from students to universities–with a few comments about where Ohio is on the curve. (more…)

Why kids are hiring competency-based education

July 17, 2014 by
from bacademy.org

From bacademy.org

Originally published July 16, 2014 by The Christensen Institute.

This week I had the privilege of sitting in on the first day of Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA)’s Responsive Education Alternatives Lab (REAL) Institute. The school has run the REAL Institute for four years, after fielding numerous requests from educators and administrators around the country wanting to learn more about BDEA’s competency-based alternative high school model.

Discussions of competency-based education these days (my own included!) are often awash with descriptions of what competency-based means and its abstract benefits. These definitions and examples may prove valuable to adults running the education system. But sometimes we are tempted into technocratic language that loses sight of the ultimate end user of our schools: the students. The REAL Institute facilitators wisely reminded participants of this fact by starting off the four-day Institute with a panel of BDEA students. (more…)

Five Reasons Competency Education Will Improve Equity

July 15, 2014 by
Chris Sturgis

Chris Sturgis

Why do we think that competency education is a better strategy to serve our lowest achieving students, including low-income students, minority students, English language learners, and those with special educational needs? Here are my top five reasons:

  1. Competency education is designed to identify and address gaps in knowledge and skills. We will always have students with gaps in knowledge, whether because of poverty-induced mobility, recent immigration, military transfers or health issues. When we identify and address gaps, students have a better chance at progressing.  As Paul Leather, NH’s Deputy Commissioner of Education, has pointed out, “We learn by connecting concepts and building expertise over time. If we do not learn a concept, new learning cannot be built on it.” (from Necessary for Success)
  2. Transparency and modularization is empowering and motivating. They are the ingredients for student ownership. Success begets success, as students see short-term gains and clearly marked next steps. Transparency also challenges bias and stereotypes that may contribute to lower achievement. (more…)

Can Competency Education Work in Urban Districts?

July 10, 2014 by
triangle

Designing for Autonomy

I’ve been hearing this question by foundations that are excited about competency education but are focused on investing in solutions for big districts in order to reach the most low-income students. (Interesting that Puerto Rico is the third largest school district and I don’t know of any foundations investing there.) “Urban” can be a code for students and families with brown and black skin that don’t have much in the way of financial assets. For those who need proof points that CBE works for “urban students”, the Barack Obama Charter School in Los Angeles is one. (Read the CompetencyWorks blog about it here.) I believe in this instance, however, the concern about competency education’s workability in urban districts is more about the size of the districts and the difficulty of introducing reforms.

My first advice to foundations that want to support big districts is to expand their boundaries. There has been a demographic shift over the past 20 years, with poverty slipping into inner ring suburbs. Adams 50 is an example of a suburban district at the edges of Denver that decided they had to do something different as they realized that the traditional system was in their way of responding to a changing student population. (Read the CompetencyWorks blog about it here.)  Foundations can take advantage of this “opportunity” by investing in the neighboring smaller districts that are trying to find responses to increasing poverty in their communities.  Not only will you create a proof point for the surrounding districts, you will also begin to build a cadre of educators that can easily train others or even take on leadership in the large districts. (more…)

Challenges and Solutions in Creating a Learner Improvement Cycle for Personalized Mastery

July 9, 2014 by

challengesIn our previous entry, we foreshadowed the need for learner involvement in all aspects of the Learner Improvement Cycle. The Learner Improvement Cycle is our adaptation from the work of Richard C. Owen’s Teaching-Learning Cycle. Our major innovation to Owen’s work is the focus from the teacher’s actions to the impact those actions have on the learner.  The Learner Improvement Cycle also encourages learners to seek multiple sources for their learning and to display their learning through technology, peers, teachers, experts in the field, and authentic audiences. This begins to enliven students’ acquisition and application of college- and career-readiness skills and knowledge. A major role change for both students and teachers is needed. Four challenges of implementing the Learner Improvement Cycle are:

  • Assessing: How does a teacher use assessment to instill academic confidence in his/her learners?
  • Evaluating: How do the adults in a school partner with their learners to provide authentic feedback on student results?
  • Planning: How are the learners personalizing their goals and action plans for learning?
  • Learning: How can learners master the standards through issues they find interesting?

Assessing Challenge: In many classrooms across America, every Friday, teachers say, “Put your books away, its time to take the test.”  The word “test” strikes fear in the hearts of many of those learners. This is because summative assessments are usually administered in a time-based manner; some students have been ready for days to display their knowledge and skills, while many of their classmates need more days and resources in order to master the concepts. Lessons learned from this kind of summative practice frustrate students and you hear, “Why do I have to wait to take the test? I’m ready now!” to “Why do I have to take the test now? I’m not ready!”  This reinforces students’ beliefs about themselves as learners. For the first learner, they fall into the trap of effortless learning and become frustrated when learning is finally presented to them at their instructional level. The second learner is reinforced that no matter how much effort they expend within the teacher’s timeframe, they will not be successful and gaps in their understanding become exacerbated.  Many students have had their confidence shaken as a result of this process. (more…)

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