Category: Resource

I’m So Excited…and I Just Can’t Hide It

September 4, 2015 by

ExcitementThe competency education strand at the iNACOL Symposium looks excellent! There are sessions on New Hampshire’s efforts to create a balanced system of assessments, how to convert your schools (both elementary and high school) to competency education, how to meet students where they are and address gaps in student’s foundational skills, strategies for prototyping, and how to increase diversity in the field. And let me give a special thanks to Reinventing Schools Coalition and Springpoint Schools for organizing sessions where we get to hear from students and teachers.

Here is a sampling of the sessions related to competency education. And remember—there are two pre-conference workshops on November 8, as well.

November 9

The Art and Science of Teaching in a Competency-Based System:

Rick Schreiber of Reinventing Schools Coalition (now part of Marzano Labs) will walk participants through a series of interactive tasks to identify essential questions that represent a logical planning sequence for successful competency-based instructional design. They will analyze their current instructional units and review them through a competency-based lens. Learn important teacher behaviors for engaging students in owning their learning as well as understanding essential instructional routines that provide clear learning goals and define levels of proficiency.

Being Honest, Getting Serious: Increasing Racial Diversity Among Staff & Boards in the Learning Revolution Movement

John Branam of Learning Accelerator and I will be leading a discussion on the dynamics of the transformation that is happening in American education today. While our nation’s schools are increasingly black and brown, the overwhelming majority of individuals leading the revolution are white. Are you comfortable with this? If not, join us. During this session we’ll share statistics about the diversity of boards and staff from revolution-leading organizations and, more importantly, identify how you can help address this racial imbalance.

Rethinking Assessments to inform Competency-Based and Personalized Education

In Spring 2015, Member States of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium approved a competency education plan. Smarter also delivered standardized assessments to seven million students in eighteen states during that time. Brandt Redd, CIO of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, will lead an experience with sample assessments, interpretations of sample reports, and an overall vision of how standardized assessments can contribute important insights to their competency-based and personalized learning efforts.

Talk Less, Do More: How Prototyping Can Lead to Successful Competency-Based Implementation

Colleen Broderick of the Donnell-Kay Foundation will share learnings on the power of engaging users to explore a variety of assumptions and unveil solutions where research and replication falls short. This session outlines their competency framework and engages participants as a potential user through a variety of rapid prototypes designed to test ideas and provide fodder to successfully assess the viability of strategies before fully implementing a competency-based model. [See Thinking Way, Way, Way Out of the Box at the Donnell-Kay Foundation.] (more…)

Developing a Growth Mindset at Fraser Public Schools

September 2, 2015 by

FraserThe following is a presentation made at Fraser Public Schools on September 2. Fraser has already invested in integrating technology into their classrooms and developing blended approaches to learning. They are now seeking to develop a competency-based infrastructure that will ensure students get the support they need.

This presentation explores what competency education is, examines how districts are developing their models, and takes a deeper dive into the new values and assumptions underlying personalized, competency-based systems and how they shape new practices. For those of you wanting to skip ahead of the definition, the section on districts starts at slide 10 and the section on the new values starts on slide 25.

Slide2

There are many ways to open the door to discussion of competency education. We could talk about why the traditional system doesn’t work or we could start with the classroom and expand into policy. Today, we’ll start with a bird’s-eye view of competency education and then go a bit deeper to visit some of the leading districts to find out what they are learning. We’ll wrap up with a look at the new set of values and assumptions that drive competency education.

Slide 17

Competency education is called different things in different states – ME and OR call it proficiency-based; CT calls it mastery-based; IA and NH call it competency-based. As soon as we update this map, we hear of another state taking a step forward. In June, it was Idaho and Ohio. I just heard that Nevada is starting a study group to learn more about it. It is spreading across the country because educators believe it is the best thing for kids.

I am confident that we are going in the right direction because many districts, without enabling state policy, are converting their schools to competency education. Examples include Lindsay in California, Warren and Springdale in Arkansas, Charleston in South Carolina, Henry and Fulton in Georgia, Freeport in Illinois, and Lake County in Florida.

Competency education has started in smaller districts in rural areas and inner ring suburbs. We think smaller districts are better positioned to make the change because it’s easier to engage community and easier to have more dialogue rather than resorting to memo/email for communication. (more…)

What’s More Important, High Test Scores or Self-Direction?

September 1, 2015 by

Child StudyingThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on August 17, 2015.

The education technology discussion is fraught with false dichotomies. One that I find particularly troubling is the false choice between improving test scores and preparing for life and work in the 21st century.

The argument on one side is that the United States is falling behind other countries with evidence offered such as our 30th place showing in math on the PISA test. In order to be competitive, we need to increase our scores on such international benchmarks. To achieve this we should:

  • Shift the focus in schools from what content is presented by teachers to what content has been learned by students. In order to ensure that focus changes, teachers must be held accountable for actual student test scores rather than just presenting the curriculum.
  • Ensure students have technology available for digital learning and collect data for real-time feedback to focus more on the needs of each individual student.
  • Use technology and blended learning to enable students to move at their own pace and progress based on mastery rather than seat time.
  • Personalize learning by providing an optimal path for each student through the core content they need to know for college.

On the other side, the argument is that the focus on test scores is unbalanced and has replaced meaningful learning with the rote memorization of facts and procedures with little critical thinking involved. This has unintended consequences of hampering great teachers’ ability to teach, while driving the best out of the profession while failing to improve test scores. The reasoning is that such rote decontextualized pedagogy is ineffective because it is irrelevant to students and gives them no context in which to place the new information in order to both understand it more deeply and remember it more effectively. This leaves students unprepared for college, but more importantly unprepared for a constantly evolving workplace. To prepare students effectively we need to: (more…)

Non-Cognitive Skills: Bad Name, Really Important

August 27, 2015 by

BlocksThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on August 15, 2015.

The research is clear, so called non-cognitive skills are key to success in college and work.

  • A 20-year study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published in the July 2015 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, suggests that kindergarten students who are more inclined to exhibit “social competence” traits—such sharing, cooperating, or helping other kids—may be more likely to attain higher education and well-paying jobs.
  • A University of Chicago literature review funded by the Lumina and Raikes foundations said, “Students must develop sets of behaviors, skills, attitudes, and strategies that are crucial to academic performance in their classes.”Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners outlines categories of non-cognitive factors related to academic performance including behaviors, perseverance, mindsets, learning strategies, and social skills. It’s not just struggling students that benefit, “all students are more likely to demonstrate perseverance if the school or classroom context helps them develop positive mindsets and effective learning strategies.” The report outlines five key learning strategies, 1) study skills, 2) metacognitive strategies, 3) self-regulated learning, 4) time management, and 5) goal-setting.
  • Research done by Penn prof Angela Lee Duckworth determined that grit and self-control predict success in life. On the other coast Stanford prof Carol Dweck found that a “growth mindset”–the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—was critical to success compared to a belief that intelligence is fixed.
  • Bill Sedlacek partnered with the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMSP) to study what attributes were predictors of college degree attainment for students of color. He found eight noncognitive competencies that were higher predictors of success in college than either GPAs or SAT/ACT scores. The non-cognitive competencies include realistic self-appraisal, navigation skills, focus on long range goals, leadership, work experience.

(more…)

What’s Personalization Got to Do with It? On the Road to College and Career Success

August 26, 2015 by

I am delighted to have the chance to visit the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative in Hazard, KY and meet with educators in their Next Generation Leadership Academy this week. They are spending time reflecting on the different ways to think about college and career success. Below is my presentation on how we might begin to think about college and career success in a competency-based structure.

The districts that are part of the Next Generation Leadership Academy at the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative have been investing in many different ways to improve their schools. These include the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative to advance blended learning, efforts to raise student voice and leadership, personalized approaches to educator effectiveness, ways of approaching children wholistically, including early childhood health and trauma-informed services, and STEM.

What’s more even more impressive is that they are building their capacity to use design – enabling districts to begin to weave all these pieces together into the next generation districts and schools.

Slide 2

Designing anything always starts with having a clear idea of what you want to achieve. Sometimes, this is described as a problem you want to solve or something you want to improve, such as less expensive or more cost-effective. Or it may be described as your goal, the change you want to make happen in the world.

The question we have to ask ourselves in thinking about next generation education is what we want for our graduates of high school. We need to describe the change or, if you want to use a business lens, describe the product. However, there is also a big problem we are trying to solve that will shape every step of the design process. We haven’t yet been been able to figure out how to make sure all students become proficient in grade level skills, get a diploma, or are fully prepared for college. We need to think about the elements of a system that will be more reliable.

Today, we will spend sometime thinking about the goal, the system that would reduce inequity, and what it is going to take to get us from here to there. (more…)

Have You Made Plans for the iNACOL Symposium Yet?

August 25, 2015 by

AirplaneAs you may know, the only place to network with all your competency education colleagues from across the nation is at the iNACOL Symposium on Online and Blended Learning coming up on November 8-11 in Orlando, FL. iNACOL organizes an entire strand on competency education, highlighting approaches and issues for districts and schools that are already moving towards blended learning as well as those that are making the conversion without the help of technology.

I’ll be highlighting the competency education strand in the next couple of weeks. However, we wanted to let you know that there are two pre-conference workshops on November 8th just in case you are thinking about your travel plans.

In the morning on the 8th, you can find an advanced session on Expert Seminar on Standards (Data, Content Metadata, Technology) for Competency Education starring Liz Glowa, iNACOL; Jim Goodell, Quality Information Partners, Inc.; and Brandt Redd, SmarterBalance. The description is below:

Competency Education operates at the crossroads between achievement standards, student information standards, technical standards, systems of assessments and content metadata. An understanding of the landscape of education data and technology standards will help organizations select and build technology solutions to support their competency initiatives. CEDS, system integration and data transfer options and challenges, interoperability and the role of metadata in relating learning content to learning maps will be discussed.

This workshop will bring together leaders in designing and delivering competency education to discuss the ecosystem of technology needed to support competency education and how the parts fit together to make a successful whole. To deliver competency education, we need:

  1. information about content,
  2. information about learners, and
  3. information about learner interactions… with content (e.g. assessments/activities) and with other people (teachers/peers)

NOTE: This session is for participants who have an advanced understanding of education data and technology standards.

(more…)

Integrating Career Technical Education with Competency-Based Education

August 8, 2015 by

This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on August 5, 2015.

Library“One system that has often been overlooked in conversations about competency based pathways has been that of career technical education (CTE). CTE has promoted personalized learning and real-world application – both fundamental tenets of a competency-based approach – yet it has rarely been intentionally integrated into states’ Competency-Based Pathway (CBP) approaches.”

Alissa Peltzman, Achieve’s VP of State Policy & Implementation Support, is right. There’s much to learn from CTE that can inform and act as an entry point to competency-based systems in both K-12 and HigherEd systems.

With this acknowledgement, Achieve recently partnered with the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) to elevate the value of coordination between CBE and CTE leaders.

In May 2015, Achieve and NASDCTEc brought together national partner organizations alongside several states within Achieve’s Competency-Based Pathways (CBP) State Partnership to better understand the implications of systems alignment, identify key considerations, and elevate states and districts already beginning this integration. To share insights from this work, the groups co-authored and released Building a Strong Relationship between Competency-Based Pathways and Career Technical Education–a report that identifies opportunities for collaboration, integration, and strengthened relationships between CBP and CTE leaders. It explores the leverage points and challenges to integrating CTE into a CBP system, and where possible, offers state and district examples. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

August 7, 2015 by

News
Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AM

What Is Competency Education?

  • A Q&A with Rebecca Wolfe, Director of Students at the Center project and personalized learning advocate, discusses how personalized learning can help historically underserved students.
  • Formative assessment is an ideal starting point on the path to personalization; tracking student mastery is an ideal next step. Read more here.

Implementing Competency Education

(more…)

How Competent Are We at Competency Education?

August 6, 2015 by

Below is the presentation I prepared for the New Hampshire Education Summit on the topic How Competent Are We at Competency Education? (here is link to video)

What a pleasure it is to be here in New Hampshire – the well-spring of competency education. When Susan Patrick, my partner in co-founding CompetencyWorks, and I did the scan of competency education in 2010, we found that there were pockets of competency education across the country. However, there was only one state – and that state was New Hampshire – that had the foresight, courage, and leadership to set a new course for their schools and for their children. Now look at you, setting the course for federal policy by having the courage to imagine a new way for the state and districts to co-design a system of quality assurance – what we used to call state accountability.

State Policy Snapshot

Competency education is spreading across the country. As soon as CompetencyWorks updates this map, we hear of another state taking a step forward. For example, in June, Idaho and Ohio both decided to invest in pilots. However, the thing that convinces me we are going in the right direction is that districts, without the help of any enabling state policy, are converting to competency education – Lindsay in California, Warren and Springdale in Arkansas, Charleston in South Carolina, Henry and Fulton in Georgia, Freeport in Illinois, and Lake County in Florida. (more…)

Introducing a New Definition of Competency Education

August 4, 2015 by

RELAs you probably know, five years ago CompetencyWorks developed a five-part working definition with the help of 100 innovators to help provide some stability to the field. (Our introductory materials explore competency education in more depth.) The definition was designed to describe what a new competency-based structure should be able to do with enough openness that it could be used to guide discussion about policy, systemic issues, school designs, or classroom practice.

As organizations continue to try to improve the definition of competency education as well as clarify the relationship of competency education to personalized learning and blended learning, it gives all of us a chance to deepen our understanding and strengthen our work together.

On Monday August 17th, from 3–4:30 p.m. ET, REL Northeast & Islands researchers will present a new study on definitions and policies related to competency-based education and implementation across the New England region. If you haven’t learned about New Hampshire’s efforts to develop a new system of assessment that includes performance-based assessment, this will be a chance to listen to Paul Leather discuss the implementation of PACE in several pilot districts. Register here.

Presenters include Aubrey Scheopner Torres, PhD, Assistant Professor, Saint Anselm College; Research Consultant, REL Northeast & Islands and Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner of Education, New Hampshire Department of Education. The Discussant is Julia Freeland, Research Fellow, Clayton Christensen Institute. The webinar will be be moderated by Jessica Brett, Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance, and Joshua Cox, Researcher, Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance.

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