May 21, 2015 by Natalie Abel
Achieve released a new paper titled Assessment to Support Competency-Based Pathways which addresses the role of summative assessment, clarifies key assessment challenges, and provides examples and recommendations that are useful to those who wish to design and implement assessment systems to support competency-based pathways.
Additionally, Springpoint is sharing a new set of resources, “Inside Mastery Based High Schools: Profiles and Conversations.” These resources — which include profiles, artifacts, and interview transcripts with school leaders — are drawn from visits to six competency-based high schools last year. Together, they provide a vivid picture of what competency-based learning looks like in a variety of contexts.
Springpoint began this project to address a need for concrete examples of competency-based learning in practice. Given the novelty of this work, they realized that many new school designers know the theory behind competency-based learning but would benefit from a deeper an understanding of its day-to-day practicalities.
They visited the following six schools: (more…)
May 19, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
Are you starting to think about how you might use your summer? Vacation? Summer camps for your kids? Creating a summertime learning plan with a list of books to read?
There are also four professional development opportunities available that might help you think more deeply about how you can transform your district and school to a competency-based model.
- Sanborn Regional School District in New Hampshire is offering a Competency Education Design Studio on July 22 -24. This is a new learning opportunity that’s never been offered before. The facilitators include Rose Colby, Competency Education Specialist; Dr. Brian Blake, Superintendent of Schools; and Ellen Hume-Howard, Director of Curriculum. You’ll hear from district staff including Ann Hadwen, Donna Johnson, Sandy Rutherford, Brian M. Stack, Michael Turmelle, Jonathan Vander Els, and Ann Rutherford. Mariane Gfroerer, Supervisor NH Performance Assessment, and Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner New Hampshire Department of Education will be there as well. For more information, email Ellen Hume Howard at ehumehoward(at)sau17(dot)org.
If you go to one of these trainings, we’d love to hear about your three to five big takeaways! And if you know of other great summer learning opportunities, please let us know.
May 6, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
I stumbled across a very helpful article Competency-based education: learning at a time of change in Proceedings of “European/national initiatives to foster competency-based teaching and learning” European Conference 2014. Although there are issues to be considered in translating our competencies to the European competences, this article summarizes a number of ideas that I think will be helpful. (See International Study in Competency Education: Postcards from Abroad for more background info.)
I’ve plucked a number of the sections below for you to look at:
- Attributes of competency-based learning (for the learner themselves)
- Attributes of competency-based teaching
- Considerations for writing competency-based objectives
Just keep in mind as you read this that the structure has everything linking back to the outcome — and we know that it in fact we need to keep students at the core.
1. What are the key attributes of competency-based learning?
- Understand how one learns best (style)
- Understand exactly what is expected outcome(s) of learning
- Take responsibility for one’s learning
- Motivated to learn – goal oriented
- Ethical person and practitioner
- Critical thinker
- Self-assess learning and performance
- Commitment to ongoing learning
May 4, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
What an incredible resource on State and Local Policies the Great Schools Partnership has put together regarding competency education/proficiency-based policies!!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
They’ve organized state statutes regarding high school graduation requirements, state learning standards, proficiency-based learning, and multiple/personalized learning pathways for their member states of Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. I’ve cut and pasted them for you here – but if you come looking for information in six months, go directly to their website to make sure you have the up-to-date information. You can find other really helpful resources there, as well. (And remember, proficiency-based education is K-12. When some people see the emphasis on high school, as is the case in these resources, they believe that it is only about older students. It’s not – its just that some states have either led with high school or with graduation requirements that put the emphasis on high school.)
High School Graduation Requirements
→ Chapter 170, Boards of Education, Sec. 10–221a. High School Graduation Requirements (more…)
April 21, 2015 by Brian Stack
I am the Principal at Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, NH. Our district has used a competency education model for the past five years and is one of the districts that is part of the exciting PACE (Performance Assessment of Competency Education) pilot program for school accountability. I am often asked by administrators who are looking to transition their schools to this kind of a model what it is like to communicate it to parents and families. This is something our school tries to do on an ongoing basis. Just this week, my two assistant principals and I held an evening coffee hour sponsored by our Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) to discuss the topic in more detail. It was a very well-attended evening. Below is a summary of how that evening was structure. It was first written and shared on my Principal’s Blog for parents who were unable to attend, but I am also sharing it with all of you on CompetencyWorks in the event that it could help you structure a similar event in your own schools.
Last night’s PTO meeting agenda said that school administrators would be available to lead a discussion on competency-based grading, but really it was all about chocolate chip cookies. What makes for an exemplary cookie, the one that is over-fresh with a sweet, rich, buttery flavor? The one with a real chocolate taste in each bite that complements that rich and flavored dough? You can’t teach someone how to make such a cookie until you take the time to define the criteria that you would use to assess it. It was through the lens of this scenario that Sanborn Regional High School Principal, Brian Stack, and Assistant Principals, Ann Hadwen and Michael Turmelle, helped everyone in the room understand the big picture of competency education, grading, and assessment and how it is working to provide a more rigorous education for all students.
Competency Education – The Big Picture (more…)
April 20, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
From the Common Ground Collaborative website
For any district or school leader starting to talk about the need move away from the traditional, standardized education system to a personalized system, you know that paying attention to communication is important.
First and foremost, you are going to have to be ready to engage in and facilitate conversation – it is through dialogue that people can shed their old assumptions and embrace the idea that we can do better by all of our students through personalization.
However, it helps to organize your thoughts and practice a bit before you go forth. No one should lead with why we need competency-based or proficiency-based systems – we want to lead with the story line of why this is good for kids. Then, as you begin to get deeper into the conversation, you’ll pull out the language to help people understand the limitations of a time-based, A-F system and the potential of one that actually has the structure in place to make sure students are making progress, not languishing in the back of the class.
Here are three resources that will be very helpful in preparing (and also a third piece that just inspired my language and vision after reading it):
And for inspiration, check out the Common Ground Ecosystem to see how folks in Brussels are putting these ideas together. Everybody Learns!
April 15, 2015 by Aditya Agarkar
This post was originally published at Getting Smart on January 17, 2015.
Don’t you think it’s time we retired those Scantron machines? Since the 70s, they’ve been trusted in hundreds of school districts across the country to tally the scores of students who filled pink ovals with #2 pencils. The Scantron machine heralded the pervasive use of multiple-choice questions in the decades that followed. Today, with all that we know about how to assess a student’s mastery of a topic, MCQs are an anachronism — like cassette tapes and typewriters. As readers of this blog are well aware, the education sector is undergoing the same technological innovation that has swept through businesses and households — and the rate of change is accelerating.
With all this technological progress underway, why are MCQs are still in use? One reason is that they are the default question format for many of the technology-assisted tools that, when introduced, made the assignment and grading process much more efficient and scalable. However, MCQs are simply not the best way test a student’s knowledge because they shed little light on the student’s ability to apply, integrate, and synthesize knowledge. Information gleaned from a MCQ test can often be misleading because students can guess the right answer or game the system to eliminate all the wrong choices – even if they don’t understand the question or know any of the correct answers. (more…)
April 8, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
There is still snow on the ground, but people were on fire at the New England Secondary Schools Coalition High Schools in Action annual gathering. The sessions were relatively quiet, but the hallways were buzzing:
- It is really hard to put down the red pen and stay focused on the few standards that are the goal of the learning.
- We were told we were preparing, preparing, preparing…and then suddenly we were there. We were performance-based.
- We learned that trying to mix grading styles was making students crazy. They were always trying to figure out the algorithms used in the computerized grading system. I could barely get them to talk about the quality of their work and accept that applied learning isn’t something you can always do quickly.
- One of the hardest things for some of my students to accept is that they are expected to actually work hard in a proficiency-based system. For some, the traditional system was really easy – especially if they excel in short-term memorization. It is a shocker that they are expected to actually show they can use all the information they have memorized. They realize they have gaps, and that is scary.
- Some teachers are still having difficulty with organizing their classrooms in a proficiency-based structure. It’s not based on age or length of time teaching – there is something about the mindset, the ability to move beyond what you experienced growing up and what you were taught to do as a teacher, that allows teachers to make the adjustment more quickly or need more time. (more…)
April 6, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
Every month (if not every week), competency education is being incorporated into other frameworks and organizations. For example, competency-based progressions are included in definitions of personalized learning, student-centered learning, and another version of personalized learning. Organizations continue to include competency education in their national meeting agendas, when launching new initiatives, and for building organizational capacity. There are over forty organizations including, addressing, and/or advancing competency education in their work now. (If your organization isn’t on this list and you want it to be, please email me at chris (at) metisnet (dot) net.)
My concern is that a lot of resources are going toward advancing competency education at the state level when we know that educators need to come to their own conclusions that they can do better by the children in their classrooms and communities. Certainly it is important to help state level leaders understand competency education, begin to build needed alliances, and prioritize a policy agenda. However, I would argue that at this point in our development, it is even more important to begin to generate more demand for competency education from the ground up. (more…)