March 24, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
The Nellie Mae Education Foundation just opened up a request for proposals for their Amplifying Student Voice and Leadership work. Through this RFP, the Foundation will select up to four new youth organizing groups to build public understanding, support, and demand for student-centered learning. These new grantees will be located in Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont, or a combination thereof. Through this work, the Foundation seeks to amplify student voice and leadership across New England.
Below are the links to the materials you will need to apply to this RFP:
Request for Proposals
Nellie Mae Budget Template
Please respond to Delia Arellano-Weddleton, Program Officer, with any questions.
I think this is an incredible opportunity – we need so many more youth organizing groups in our country, no matter if we are designing the purpose or if it is open so that youth organize around the issues that are important to them.
March 17, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
Today, CompetencyWorks released a new paper, Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning: Insights from Experts. The paper is based on a two-day conversation with twenty-three incredibly insightful people who work in competency education, personalized learning, and blended learning – and the paper only captures a small portion of the rich conversation. (See A Mountain of Knowledge to Climb for more background) There are several parts to the paper, including:
- an exploration of the relationship between personalized learning, competency education, and blended learning and the concerns about equity that arise in each;
- issues that district leadership will want to consider in managing change, such as providing greater autonomy to schools;
- guidance for competency-based schools to enhance their instruction through blended learning; and
- how districts that have integrated blended learning can take the next step towards becoming competency-based.
Blended learning can help in competency-based schools in so many ways – sometimes with a tidbit of risk we need to guard against. We all know that high quality adaptive software can be helpful for students to develop their foundational skills. Blended learning can also help to offer students the opportunity to take what they are learning and go deeper, or begin to use what they are learning in knowledge creation. These aren’t discrete activities such as extra credit or helping peers. This is the opportunity for students to be highly challenged. Blended learning can be used to offer additional challenging projects that students can take on (call them honor projects, if need be) to strengthen their learning by asking them to further apply their skills to new situations (Level 4 Depth of Knowledge). Students will be able to access the challenges or problem-based learning independently so teachers can stay focused on supporting students who are still struggling to reach proficiency. The risk here is that schools only offer deeper learning to the high-achieving students, which is totally unacceptable. So we need to create both/and – embedding Level 4 work for all students into the school design at some point in the schedule and curriculum, and offering Level 4 work for students who have advanced to proficiency in the unit or course.
Another way blended learning can be helpful is to allow students to advance to the next level of learning once they have reached proficiency on a unit or course. This requires us to strip the ceiling off the education system by offering units online so students can advance. The risk is that that this will turn into a dynamic that so-called faster students are considered the better students. I’ve already visited schools where students talk about faster and slower students – it was done respectfully but was definitely a way for some students to differentiate themselves from their peers.
There are also challenges in using certain types of online learning in competency-based schools. These are raised in the paper and hopefully vendors will take these into consideration as they further develop their products.
We’d like to hear from you — How is your district/school using blended learning? What are the lessons learned and insights? What would your advise be to districts/schools about how to best implement blended learning to support students build and apply their skills?
March 16, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
Tomorrow, CompetencyWorks releases a new paper, Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning: Insights from Experts. I thought you might be interested in the background that led to the paper.
How can an emerging field of work advance quickly and with quality? It’s a question that foundation staff are constantly talking about, not to mention state and federal policymakers as they try to advance new ideas rather than enforce compliance with the old.
When Susan Patrick and I started talking about this idea, we realized that the model of state policy + supports certainly was a strong approach. However, it is unlikely that every state is going to be ready to to take the leap and invest in a high quality approach to helping districts convert. Furthermore, we think of competency education as a primarily bottom-up strategy – educators turn to it when they come to the conclusion that the traditional system is actually undermining their efforts to help students learn. So how can we advance the field when it requires voluntary leadership…or ownership of the idea? (more…)
February 27, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
Months later …and I’m still processing everything I learned on my Magical Mastery Tour of New York City. Most of the schools I visited were profoundly student-centered in the sense of designing around the needs of those students who face the greatest challenges. Increasingly, I’m thinking that we need to draw from the schools that have designed for students with special education needs and language needs, such as Carroll Gardens and Bronx International. If these students are in the center of the design, rather than considered sub-populations, I think we have a much better chance of seeing improvements in equity.
I’ve organized all the links in one place below to make it easier for you to take the tour yourself.
And check out the video in Shifting to Mastery-Based Approaches in New York City Public Schools by Jeremy Kraushar of Digital Ready.
February 5, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
For those of you ready to network with your colleagues, there are a few meetings that include competency education in the strands of sessions and speakers.
New England: Coming up soon is the New England Secondary Schools Consortium High School Redesign in Action conference on March 26-27 in Massachusetts. (Note: there are only about 100 spots left.)
Oregon: The Oregon Annual Proficiency Conference co-sponsored by BEC and COSA is scheduled for April 10, 2015. Jaime Robles, Principal at Lindsay High School, is a keynote speaker.
National: The 2015 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium will take place on November 8-11 in Orlando, Florida at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. A request for breakout sessions and workshop proposals opened on February 4th if you would like to share your knowledge and lessons learned. Registration for the Symposium will open in March. (more…)
February 3, 2015 by Natalie Abel
From the States
- North Carolina: North Carolina New Schools is making the case for competency-based learning in North Carolina, as Angela Quick, Senior VP, explains in her blog. A convening of thought leaders was held in December to operate as a “think tank” to identify enablers, barriers, and readiness factors regarding North Carolina’s transition toward competency education. Mooresville Graded School District is now offering credit by demonstrated mastery (CDM) to middle and high school students. In 2013, the NC State Board of Education changed policy to enable mastery-based credits. (The Journal)
- Michigan: Mary Esselman, former deputy chancellor at the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan, announced her resignation in January. She championed Michigan’s turnaround district by reshaping teaching and curriculum around student-centered, technology-focused models.
New Reports and Resources (more…)
February 2, 2015 by Scott Marion
This paper is also available in PDF form here.
We are in the midst of two major reform initiatives occupying the attention of school district leaders throughout the country. Teacher evaluation has been the most prominent educational policy issue of the past five years, and evaluating teachers in the so-called “non-tested subjects and grades” has been one of the thorniest challenges in the design of these new educator evaluation approaches. Student learning objectives have emerged as the most common approach for documenting teacher contributions to student learning (Hall, Gagnon, Thompson, Schneider, & Marion, 2014). Competency-based education has taken hold to help ensure that students have mastered critical knowledge and skills before becoming eligible for graduation or moving on to the next learning target rather than simply occupying a seat for a certain amount of time. Unfortunately, many school leaders do not see the strong relationship between these two initiatives and feel like they have to do “double-duty” to meet both sets of policy goals. I describe each of these initiatives below and then illustrate how the close connection between the two can create coherence and efficiencies.
While there are potentially many definitions of competencies and competency-based education, I rely on the following from Patrick and Sturgis (2013):
Competency education is an approach to teaching and learning in which: (more…)
January 27, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
This is the fifth post in the Chugach School District series. Read the first, second, third, and fourth posts here.
How does competency education work in small, rural K-12 schools?
When I first started reading about Chugach School District five years ago, I just didn’t get it. After spending much of my adult life in New England, rural meant a small town an hour away from another small town. When I moved to New Mexico, Landon Mascareñaz (now at Denver Public Schools) insisted I join him on a road trip into the northwestern corner to understand the dynamics of serving Native Americans in rural areas. The expanses of land and sky between each town were staggering. So was the realization that rural and remote schools had to balance being deeply community-based (valuing the cultures, communities, and assets surrounding them) with the need to expand students’ horizons.
My personal horizons expanded tremendously about what remote means on my trip to Chugach School District. I first realized that I was on the edge of my comfort zone as I accompanied Debbie Treece, Special Education Director, on a trip to the Whittier Community School (WCS). (more…)
January 16, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
I had a chance to see ACHIEVE’s Communication Tool Kit during a webinar on communication strategies for state policy leaders. The materials are truly terrific…absolutely every person should read them and start using the language and talking points. They are so good and so important to read that I’m publishing the Core Messages right here.
The one word I would caution is that the ideas haven’t been message tested – for you funders out there, it would be a great investment to do some focus groups with different constituencies and stakeholders, especially communities that have historically received less-than-adequate educational services.
FYI, there are lots of resources – including planning tools and an infographic – that will be coming soon.
Competency-Based Pathways: Definition, Key Messages, and Talking Points (more…)