Category: Uncategorized

Upcoming: Adams 50 Tells Their Story

April 21, 2014 by
dr. swanson

Adams 50 Superintendent Pamela Swanson

REL Central has organized a webinar Competency-Based Education Systems: One Colorado School District’s Experience at which leadership from Adams County School District 50, fondly known as Adams 50, will discuss their approach and lessons learned.

Dr. Oliver Grenham, Chief Academic Officer and Dr. Pamela Swanson, Superintendent will present the district’s instructional model for all learners (including instruction and assessment) and discuss particular concrete examples. The presenters will also discuss challenges and steps they have taken to address the challenges as they have strived to implement a competency-based system.

The webinar is May 14, 2014 from 1:00-3:00 pm MST. You can register here.

Light At the End of the Tunnel

April 14, 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 12.26.36 PMAfter finishing a round of site visits in New Hampshire and Colorado I had come to the conclusion that it was the lack of innovation in the private sector that was the biggest barrier to competency education. Everywhere I went, educators complained about their Student Information Systems (SIS) as unable to accommodate personalized learning and pacing.

The best that the SIS vendors (Power School and Infinite Campus were the systems used by the schools I visited) could do was add standards into courses so that teachers could do limited standard-based grading.  However, there was no way to indicate learning gains if students were working on standards before or beyond the course. The most worrisome issue was that it was impossible to generate student learning profiles that showed progress along a learning progression.  The course-based rigidity of the SIS systems required schools to operate two information systems and teachers to enter data twice because of interoperability issues. In one district, the leadership said that the inability of their SIS provider to innovate around personalization had limited full conversion of their high school

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As much as lack of innovation can be a barrier, the reverse is also true. Innovative technology that really understands personalization is going to help us jump into the future.  Seriously, I can barely contain my excitement after seeing Empower, the upgraded version of Educate used by many of the proficiency-based districts around the country.  Empower enables two new capacities that are going to open the door to innovation and zoom in on learning: (more…)

District Transformation in Danville

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danvilleI’m itching to go to Danville, Kentucky after listening to Superintendent Carmen Coleman on the webinar How Competency-Based Education is Transforming Assessment and Accountability Systems in School. She walked us through the process that Danville took towards a personalized, competency-based system (fyi — Kentucky uses the term performance-based).

School Board Leadership: The school board read The Global Achievement Gap, followed by school board and educator site visits to High Tech High and NYC’s iZone.  Their experience was “disturbing” as they saw that their own students weren’t being given the opportunity to do the same level of work – “even what we would have considered gap students were outperforming our AP students.” In addition to visiting schools, Danville had teacher exchanges where they brought teachers from other schools to Kentucky. (more…)

Don’t Miss These Webinars

April 10, 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 9.16.23 AMThere are more and more webinars coming up on proficiency-based or competency-based learning. We list them on Upcoming Events to the right of our web page — but just in case you missed them here they are:

How Competency-Based Education is Transforming Assessment and Accountability Systems in Schools Thursday, April 10, 2014, 3:00-4:00 PM ET

The final webinar in iNACOL’s  CCSSO Innovation Lab Network Webinar Series will feature Carmen Coleman, Danville School District, Kentucky  and Erica Stofanak (one of our contributing authors) Curriculum Instruction & Assessment Coach, Rochester School District, New Hampshire who will discuss measures for tracking student progress and growth, the various formative and summative assessments systems that are now in place, measuring teacher effectiveness, and the variety of reports utilized by administrators and teachers to indicate progress towards common goals. Various assessment tools will be shared that can be modified and utilized in other schools and districts with a similar vision.

Understanding Grading in Competency-based Schools Thursday, April 24, 2014, 2:00-3:00 PM ET

In this CompetencyWorks webinar Abbie Forbus and Brett Grimm from Lindsay Unified School District in California, will share Lindsay’s grading practices.  Lindsay Unified, a Race to the Top winner, has a strong personalized, performance-based system and well-developed grading system that emphasizes providing feedback to learners. Forbus and Grimm will provide an overview of the values and educational philosophy that guides Lindsay’s grading policy.  Then going into more depth, they will present the structure, practices, and reporting mechanisms. During this webinar you will learn how their information management system enables teachers, students and families to monitor student learning and progress along their learning progression. The final segment of the webinar will offer a discussion on implementation challenges and emerging issues.

Proficiency- & Competency-based Learning: Emerging Research on Implementation and Outcomes. May 5 12:30 – 2 ET.

Sponsored by REL-NEI, this webinar will explore emerging research on proficiency-based learning and its implications for practice in states, districts, and schools.  Jennifer Steele at RAND Corporation and Erika Stump at the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation will present findings from their newly published studies.

Proficiency-Based Learning Simplified: Supporting Students with Disabilities May 21  3-4 ET

In this Great Schools Partnership webinar Angela Hardy, Senior Associate, Great Schools Partnership
Jon Ingram , Senior Associate, Great Schools Partnership, Shannon Shanning, Special Education Teacher, and Bruce M. Whittier Middle School, Poland, ME will  address the role of Individual Educations Plans in a proficiency-based system, including the development of appropriate modifications to ensure that students with disabilities achieve proficiency.

Gateways, Not Grades

April 2, 2014 by

This is the second of a two-part series on Making Community Connections Charter School. Click here for Part 1.

 In our traditional system, students progress in age-based cohorts, with most students progressing regardless of what they know and somej curve being retained to repeat a year.  Competency education expects students to get the support they need so that they are proficient, offering flexibility as needed, such as allowing students to continue to focus on gaps or areas where they are not yet proficient (i.e. competency recovery) in the summer or the coming school year.  The challenge for the school is to keep students on track AND provide flexibility to ensure they become proficient, which means rapid response when students struggle and more intensive interventions as needed.

Making Community Connections Charter School (MC2) has a different understanding of what it means to be on track. It’s not just an arrow, angling up at 45 degrees. It’s the J curve, which predicts that as students become more mature, with the habits to be successful learners, they will take off and learn on a much steeper trajectory. Under this theory of learning, how does MC2 make sure students are on track and progressing?  (more…)

Audacious Thinking

March 28, 2014 by

audiaciousI was recently reading about Google X.  We often think of the Google workplace as the sandbox of Millennials.  It is filled with spaces for work and play and sets the pace for work-space design that challenges the thinking of educators who are working in spaces that are far different. Google X is the Google work environment on steroids.  It is the think tank of Google, where the only expectation of the employees is audacious thinking.

This has really jarred my thinking.  As we look at this new entity called competency education, we could really use a good dose of audacious thinking.  The No Child Left Behind era, which I hope is firmly ensconced in our rear view mirror, has trapped our thinking and caused a great deal of reactionary behavior in our ranks. Have you heard the following:  “Our kids haven’t done well on the state test for the past few years; we must need a new literacy program.”  “We don’t have enough supports in math, we’ll just have to build an RTI system for that, also.” (more…)

Another Brick in The Wall

March 25, 2014 by
Writing Wall PLC

Writing Wall PLC

 

Looking closely together at students’ work can unveil a treasure trove of insights to guide educators as they reflect on their purpose, assess their progress, and plan strategies for reaching all students more successfully. Students’ experiences are enhanced when teachers develop an awareness of where they fall along a continuum of learning. Writing, for instance, is a content area that lends itself well to studying student work within a continuum, and has been the focal point in guiding our teachers at Memorial Elementary School as we align our work not only within each grade level, but vertically within all grade levels in our school. 

Getting to this point, however, was a three-year journey that continues to evolve as we learn more about not only our students’ skills and needs, but also about our own staff needs related to instruction and aligning our assessment of student work. (more…)

What’s Homework Got to Do with It?

March 11, 2014 by
hramiec headshot

Alison Hramiec

At Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA), a student-centered, competency-based high school, we host as many as 20 educators every month who want to see for themselves how competency-based education (CBE) works in the classroom. After a few years of working with schools transitioning from traditional (Carnegie units and grade levels based on age) to competency-based education, what strikes me is the assumption by educators in both systems that CBE is radically different from traditional teaching. It’s not.

At the beginning of this school year, I sat in the back of a new BDEA teacher’s humanities class. As he reviewed with students the previous night’s homework, he explained, “If you complete the first two questions correctly you will be competent in this assignment; if you complete three questions you will be highly competent.” I looked through the series of papers he collected and discovered that very few students had even tried the third question, some had not done the assignment at all, and others had answered with very short responses.

A question that invariably is asked of us when we present our CB system to educators is “How do you get students to complete homework and classwork in a competency-based system, if those elements are no longer part of your grading equation?” BDEA’s “grading” system asks students to show competence in specific benchmarks, which are created in alignment to the Common Core to measure skill. Using rubrics, teachers set clear expectations about what it means to demonstrate competence according to our school’s definition: demonstrating a skill multiple times, independently and using the correct vocabulary. (more…)

Strengthening the Field

February 11, 2014 by
robert-marzano_3

Robert Marzano

I received two emails today that indicate that the “field” of competency education is strengthening.  First, Marzano Research Laboratory (MRL) announced that it is acquiring the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (RISC). MRL and RISC have a long-standing relationship. The acquisition will strengthen RISC (Rick Schreiber will continue as executive director) and expand MRL’s capacity to provide technical assistance related to competency education.  It also indicates that there is enough momentum in competency education for MRL to see this as a new market niche.

The press release quoted Dr. Marzano, ” “I am thrilled at the opportunity to take this relationship to the next level. The RISC model puts together all the critical components that we’ve known for years are important to school reform. What’s nice about it is, it has them all and it has them in a framework where they all interact and they are all very concrete. And the best part about it is that there are actually districts that have implemented the model that are demonstrating results in terms of student learning and student achievement.  This is a pretty powerful model. It’s got some strong evidence that it works.”

The second email was an announcement of a webinar with Dr. Robert J. Marzano and Richard A. DeLorenzo, Cofounder of the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (RISC), Former Superintendent of Chugach School District on February 18, 2014 1:00-3:00 pm MST. (Register Here)The goals of this webinar include: answering the question “What is competency-based education?”; addressing misconceptions about the role of standards in a competency-based school system; sharing current and existing research about competency-based education; and sharing experiences and challenges in implementing competency-based school systems.

The expansion of competency and high quality implementation has been constrained by limited technical assistance providers. This is an incredible step forward for all of us.

 

A K-12 Federal Policy Framework for Competency Education

February 3, 2014 by

CompetencyWorks - A K-12 Policy Framework for Competency Education - February 2014Although there are few barriers to competency education caused from federal policy, there is certainly a lot it can do to enable and catalyze it. In A K-12 Federal Policy Framework for Competency Education: Building Capacity for Systems Change Maria Worthen, iNACOL‘s Vice President for Federal and State Policy and Lillian Pace, ‎KnowledgeWorks’ Senior Director of National Policy, explore the ways that federal policymakers can become partners in the effort to redesign our education system around making sure students reach proficiency every step of the way towards college and career readiness.

Maria and Lillian emphasize that federal policymakers need to think about themselves as partners in this work as they consider ways to remove barriers to competency education, provide funding incentives, and support the development of learning infrastructure. As a starting point, federal policymakers can support state and local innovators by establishing a student-centered federal policy framework that supports competency education, with four guiding principles in mind:

Greater rigor and relevance — Measurement of student learning should be based on ensuring that students are on track and held to high, rigorous standards and aligned competencies — from cradle to career — to be successful in college and the workforce. (more…)

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