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Reminder: Submit Proposal for the Competency Ed Strand for the iNACOL Symposium by March 26

March 13, 2015 by

symposiumHi everyone – This is just a quick reminder that the deadline for submitting presentation and workshop proposals is Thursday, March 26, 2015. You can get more information about the Request for Presentation Proposals (RFP) at the conference website. The iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium will be November 8-11, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. The theme is: Connecting Powerful Innovators.

iNACOL is looking for highly interactive sessions – and we know that those of you who have become more advanced in competency education have a lot to share. In addition, we all need to be building up our knowledge on a number of issues: communications, performance-based assessments, how to use blended learning, information management systems, how to use data to drive improvement….and the list goes on. So, consider knowledge-building sessions as well as knowledge sharing.

If you have questions regarding the RFP, please contact Ally Swensen, Chair of the iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium Program Committee, at gro.l1427625166ocani1427625166@muis1427625166opmys1427625166.

Competency Education in Practice: Newfound Regional High School Spotlight

December 29, 2014 by
Bristol, NH Central Square Wikipedia

Bristol, NH Central Square
Wikipedia

This spotlight originally appeared in the CCSR October 2014 Newsletter.

In 2005, New Hampshire became the first state to abolish the Carnegie Unit and mandate that by SY ’08-’09 all high schools measure credit according to students’ mastery of course competencies rather than seat time. CSSR works with a number of New Hampshire schools through the i3 NETWORK to build the pedagogical and leadership capacity to take on this transformational work. Newfound Regional High School is one of those i3 NETWORK schools.

Newfound Regional High School | Bristol, NH

The school motto, “working to provide a personalized, competency-based education for every student,” is deeply engrained in the work the school has done to implement competency education and aligned performance assessment. School Redesign Coordinator Jim LeBaron is quick to emphasize the dramatic cultural shift that is taking place within the building, but acknowledges that for educators: “seeing kids engaged and taking ownership of learning is a big win for getting educators on board.” The road to where they are now has not always been easy and LeBaron offered up several tips for schools looking to do similar work:

Writing Competencies

Having departments work together to determine overarching competencies within their disciplines is superior to individual subject areas developing their own competencies. These overarching competencies allow for more interdisciplinary work, thematic projects, and a more vertically aligned pathway through the content areas. At Kearsarge, the autonomy of classroom teachers to develop their own unit plans and the autonomy of individual students to personalize their own learning pathways was maintained. By not prescribing performance tasks aligned to the competencies, students are expected to choose how they will demonstrate mastery. (more…)

A Deeper Dive into the EPIC North Design (Part 2)

December 8, 2014 by
Mr. Dash

Mr. Dash’s Science Class

This article is part of a series of case studies of schools in New York City. For the full story, start with my overview of the Magical Mastery Tour and the three biggest takeaways. Part 1 of the EPIC North visit can be found here or just scroll down the page.

The EPIC North school design is best explained by the students themselves.

Teachers give us guidelines for our projects. We can learn in different ways, including learning from outside of school. We have to figure things ourselves and we have to learn how to do it ourselves. But we are never all by ourselves. Teachers are always there to help us.

Like most mastery-based schools, EPIC is founded on the idea of student ownership, transparency of learning expectations, and demonstrating proficiency before advancing to the next stage of learning. In this case, EPIC embeds the mastery-based structure within a tightly woven culture and programming based on youth development and future focus through CORE and Summer Bridge.

A Personalized, Mastery-Based Structure

Across the three EPIC high schools, staff and students use technology as a means to personalize learning. Students interact with the schools’ LMS (Educate) and relevant Google programs to receive, complete and submit assignments, collaborate, and track their learning progress. Currently the schools are implementing a one-to-one (student to device) program. In classes, teachers use both procured and teacher-generated digital content. In classes like targeted support, students use interactive software to practice and develop their skills towards mastery. As students access material and produce works, staff are available to provide direct support and guidance. However, it is important to note that at EPIC schools, teaching and learning is highly blended. In addition to technology use, students participate in class activities, discussions, and labs that require collaborating with peers and working with teachers. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education

November 26, 2014 by

ReportsiNCL_CW_logo_K12

Early Progress: Interim Research on Personalized Learning was released by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rand Corporation last week. They define personalized learning as, “Systems and approaches that accelerate and deepen student learning by tailoring instruction to eachstudent’s individual needs, skills, and interests.Students have a variety of rich learning experiences that collectively will prepare them for success in thecollege and career of their choice. Teachers play an integral role by designing and managing the learning environment, leading instruction, and providing students with expert guidance and support to help them take increasing ownership of their learning.” At the iNACOL Symposium last week Vicki Phillips introduced a four part operational definition (you can find it on Ed Week) that includes competency-based progressions, flexible learning environments, personal learning paths, and learner profiles.

So You Think You Want to innovate? Emerging Lessons for State and District Leaders Working to Build a Culture of Innovation by 2Revolutions and The Learning Accelerator is a toolkit for district and state leaders.

An Up-Close Look at Student-Centered Math Teaching released by the he Nellie Mae Education Foundation finds that students in more student-centered math classrooms are more highly engaged in what they are learning and show growth on problem-solving skills, as compared to students in less student-centered classrooms. Led by researchers Dr. Kirk Walters and Toni M. Smith, the study also finds that: (more…)

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What’s New in Competency Education in K12 and Higher Education

August 26, 2014 by

K12 ResourcesScreen Shot 2014-06-23 at 5.46.08 PM and Events

In the News

  • The Des Moines Register’s article Five Trends to Look for This School Year includes student-led conferences and student setting the pace. Shawn Cornally from Iowa Big is quoted, “”Some students move much faster, and some students move much slower, but they learn it a lot better.”

Four Pitfalls to Implementing Personalized Mastery: The Culture

July 2, 2014 by

cultureThe journey to a personalized learning system is fraught with pitfalls and hurdles. Can you get your Board on board? Will teachers embrace new practice to replace current practice? Can you create a communication plan for all stakeholders that really communicates? Will a system that has been in place for one hundred years surrender to one that prepares learners for the next one hundred years? We have found that on this journey there are some key practices that must be built to help answer “yes” to these questions. These practices fall into two categories:

  • Common Moral Purpose
  • Culture of Continuous Improvement
    • Readiness for Change
    • Trust to Doubt
    • Learner-centered Collective Efficacy

This article will focus on these two categories, which help to create a culture for personalized mastery. The Learner Improvement Cycle will be explored in a subsequent article.

Creating a Common Moral Purpose for the Schools our Students Deserve:

Our current educational system does not insist that all of our students achieve to proficiency. As a matter of practice, we give students Ds, and we accept perfunctory efforts as a result. Many schools have grading practices that confuse the issue of success against standards with point acquisition on an arbitrary 100-point scale. These practices are evidence that the public school system has not embraced the moral purpose of “proficiency for all” our students. Being trapped in a time-based system with an agrarian calendar has put a stress on teachers to “cover” material instead of insisting on learners’ demonstrating an understanding of key concepts that will allow them to be successful in future learning. The schools in our nation must examine their common moral purpose and conclude that our current system does not serve all learners well. We must change to a system that allows time to be the variable. The constant must be mastery against the standards by providing learners the resources they need.

(more…)

Performance-Based Assessments as a Tool for Building Lifelong Learning Competencies

June 30, 2014 by

I’m sharing this article on Laconia High School that was originally published in the Center for Secondary School Reform Winter 2014 newsletter. Competency-based schools can learn a lot from schools that have used performance-based assessment as their entry point. This article caught my attention because of the strong integration of youth development — young people developing a strong sense of themselves within a context of their communities as well as an understanding of their own motivation.  I realized that this type of performance-based assessment can be a valuable tool in developing lifelong learning competencies (i.e. habits, college readiness skills or 21st century skills).

This article didn’t specifically raise the issue of racial or gender identity and how the interplay of motivation, behavior and choice might vary when students encounter institutional racism or sexism. I imagine if these performance-based assessments were implemented in Manchester instead of Laconia, the issue of how opportunity might vary based on race, gender and income would arise quickly in the discussion. Perhaps it did in Laconia as well?

 

Laconia High School’s Performance-Based Assessments

Laconia High top 10 scholars.

Laconia High top 10 scholars.

Laconia High School is implementing Performance Based Assessments (PBAs) that tie content learning directly to students’ college and career aspirations. This is done using a vertical design that consistently integrates students’ voices and choices into the curriculum delivery each year throughout each student’s four-year educational career.  In this way, we are working to ensure students graduate from our educational community with the skills needed to move toward their chosen goals.

Laconia High School has been part of the CCSR i3 Network for four years. Our original direction involved the development and implementation of Extended Learning Opportunities. The philosophy behind ELOs seemed to work well for those students who had the discipline to stick with the work they designed and the structured due dates that came with it. In the last two years, we have worked to integrate that philosophy into our overall four-year program so that students developed the desire to “own” their education. This has resulted in greater engagement for our students. Students have an increased awareness of the relevance of what they are learning, they are more aware of how their education can be connected to the future they want to have, and they are regularly asked to assess how their current performance is moving them toward or away from the goals they have set.

(more…)

What Is a Proficiency-Based Diploma?

June 18, 2014 by

By far, this news piece on Maine’s proficiency-based diploma is the best I’ve seen at explaining what we mean whScreen Shot 2014-06-16 at 11.09.05 AMen we say proficiency-based learning or competency education. The big point is that we know ask for 4 math courses to graduate rather than being proficient in them.

We still need to get our explanations down to an “elevator speech”.  We’d love to hear how you explain what proficiency-learning is? (or whatever term you use in your school and state).

Tying It Together with Performance Assessments

June 17, 2014 by
Jonathan Vander Els

Jonathan Vander Els

During the past year, Memorial Elementary School staff has focused our learning on how to develop high quality performance assessments. Along with colleagues from other schools in our districts, we have participated in the Center for Collaborative Education’s Quality Performance Assessments training, as well as focused our professional development throughout the year. As we built our capacity over the year, it became clear that performance assessments have tied together the significant amount of work we have been engaged in over the past five years in implementing competency education.

Background

Our district, Sanborn Regional School District in southern New Hampshire, has admittedly taken the plunge with a number of best practices designed to increase our understanding of curriculum and our ability to most effectively instruct students. This work included teachers developing “crosswalks” between the New Hampshire Grade Level Expectations and the Common Core about three years ago. This was done through professional release days and was led by our Director of Curriculum, Ellen Hume-Howard. We made the switch to assessing students’ performance only through the Common Core over the past two years. Teachers’ transition to these standards was seamless because of the support provided during the transition and the teachers’ understanding that the work we were engaged in together was helping them help our students. In fact, teachers requested that all other standards be dropped from their grade book because they understood the Core standards and the others weren’t needed for guidance any longer. (more…)

Finding Your Way With a Roadmap

June 13, 2014 by

Most of the districts that have converted to competency education have done so with very little use of technologScreen Shot 2014-06-13 at 9.32.28 AMy. It’s been a transformation based on a different philosophy of how to motivate students (the intrinsic joy and pride of learning instead of the extrinsic grading system) and a re-engineering of the system around learning rather than the delivery of curriculum.

However, competency education will be a lot easier to manage if there is adequate management information systems. Blended learning can be structured to allow students to move ahead to more advanced studies.  Well-structured adaptive software can really give a boost to students who need some help building skills at the levels of recall and comprehension. (See Susan Patrick’s blog on the different characteristics of adaptability).

Getting a solid picture of the technological landscape isn’t easy to do. The Roadmap for Competency-based Systems: Leveraging Next Generation Technologies is designed to do just that – identify the key questions and steps to figure out how technology can help you better implement competency education as well as generate the greatest benefits. My guess is that you will find the glossary really helpful as well. Thanks to Council of Chief State School Officers and 2 Revolutions for developing this tool.

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