September 8, 2014 by Jonathan Vander Els
This past August I had the opportunity to participate in an incredibly effective model of professional development hosted by our school district. It consisted of workshops and presentations from national, state, and local experts focused on various topics related to assessment, including competency education, building Quality Performance Assessments, and the development of high-quality rubrics.
The varied roles, responsibilities, and experiences of the many presenters added to the uniqueness of our “Assessment Summit.” Participants and presenters included Rose Colby, Competency Education Specialist, Rob Lukasiak, mathematics and assessment specialist, district and building-level administrators, and teachers from grades K-12. This allowed for differentiated PD for the 100-plus participants, while supporting the professional development needs identified in our district related to competencies and Quality Performance Assessments.
Our district, the Sanborn Regional School District in New Hampshire, has continued to push forward in the world of competency education. Despite the bumps we have experienced, we fully realize that this is an educational practice that truly captures each student’s ongoing growth and progression within their learning. Teamed with instruction that is differentiated, personalized and based upon a solid understanding of the Core standards, students are engaged in learning that is focused, are provided with opportunities for support or extension as needed, and understand their role and responsibility in their learning. (more…)
August 25, 2014 by Paul Leather
On Monday August 11, 2014, leaders from our four NH PACE-implementing school districts gathered, along with our partners, Dan French and staff from the Center for Collaborative Education and Scott Marion of the Center for Assessment. PACE stands for Performance Assessment for Competency Education. We are moving forward this year with a demonstration project, to prove that we can advance the transformation of our public education system, in part, by changing our accountability model. We would like to lessen the importance of taking simply the summative Smarter Balanced in the spring of 2015 by establishing a richer array of assessments designed to help us with measuring learning and growth for students, teachers, and schools. We would rather see an assessment system include SBAC at grade spans, as well as complex performance assessments.
We believe that this kind of system will allow us to measure a more complete range of knowledge, skills, and practices, necessary for CCR. Linda Darling-Hammond, Gene Wilhoit, and Linda Pittinger have pictured this range of learning in a recent paper:
July 23, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
Hi all — Just a reminder to all of you who might be considering submitting a proposal to SXSW – the deadline is Friday. It would be great to have some sessions on competency education from folks who understand it as a school-wide model (as compared to the more limited understanding of it as pacing flexibility that is available in blended learning). Or better yet, how to use self-pacing blended learning within a competency-based school!
To help you prepare a proposal:
I’ve never made it to SXSW before — and it is now on my schedule for March 9 -12, 2015.
July 2, 2014 by Copper Stoll and Gene Giddings
The 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.
June 30, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
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 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.
June 23, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
Here is a quick review of some of the great things happening or reported about in competency education last week!
Great Articles on Leading Schools and Districts
Districts Beginning the Journey
- Freeport School District, Illinois: We haven’t heard much about competency education from Illinois even though one of the earliest models was developed there by the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School. (Note: Although YWLCS was highlighted in A New Model of Assessments for the 21st Century it is no longer a competency-based school). In 2014-15 school year, Freeport is going to being to convert grades K-4 to mastery-based learning. The superintendent leading this effort is Roberta Selleck previously from Adams 50.
New Resources and Reports
June 18, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
By far, this news piece on Maine’s proficiency-based diploma is the best I’ve seen at explaining what we mean when 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).
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.
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…)
June 13, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
Most of the districts that have converted to competency education have done so with very little use of technology. 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.