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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.

Iowa Goes BIG: From Reservations to Success

May 22, 2014 by

This blog was originally posted May 20, 2014 at the Iowa Department of Education. Be sure to watch the video about BIG — it’s really fun and iowa_de-150x150interesting.

There is no particular formula for successful competency-based education (CBE). Programs vary from in-school coursework where the student learns at his or her own pace to internships and project-oriented work.

Ideally, students could choose which path to take since they have different preferences in the way they learn, said Iowa Department of Education Consultant Sandra Dop.

“Some students might choose one type of learning over another,” she said. “For instance, a student might want a specific learning environment for gaining proficiency in a particular subject, but another learning environment to demonstrate proficiency in another area.  All of this is negotiated with the teacher.  Kim Carter of QED Foundation calls it, ‘negotiated pace with gradual release,’ meaning that the students are not completely on their own to set a pace, and they slowly take over their learning as they develop the skills to do so. ” (more…)

The Journey to a Personal Mastery System

May 14, 2014 by
dan joseph

Dan Joseph

Originally published in the Reinventing Schools Coalition May newsletter

It all starts with an essential question.  What do we want our students to know, do and become?  This question is to be asked and answered at all levels of the learning community. If our answers to this question do not fit the reality, then we must reflect on our systems for educating all of our children

As a leader of a school that has engaged in these deep reflective questions, I am reminded of a typical exchange I would have with visiting members from other school districts.  Over the few years, a number of schools and districts would come to visit and see our standards based educational model.  Often times I would ask a very simple question: “Why are you here and what is the outcome that you would like to have as a result of your visit?” This was a question that we asked prior to any exchange of information or classroom visits.  The most popular answer was:  “We need to produce a standards based report card.”  Aside from a state mandate, this is not a compelling and deep reason to change a system of instruction to meet the needs of all students.  There was a disconnection in these teachers’ minds relating to the identification of the right solution or even the problem.  However, by lunchtime these same teachers and leaders would realize the depth of change they were seeing.  I do believe they returned to their districts with a better sense of what the change needed to encompass.

So are you and your district on the right track?  We thought we were, until we started to look at ourselves and our system. Why were we working so hard, yet our students were not making the gains that we believed they should be making?

This statement brought to light a system that needed to be changed, not any one program or teacher, but the entire system.  You probably work in a district that was similar to ours.  We had RTI (Response To Intervention), 504, IEPs, PBIS, AIMSweb, NWEA, PLCs and UBD.  How and to what could we align these silos?

Well to start off, we needed to make the following promises for every child:

  • Understand how a student learns best and have a strong voice in their learning.
  • Have students work at their instructional level to engage and accelerate their learning.
  • Offer clarity and transparency so that students can navigate and monitor their learning.
  • Finally, build a system where students are driven by their passion and realize their potential.

Sounds great, but many times the journey away from the reality of our current situation to the vision of the promise is too difficult to even take a first step. Transformational change is difficult and deep; it requires an understanding of individuals, systems and the culture of an organization. I often reflect on Phillip Schlechty’s quote, “Structural change that is not supported by cultural change will eventually be overwhelmed by the culture, for it is in the culture that any organization finds meaning and stability.” (Schlechty, Shaking Up the Schoolhouse: How to Support and Sustain Educational Innovation (2001), p. 52) (more…)

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

by

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…)

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