After 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…)