September 25, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
I’ve been thinking a lot about report cards since I read Hot on the Paper Trail about the power of receipts by Baratunde Thurston in Fast Company. Thurston opens with a question posed by and Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey, “What if we see the receipt more as a publishing medium? A product unto itself that people actually want to take home, that they want to engage with, be fully interactive with?”
It got me thinking: What if we saw the report card as more than a static report? Could it become a tool that children want to take home, a tool that could be fully interactive for students, parents and teachers? I started pushing my thinking. What if we “badged” report cards? Parents could put a bright chart on the fridge and students could bring home stickers every time they hit proficiency on a learning objective. What if school sent an email or tweet to parents every time a student hit the proficiency mark, which could be easily retweeted to grandparents? (more…)
September 24, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
What is competency education? The communication challenge has been bigger than I certainly ever anticipated.
We’ve had a hard time creating powerful elevator speeches. I’ve resorted to using my arms a lot. I start with a left to right motion with both arms as I say; “Our traditional system is based on moving students through school and a curriculum regardless if they learned it. Kids are passed along with C’s and D’s totally unprepared for their next course.” Then curving my arms, opening them wide, I bring them together into a tight circle; “Competency education is about redesigning schools so that they have the flexibility to respond to students, bringing together the instructional support so that they are successful. Students and parents are confident that students are learning every step of the way. Student move on after demonstrating they have mastered the material.” It works as an opening but then I’m left to explain common frameworks and assessments, tempo and pacing, anytime/anywhere, deeper learning and performance assessments.
To help us leap over the communication challenge, CompetencyWorks has prepared three sets of introductory materials that you can use as handouts with parents, community leaders, and policymakers.
We’ve formatted them two ways. The pdf versions above can be easily sent by email or used for resources on your webpage. We have also put the print versions on the Briefing Papers page if you want to print out really nice copies as handouts.
Please feel free to use the text as much as you want as we’ve licensed this under Creative Commons. The goal is to make it easier for you to help people understand competency education.
If you have suggestions for how to effectively communicate what competency education is please do share with us or send us links to your work. We know that we haven’t cracked this challenge yet.
Before you leave this page, could you do a bit of tweeting so that your network knows about the materials? Thanks!
September 23, 2014 by Ephraim Weisstein
I frankly don’t know where to begin. I was asked to write a blog because I am supposedly one of the few white people in the field of education reform who has successfully diversified their education reform organizations. First of all, I hope this is not true and that there are many white leaders with wonderfully diverse boards and staff. Secondly, while I would agree that I was able to help diversify my organization, the Center for Youth Development and Education within the Commonwealth Corporation, the word “successfully” begs for more explanation.
So here goes. While I considered myself a radical educator at the time, I frankly had no real clue about white-skin privilege or the reality of racism that people of color face daily in this country. I was the head of a group of approximately twenty professionals in the Boston area, which included four black and brown people. When I left, the numbers were about 11-11. But just counting the demographic breakdown doesn’t begin to surface the heart of the issue. (more…)
September 22, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
As you all know, Oregon is a state leader in proficiency-based education, first establishing credit flexibility in 2002. (You can learn about their progress in putting together a variety of elements on the wiki.)
The Oregon Business Education Compact (BEC) has been active in advancing proficiency-based education, supporting pilot schools and providing training to educators on classroom practices. In some ways, the conversion to proficiency-based education has started in classrooms across Oregon, which embraced standards-referenced grading. Now, schools are opening their arms to the more systemic whole-school conversion. (more…)
September 18, 2014 by Brian Stack
One of the keys to the early success of our competency education model at Sanborn Regional High School has been the inclusion of a flexible grouping period that is built into our daily bell schedule. For the past four years, our Freshman Learning Community teachers have benefited from having this flexible time to personalize instruction and provide students with support for intervention, extension, and enrichment as needed throughout the school year. Three years ago, we added this flexible time to our Sophomore Learning Community structure. Now as we enter the 2014-2015 school year, this flexible time model has been expanded to include all four grade levels in our high school.
Our flexible grouping period is known as the Focused Learning Period at Sanborn Regional High School, and it operates in a forty-minute time period each day. The Focused Learning Period is time for our students to engage in the following activities:
- Intervention: Small groups of students work with the teacher on content support, remediation, or proactive support.
- Extensions: Whole class groups in which the teacher extends the current curriculum beyond what is able to be completed during a class period.
- Enrichments: Above-and-beyond activities that go outside of the curriculum to expand the experiences of our students.
The Focused Learning Period is not optional at our school. All students are expected to participate. Since the time is built into the school day, all teachers are available to students at the same time. Students are scheduled into a Focused Learning Period with approximately fifteen other students in the same grade level and/or career interest. A teacher is assigned to each group of students as an adviser. (more…)
September 16, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
Jobs for the Future released today The Past and the Promise: Today’s Competency Education Movement by Cecilia Le, Rebecca Wolfe and Adria Steinberg. There are two reasons for you to take the time to read this report:
1) To reflect on how the understanding of competency education is changing; and
2) To understand the research base that contributes to our understanding of competency education.
Defining Competency Education
The paper proposes that older versions of competency had three elements (mastery, pacing and instruction) and advances the idea that the models we are seeing in today’s enhanced version is a personalized competency education model with an additional six elements (competencies, assessment, flexible time, student agency, technology for instruction and monitoring learning, and cultures based on motivating and engaging students).
I also would add that previous models have been all classroom-based. However, here at CompetencyWorks, we are now operating on the assumption that competency education at a minimum requires whole school approaches. Stand-alone classroom doesn’t work for the following reasonis: 1) It’s impossible for a teacher to provide all the supports a student needs in the classroom and you can’t depend on after school or lunchtime as a reliable way for students to get extra help; 2) Once we know where students are on their learning progression it often makes sense for teachers (often working collaboratively) to group and regroup students so they get the help they need; and, 3) Ssome students that are “not yet proficient” may need additional time in terms of summer school or continuing on their learning progression in the next semester. One teacher in a classroom can’t mobilize that type of resource or coherency without a school wide approach. (more…)
September 15, 2014 by Kristen Vogt
Originally posted Sept. 2, 2014 by New Gen Learning Challenges.
Student Trumeia Smith demonstrates Buzz in a Vimeo recording.
Across the nation, teachers have been preparing their classrooms for a new school year, paying attention to their lesson plans, the physical space, and the resources contained within the four walls that students will use throughout the year.
At the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, an online platform that gives teachers access to curricular planning, resources, and analytics is shifting the way student-centered classes are structured.
Here’s how Kristie Ford, a science and social studies teacher, prepared her curriculum:
“I fully integrated the Buzz platform into my classroom curriculum design. I used the format that was provided in the Buzz courses as an outline to guide my progression and pace for the year. I then added or deleted content in order to fit the needs of my students. My students also had the choice of using outside resources to supplement their learning—textbooks, resource books, peer-to-peer discussion, and small group instruction that matched the content in Buzz.” (more…)
September 11, 2014 by Bill Zima
This is the second post in the series on how to get started in converting your school to competency education. See Part 1, Just Start.
Futurist author Joel Barker said, “Vision without action is merely a dream.” Once upon a time, I had a dream of being an Olympic weightlifter. My name is called. I slowly rise. I adjust my weight belt as I approach the barbell. The red jumpsuit is really uncomfortable in all the wrong places. I squat with my back straight to make sure I use my knees just like my former supervisor told me when we unloaded boxes at the grocery store. I know he would be happy that his obsession with proper lifting had finally sunk in. I make the necessary grunting sound and heave upon the rod that connects the mere 350 pounds. Unlike the Olympic athletes I watched as a child, my barbell does not even budge. Sure I have a grand vision for how to clean and jerk that weight, but a vision is only the first step on a path to the true heavy lifting.So now that you have a great purpose statement for why your school or district exists – something just short of “To make the world a better place” – and you have determined HOW you will work to realize that purpose, it is time to get to the heavy lifting.
To help move the purpose and the vision of the school from the dream state to a reality, we needed action. We created a three-year professional plan, identified what needed to happen the first year, and then created action plans for those items. The primary activities were developing a framework of skills, scoring scales and assessments. (more…)
September 10, 2014 by Justin Ballou
Chris Rock. Photo from Wikimedia.
Growing up, I was always a fan of standup comedy. From the comics of my father’s age, (Billy Crystal, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison….) to those that cut their teeth more recently, (Dane Cook, Chris Rock, etc…) the comedic skills that these players demonstrate is not always natural. It takes countless hours to develop material, back stories, delivery methods, articulation, and other tools of communication that help put the audience right where the comic wants them.
In practice, the content and the strategy develop over time. Mainly, this is due to the fact that they are consistently assessing where the audience presently is and they are adapting their show to get the most engagement. This engagement becomes the fuel for the comic and helps to build the relationship between the showman and the audience that are hopefully hanging on every last drop of the experience. (more…)