August 22, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
The courageous people of Ferguson have been standing up for their young men as well as forcing all of us to face the crisis that threatens African American boys’ survival, ability to graduate high school, get a job, and be actively engaged as fathers to their children. However, there is no reason that they have to be standing alone. It’s up to all of us to eliminate the patterns of structural racism and implicit bias that reinforce inequity and threaten the lives of African-American young men.
All of us in the field of competency education want all children to succeed. Our intentions are good. However, how can we really be sure that we ourselves do not carry some bias deep in our minds when the leaders in our field are almost all white? If we are committed to equity in our schools, how can we build the capacity in our organizations to be able to systematically address structural racism and bias?
I think that we have evidence that we do have a bias problem in our field. The leadership in the field and our organizations for the most part are very white. Our success in advancing competency education is threatened if we fail to correct this situation by increasing the racial diversity of our leadership. First, many people see lack of diversity as a sign of organizational weakness. If you can’t figure out how to have diversity on your board and staff, how can you effectively train others or develop policies that don’t reinforce racial equity? (more…)
August 20, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
“In industries where mistakes and errors lead to significant and far-reaching consequences – such as power plants, air traffic control towers, and electrical power grids – organizations must adjust their operations to proactively prevent failure. . . . [W]hat distinguishes high reliability organizations is not the absence of errors but the ability to contain their effects so they do not escalate into significant failures.”
I’m just diving into A Handbook for High Reliability Schools . . . The Next Step in School Reform by Marzano, Warrick and Simms. It’s a brilliant idea to think about what it would take for schools to become a high reliability organization. Certainly a student failing to receive an adequate education, failing to be prepared to pursue post-secondary education and training, has far-reaching consequences. It’s a pathway to poverty and fragile families.
What makes education a bit different from business is that mistakes and failures are part of the learning process. So we have to be able to distinguish from the customer making mistakes as part of the learning process, yet have the educators “contain the effect” so that the outcome is success.
The authors describe how schools can become so powerful and so timely in responding to children that the natural errors in learning will produce learning gains. Essentially, schools can become high reliability, taking “proactive steps to prevent failure and ensure success.” I already had a vision of how powerful schools can become, and reading this book took it to a whole new level.
The authors propose five levels of operation for a high reliability school: (more…)
August 19, 2014 by Bill Zima
What do Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Bill Belichick, and Anshul Samar have in common? Sure, they all had a vision of what they wanted to accomplish. But more importantly, they got STARTED. The difference between a great idea and an idea that makes a great difference, is someone executed it. To engage in the process of continuous improvement, the crux of leadership, one needs to begin. As investor and motivational speaker Robert Kiyosaki said, “If you are the kind of person who is waiting for the ‘right’ thing to happen, you might wait for a long time. It’s like waiting for all the traffic lights to be green for five miles before starting the trip.”
The person most responsible for the construction of the path to change for any school is the principal. Too often administrators try to line up all the pieces so there is a guarantee we do not make a mistake. After all, we are working with young minds. A simple mistake could ruin their future. So we analyze, plot, analyze again, get new information, see how that informs our decision, analyze again, make adjustments, analyze the adjustments, which causes the need for more decisions. All of this is hypothetical since we have nothing tangible to adjust. Voltaire warned, “Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.” We need to not worry and simply apply what we know today. The fear of hitting the magic switch and turning our students into thoughtless zombies left to wander aimlessly in a land of lost potential is unfounded. What school leaders need to do, regardless of role, is get a vision of their postcard destination, map the critical steps to get them from where they are to where they want to be, and then take that important first step. (more…)
August 18, 2014 by Tom Vander Ark
Originally posted Aug. 3, 2014 at Getting Smart.
From Getting Smart.com
Five Detroit schools utilize flexible learning spaces to accelerate student learning. These innovative environments reconsider four components of teaching and learning:
- Space & time: creative ways of using space, furniture, scheduling and location to promote student learning;
- Staffing and roles: rethinking flexible ways to use staffing to personalize learning;
- Grouping of students: different approaches to grouping students and providing individual work time to ensure growth; and
- Resources: maximizing supports from the teachers, technology, and peers to promote deeper understanding.
The flexible learning space, called a hub, provide a student-centered environment where student responsibility grows from primary grades to high school.
Students participate in a blended instructional program where they access information from the teacher, technology, their peers and their own inquiry. The same content is provided in 3 different ways—independent virtual courses, hybrid courses and as individual searchable libraries of content aligned to the standards. (more…)
August 15, 2014 by Julia Freeland
Originally posted August 13, 2014 by the Christensen Institute.
A few research pitfalls seem to be creeping into the still nascent world of K-12 competency-based education: first, the challenge of moving from discussing high-level theory to describing precisely competency-based practices. And second, going from identifying specific practices to designing sufficiently specific, appropriate evaluation to measure the effects of those practices.
Both of these tensions can make conversations about competency-based education feel speculative. The term “competency-based” often describes a wide range of classroom practices, but schools that call themselves competency-based may not subscribe to all such practices. And even when these practices are spelled out, we have yet to study them in isolation, to understand which—if any—drive student growth and in what circumstances. In order to really study competency-based models, the field may need more specific categories than “competency-based” to translate the theory into practice; and we likely need new research paradigms to evaluate these specific practices. (more…)
August 13, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
Two major events are coming up that are opportunities to network among innovators in education.
1) SXSWedu, March 9-12 , 2015: Last year Susan Patrick of iNACOL did a standing-room-only briefing on competency education. There are four events proposed on competency education for the 2015 meeting. Two are on higher education and two on K-12. Jump onto the Panel Picker to vote for your favorites:
2) iNACOL’s Blended and Online Learning Symposium, November 4-7, 2014: This year’s speakers include Sal Khan and Michael Horn. There is a full competency education strand, with Rose Colby leading The Competency Education Toolkit for Curriculum, Assessment, Instruction, and Grading; and Brian Stack, principal at Sanborn Regional High School, on How to Support a K12 Competency-Based Grading & Reporting System. Jennifer Davis from CCSSO and Adam Rubin from 2 Revolutions will be there to help you learn how to use the Roadmap for Competency-based Systems; Springpoint will have a team to reflect on Designing New Competency-Based High Schools; and Kim Carter and Elizabeth Cardine from Making Community Connections Charter School will be there to describe how they are Igniting Learning, drawing on cognitive sciences, motivational theory, and educational research.
by Chris Sturgis
There are so many great resources coming out this summer!I haven’t even had time to watch and read everything….but wanted to make sure you all know about them.
Statewide Transformation: First, a big shout out to New Hampshire for sharing their learning. They’ve created a web page New Hampshire’s Story of Transformation complete with videos so you can hear from their leadership and innovators directly. It’s a great resource that explores how they think about student engagement, how they are providing support to educators, and the history of their process towards competency-based education. You can also hear from Paul Leather as he provides a synopsis of the state’s approach.
State and District Updates:
August 12, 2014 by Tom Vander Ark
Originally posted Aug. 8, 2014 at Getting Smart.
From Getting Smart
Since Horace borrowed the idea from the Prussians, we’ve been batch-processing kids based on birthdays through a print curriculum. This batch-print system was moderately efficient until we tried to retrofit it to work for all kids. It just created a mess of tacked on services and a crazy patchwork quilt of courses. As educational demands of society increase, it becomes increasingly obvious that the batch-print system doesn’t work well for at least two thirds of our kids.
Many of us believe that personalized learning environments where students progress as they demonstrate mastery hold the promise to boost achievement and completion rates for struggling students while speeding accelerated students through the K-16 system several years faster than is common today. However, the transition to a competency-based system is pedagogically, politically, and technically challenging. Despite policy barriers there are thousands of schools creating these next generation blended and competency-based environments. To accelerate the shift and improve outcomes, states should address these 7 things now.
1. Standards. Embrace a broad view of college and career readiness expressed in standards and graduation requirements. Maine went a step further and adopted a requirement for a proficiency-based graduation (discussed on CompetencyWorks). (more…)