Maine Releases New Resources for Personalized, Proficiency-Based Education

July 24, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 2.38.39 PMThe Maine Department of Education has just released a new video on their efforts to transition to personalized, proficiency-based education. This is a delightful, inspiring, informative video on the interdisciplinary academies (innovation, ecology and international) at Troy Howard Middle School.

Also check out Maine’s new website Getting to Proficiency: Helping Maine Graduate Every Student Prepared. It’s designed to provide technical assistance for districts and schools that are getting started in proficiency-based education.  It’s a model for other states who are starting to put together introductory materials for their districts. Be sure to check out the planning tool.

Nominate Your Favorite Competency Education Superintendent

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ltlfbanner_jeson650x121Hi all — Ed Week is running a Leaders to Learn From special report. They are looking for nominations of superintendents or other district-level administrators who have brought fresh, successful ideas to their school communities in any area from academics to daily operations.

So let’s nominate all of our incredibly wonderful competency education innovators. They want to know about specific innovations so don’t just say competency education. Give an example of a specific practice they brought in to your district — new grading, an information system to support teachers and students, a new way to use competency education data to run special education courses, ways to provide more supports to students, flexibility in the calendar.

Nominations Close on August 1st. You can nominate someone here.

Changing To a Competency Based Grading System: A Student View

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Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 8.59.59 AMMy New Hampshire high school made the shift to a competency-based grading and reporting system two years ago. Educators who talk to me about that experience often want to know what that change process looked like from a student’s perspective. Surprisingly, most students were comfortable with the shift provided that they believed the school and teachers were effective at explaining how their grade would be calculated. The students who seemed most reluctant to change at the beginning were the ones who were already performing at a high level in the old system. These kids knew how to play what I like to call the grading game. They didn’t always test well, but they knew they could always compensate for that by doing all their homework, raising their hand every day in class, and bringing in canned goods on Thanksgiving week for extra credit points. The problem is that these behaviors made the assumption that, if students had good study habits, then they must have learned. When we think about it this way, it seems outrageous to support a system that doesn’t directly connect to competencies – the ability of a student to apply content knowledge and skills in and/or across the content area(s).

To help educators understand what I went through when my school made this shift, consider the following set of fictitious letters between a student and I. These letters are adapted from actual scenarios that I faced in the first year of implementation.

 

September

Dear Mr. Stack,

I am writing to you to express my displeasure that our school changed its grading practices for the upcoming school year. I have always been an “A” student. I do all of my homework, I always raise my hand to participate in class, and I always turn in my assignments on time. I am not; however, a good test-taker. In the past my teachers have always known this and they have compensated by giving me extra credit opportunities, making my homework worth more points, and giving me lots of participation point opportunities.

With this new grading system, it seems all the emphasis is being placed on doing well on tests. Homework is worth practically nothing. It seems due dates don’t matter. I am very concerned that I am no longer going to be an “A” student.

Why would our school change to a system that is going to hurt kids like me? I am very discouraged.

Sincerely,

Nicole (more…)

A Learning Progression To Support Teachers

July 23, 2013 by

photoAll twelve of us sit around the table in our workroom, pouring through the Customized Classroom Facilitator Continuum.  I half skim the paper in front of me, half scan the faces of my colleagues.  On one of my scans I catch my principal’s eye.  He’s scanning too. We finished our first draft of the progression yesterday, and this is the moment when we find out if our work makes sense.  I’m a little nervous.

The teachers in the room with us, the Phase 1 teams, are all taking the first steps towards our vision of customized learning.  It is now April and all of us are tired, a little ragged, from stretching into this first year.  These people are the best people to look at this progression and give us honest, brutal feedback.  And they will.

The Customized Classroom Facilitator Continuum is a learning progression, just like any other learning progression, but for teachers.  A learning progression takes a skill or concept, breaks out the different aspects of that skill or concept, and arranges learning targets from simple to complex.  There are different kinds of learning progressions depending on content and skill, as Fritz Mosher touches on in his CPRE policy brief “The Role of Learning Progressions in Standards-Based Education Reform,” as well as different formats for organizing them.  The Customized Classroom Facilitator Continuum takes the skills and understandings needed to create and support a personalized learning environment and arranges them by the following philosophical lenses: (more…)

Lingering Questions #2: Flexibility in Instruction and Delivery

July 22, 2013 by

CBE, when done best, requires an interdisciplinary approach to learning, which in turn requires an interdisciplinary approach to teaching. — Jennifer Davis, Innovation Lab Network

This was originally published on the College & Career Readiness & Success blog.

On June 24th, the American Youth Policy Forum and the College and Career Readiness and Success Center at the American Institutes for Research co-hosted a webinar on “State Implications for Competency-based Education Systems.” Presenters included Kate Nielson, Policy Analyst, National Governors Association; Diane Smith, Director, Teaching and Learning Initiative, Oregon Business Education Compact; Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills, Iowa Department of Education; Carissa Miller, Deputy Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Following the webinar, we collected a series of lingering questions from participants on a range of topics. Their responses to the second of three important questions is below:

Competency-based learning calls for more flexibility in terms of how content is delivered and an emphasis on project-based learning opportunities that often require interdisciplinary approaches. How have states thought about this type of instruction in competency-based systems and what implications might it have for teacher preparation, ongoing professional development, and even teacher credentialing?

Jennifer Davis, Director, Innovation Lab Network, CCSSO (responding in place of Carissa Miller) – This question hits the nail on the head – CBE, when done best, requires an interdisciplinary approach to learning, which in turn requires an interdisciplinary approach to teaching.  Many sites implementing CBE have re-defined the role of teachers as “learning facilitators” who work with other teachers in cohorts, camps, or teams that collaborate around the needs of a designated group of students, sometimes following those students from year to year to preserve continuity.  Schools provide time and space for these teachers to plan together, and also often provide coaching to support teachers who are new to the system.  Districts and states have a responsibility to ensure that professional development and teacher preparation programs are reflective of the new roles for educators. Some states are looking to redesign teacher preparation programs in an effort to make them more competency-based. (more…)

The Envelope Please…And the Winners Are…

July 18, 2013 by
nextgenlearning.org

nextgenlearning.org

The Next Generation Learning Challenge announced the Wave IV Cycle 1 winners this week. (Disclaimer: I’m one of the reviewers for NGLC.) There are a number of grants that are going to offer valuable insights into competency education. One of the things we will need to pay attention to is the difference between those that have a full competency-based infrastructure that is similar to or expanded beyond our working definition, and those that may emphasize proficiency (or mastery) without the same level of formality. We really need to understand what are the key elements to which we need to have absolute fidelity.

We are also starting to see 2.0 versions from the leading innovators, including New Hampshire’s Virtual Learning Academy, Boston Day and Evening Academy, and Florida Virtual School.  They are exploring moving to fully competency-based learning progressions rather than using courses to organize units of learning. They are also moving toward new information systems and integration of what we are learning from experiential learning, mind-body connections, and social-emotional learning.

A few of the winners are described below:

 

Launch Grants

VIRTUAL LEARNING ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOL (NH), the statewide online charter school is redefining “school” to mean wherever learning occurs, whether in a classroom, online, or in the community through VLACS Aspire, a 100% self-paced competency-based approach (rather than a course-based curriculum), that harnesses the face-to-face learning potential of internships, service-learning, and distributed learning team-based projects. (more…)

ELO and CBE: A Match Made in Heaven

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From RIAPA website

From RIAPA website

Once upon a time, I was involved in the school-to-work effort and one of the constant, churning complaintswas the difficulty employers, schools and community organizations had in talking to each other – different values, different timeline, different jargon. And oh those acronyms….how we stumbled over them again and again.

As I’ve talked to people across the country, such as Adam Greenman, from the Rhode Island Afterschool Plus Alliance (RIAPA), I’ve started to wonder: Can competencies become a common language between students, schools, community organizations and employers?  I’m starting to think the answer is YES!

Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) are opportunities for community-connected learning experiences that earn credit within and beyond the traditional classroom.

Competency education may in fact offer a way to bridge these different sectors in a number of different ways. First, the academic competencies that students are working on can help drive project design at internships. Think about it – our schools aren’t really designed for knowledge utilization – that is the 4th level on Marzano’s taxonomy of knowledge.  Maybe the real-world is where students are going to be able to demonstrate they can really apply what they learned. (more…)

Lingering Questions #1: Pacing and Supports

July 17, 2013 by

This was originally published on the College & Career Readiness & Success blog.

On June 24th, the American Youth Policy Forum and the College and Career Readiness and Success Center at tlingeringhe American Institutes for Research co-hosted a webinar on “State Implications for Competency-based Education Systems.” Presenters included Kate Nielson, Policy Analyst, National Governors Association; Diane Smith, Director, Teaching and Learning Initiative, Oregon Business Education Compact; Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills, Iowa Department of Education; Carissa Miller, Deputy Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Following the webinar, we collected a series of lingering questions from participants on a range of topics. Their responses to the first of three important questions are below:

In a competency-based system, students have the ability to complete work at their own pace. How have states thought about how to support students who need more time to demonstrate competency? Alternatively, what do states do when students finish early? How can states think about adjusting resources and funding to allow for such a shift?

Jennifer Davis, Director, Innovation Lab Network, CCSSO (responding in place of Carissa Miller) – For students who need more time, most states and districts implementing CBE have outlined mechanisms for knowing when students are struggling and providing them with a variety of supports.  Schools in Maine, for example, keep track of students’ pace against “teacher pace.” When students fall behind teacher pace, additional resources and supports are given.  In Lindsay Unified School District in CA, falling behind pace triggers the co-creation of an individualized learning plan (ILP) outlining the steps and supports the child will pursue to accelerate.  Other states, like Kentucky, mandate an ILP for all students, which helps students, parents, and teachers monitor the child’s progress.  Most states and districts implementing CBE are developing rich banks of digital resources for students to access on-demand.  This, coupled with human guidance through mentors or advisors, provides students with multiple and/or targeted methods for reaching mastery. (more…)

State Paths To A Competency-Based Education Approach

July 16, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 2.07.26 PMThis post was originally published on the College & Career Readiness & Success blog on July 10, 2013.

The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) and the College and Career Readiness and Success (CCRS) Center recently hosted a webinar on implications for state policy in competency-based education systems. The discussion brought together national and state leaders to share what progress has been made in states, what has been learned in doing such work at the state level, and guidance on where other states might begin. The session covered topics ranging from setting a vision, capacity building, policy changes, and assessment and accountability, but what may have been most interesting were the contrasting narratives of scaling approaches across states. There is no standard approach that researchers can yet point to—implementation methods have varied dramatically across contexts, though certain common themes have emerged.

Common Vision

Presenters highlighted a common starting point when moving toward competency-based systems – developing a common vision. As states rationalized the move to a competency-based system, they first needed to come to consensus on what they wanted for all students. In order to achieve  buy-in across a very diverse set of stakeholders, including everyone from teachers to governors and legislators, states have  worked across a wide range of stakeholders in K-12, higher education, and elsewhere to develop a collective vision for what their students should know and be able to do. (more…)

The Importance of Competency-Based Learning in a Personalized Learning Environment

July 15, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 3.48.46 PMThe past few years have seen the growth of two important and highly potential movements: competency-based learning and personalized learning. Many innovators are bringing the learning of students into clear focus by aligning student work and learning to clear, worthy, and rigorous competencies. Students in these learning environments now know what they are asked to and are trying to learn, how it will be assessed, and what value the new learning will bring to their lives and future learning. For these students, the days are gone when the best indication of what they know was fuzzily embedded in credits earned and grades assigned or buried somewhere in the latest unit test.

Meanwhile, several initiatives committed to proving the power and scalability of personalized learning have surfaced across the country from Maine to Wisconsin to Colorado. Many of these initiatives are showing impressive results on traditional assessments, while educators are working with learners to build lifelong learning capacity and skills well beyond what standardized tests can hope to measure. They are also showing the way to scaling the work without depending on outside funding or adding to local expenditures. (more…)

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