CompetencyWorks is an online resource dedicated to providing information and knowledge about competency education in the K-12 education system. Drawing on lessons learned by innovators and early adopters, CompetencyWorks shares original research, knowledge and a variety of perspectives through an informative blog with practitioner knowledge, policy advancements, papers on emerging issues and a wiki with resources curated from across the field. CompetencyWorks also offers a blog on competency education in higher education so that the sectors can learn from each other and begin to align systems across K-12, higher education and the workplace.

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The Trouble with Prescriptive Policies When Paradigms are Shifting

January 9, 2017 by
david ruff

David Ruff

This is the fourth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England. For a more in-depth look at this issue, join David Ruff of Great Schools Partnership and Paul Leather of New Hampshire Department of Education on January 11th for a CompetencyWorks webinar to explore K-12 competency-based education policy and practice across five New England states. Register here.

How can a state bring about a much-needed change when the only way to ensure effective implementation is for educators to want to make the change?

This is what some might called the paradigm-changing policy paradox shared by the New England states and most states across our country. This tongue-twisting, profoundly complex paradox is created because of two dynamics. First, given that competency education requires a paradigm shift or a change in values and assumptions, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to implement effectively without educators embracing those values. When the policies and practices of competency education are placed upon the old values of fixed mindsets and compliant students, classrooms become overwhelmed by linearity and checklists as students tediously climb a ladder of standards. It is very difficult to mandate or require people to believe differently or do something they don’t think is valuable. There has to be an opportunity to engage, reflect, and learn. Second, the states in New England (similar to most states across the country) value local control and are resistant to policies or regulations that feel like a mandate. Thus, prescriptive policies are unlikely to engage districts, schools, and educators and may even produce substantial pushback.

ellen-hume-quoteGiven that it is impossible to mandate that people accept new values and beliefs, state policy to advance competency education will not immediately translate to transformation of the education system, regardless of how bold, intricate, or high-leverage it is. What are state policymakers to do? How can they drive toward a new education system while not actually mandating that any school change? If competency education is more easily and effectively implemented by educators who have come to their own conclusion that it is needed, how do you engage districts and schools through state policy to want to convert?

Thus, states are challenged to find ways to engage districts in the learning that it is needed to implement competency-based education. (By the way, this same paradox challenges districts, principals, and teachers as they seek to engage and motivate school leaders, other teachers, and students). (more…)

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Why Educators are Moving Away from the Station Rotation Model

January 6, 2017 by

desksThis post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on December 13, 2016.

The Station Rotation has consistently reigned as the most popular blended-learning model implemented by elementary schools. Of the 235 active elementary schools currently profiled in the BLU school directory, 136, or 58 percent, of them have a Station Rotation program. Over the past few months, however, we’ve started to see a number of these schools shift away from the Station Rotation model and instead opt for an Individual Rotation or Flex model. Although still early, this data provides a trend line worth following as blended and personalized learning continue to evolve.

In 2013, when we published our hybrids paper, Clay Christensen, Michael Horn, and Heather Staker predicted that the Station Rotation would remain the most popular blended-learning model at the elementary school level for years to come. There were several reasons, both practical and theory-driven, for this prediction:

  1. Low-hanging fruit. Many educators, particularly at the elementary school level, have rotated students among centers or stations for decades. As a result, replacing one of those stations with online learning is a low conceptual hurdle for teachers to overcome.
  2. Scalability. A Station Rotation typically operates within the confines of a single classroom and therefore can require little to no coordination with other teachers, departments, or facilities. As a result, a Station Rotation allows educators to introduce the benefits of online learning while preserving the traditional classroom structure, which makes it easily scalable.
  3. Differentiated instruction. A Station Rotation breaks up the class into smaller groups, which allows teachers to work with students in small-group settings on a daily basis. In these settings, teachers can more easily differentiate instruction for groups of students based on their respective needs. Online learning also gives students independent time to work through adaptive online content and receive real-time feedback on their learning progress.
  4. Pockets of nonconsumption. Disruptions often get their start in pockets of unmet demand, called nonconsumption. For this reason, we envisioned high schools and, to a large extent, middle schools to be susceptible to larger scale changes because they operate on a course-by-course basis where pockets of nonconsumption, such as students in need of advanced courses or credit recovery, are rampant. Elementary schools, on the other hand, operate on a whole-class basis instead of course-by-course and aren’t yet dealing with dropouts or students in need of credit recovery.

In light of this growing subset of schools that are innovating within a Station Rotation modelor moving away from them entirely—it will be essential to understand what is causing the change and whether or not it is a trend that has the potential to scale.

Note: Early next year, I will be doing an in-depth case study on this trend and would love to hear from practitioners who are shifting away from a Station Rotation model. Feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below.

(more…)

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Five Drivers of Transformation in New England States

January 5, 2017 by

fiveThis is the third post in the series on Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

Competency education is advancing in New England through a combination of shared vision and values, mutual respect and collaboration, and courageous leadership that is motivated by a sense of urgency to do better for students, communities, and the economy.

The following five concepts are the core ideas that are driving change in New England at the school, district, and state levels.

  1. Theory of Change Based on New Values

In most of the New England states, competency-based education is advancing with a new set of values that are the foundation of competency-based education as well as being used by principals, districts, and even state policymakers to catalyze the transformational process:

  • A growth mindset that deeply believes that with the right conditions, educators can learn the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are needed to help every student succeed and to teach within a personalized, competency-based system.
  • A strong culture of learning and supporting communities of learners, which eliminates the culture of “blaming and shaming.”
  • Transparency and mutual accountability that builds trust and respect, establishes continuous improvement, and increases responsiveness.
  • Autonomy and empowering strategies that engage others in problem-solving and co-creating new systems and practices.
  • Personalization that responds to the unique contexts and needs of districts, schools, and educators rather than one-size fits all policy, technical assistance, and professional development.

These values are used to shape classrooms and the school day, upgrade district operations, and redesign statewide policies and structures. They are also driving the leadership approaches and change process needed to transform schools.

  1. Coalitions of the Willing

Working independently, courageous district leadership might have been seen as marshalling unique efforts. However, local collaboratives and regional networks such as the New England Secondary School Consortium amplified the lessons learned, created political coverage, and created avenues for communication with state leadership as well as other stakeholders such as parents and college admissions officers. Thus, the effort in New England to date has been driven through a coalition of the willing.

  1. From Compliance to Support

State leadership in these three states has begun to reduce the reliance of the state education agencies on compliance. Instead, they are seeking to provide more support to help create the conditions necessary for transformation. This is an important step in creating a statewide culture of learning and organizational agility so that districts, schools, and educators can be more responsive to students’ needs. To do so requires that state education agency staff become substantially more sensitive to the context in which districts operate and their long-term strategies. (more…)

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The Every Student Succeeds Act: A Catalyst for Competency Education at Scale?

January 4, 2017 by
Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick

This essay by Susan Patrick and Maria Worthen was featured in the report Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

New England’s competency education journey is the story of how stakeholders, coming together to create a shared vision for student success, can move the needle on state – and ultimately federal – policy.

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed in December 2015, it reflected the lessons learned and the advocacy of educators, superintendents, state leaders, and congressional representatives from New England to make room for systems that align to competency-based education. Congressional staff looked to states like New Hampshire to ensure that they could continue to implement innovative performance assessments for accountability purposes that also support learning.

The new flexibilities in ESSA did not appear out of thin air. They are the result of years of hard work by states who are getting results from competency-based education, but were unable to fully realize their vision due to the limitations of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The New England states featured in Beyond the Tipping Point: Insights in Advancing Competency Education in New England  are well-positioned to take advantage of ESSA’s opportunities to deepen their efforts in shifting to personalized, competency-based education.

What Are ESSA’s Opportunities for States?

recommended-reading-on-state-policyESSA, the new K-12 federal education law, shifts significant power back to states, with increased flexibility to rethink accountability, redesign systems of assessments, and modernize educator development. It provides a new opportunity for states to redefine what success means for students, beyond a single test score, and to align systems around this vision. It is now possible to design a more student-centered education system in which assessment supports learning and accountability enables data-rich, continuously-improving personalized learning environments in which students advance upon mastery. In this new era, states also have the opportunity to shape the future of the teacher workforce, building the capacity to take on the new roles required in a competency-based system.

Rethinking Accountability

Under ESSA, state accountability systems will now be required to include at least four indicators, providing a historic opportunity for states to rethink the definition of student success. These indicators include:

  • Grade-level proficiency;
  • English language proficiency;
  • Graduation rates; and
  • An indicator of school quality selected by the state, which could include student and teacher engagement, school climate, and non-cognitive skills.

States may include any other indicators beyond these four in their accountability system; however, all indicators must be disaggregated by student subgroup, and the first three indicators listed above must carry the greatest weight in identifying schools for improvement. States must identify at least the bottom five percent of the lowest performing schools in the state for comprehensive improvement, and the schools with the greatest achievement gaps for targeted improvement of subgroup performance. (more…)

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What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

by

What's NewUpcoming Events

CompetencyWorks is hosting a Leadership webinar on advancing competency education in New England on Wednesday, January 11 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET. Learn more and register.

New York City’s Mastery Collaborative is hosting upcoming Living Lab online sessions. Register here.

  • Wednesday, January 4, 4:00 p.m. ET: KAPPA International High School—Messaging Mastery with Language and Visuals
  • Thursday, January 5, 4:00 p.m. ET: Harvest Collegiate High School—Building a School-Wide Philosophy of Mastery

Reports

Podcasts

  • This podcast by Cortney Belolan and Matt Shea discusses the “what” and “why” of competency education, and the “how” of implementation.
  • Getting Smart released a podcast featuring students from the iNACOL Symposium’s student panel, sharing their thoughts on transforming K-12 education.

School Models

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Should Instructional Choice Trump School Choice?

January 3, 2017 by

typingThis post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on November 23, 2016.

Today, President-elect Donald Trump appointed school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as our next secretary of education. Given DeVos’s decades support for charter schools and tax-credit scholarships, most are speculating that this signals Trump’s commitment to follow through on his promise to commit over $20 billion to expanding charter schools across the country.

Looking ahead, Trump and DeVos would be wise to embrace an expanding notion of educational choice. Indeed, in the 21st century, a choice agenda should focus on optimizing instructional choices, not just school choices. A next generation vision of choice should be about schools—of the district, charter, or private varietal—providing numerous and flexible learning pathways tailored to each of their students. In the long run, we believe that a robust supply of personalized instructional options within schools may be the most potent driver of combatting stubborn achievement gaps and graduating more students college and career ready.

Historically, the quality and experiences that a given school could offer were fairly uniform within that school. All students sat in the same rows, with the same educators, receiving the same lectures, reading the same materials, and taking the same tests. School was designed like a factory assembly line, providing all students with the same—regardless of whether that particular version of “same” was a good fit. As decades of research have shown, this led to variable and often unequal learning outcomes among different students, both within and between schools. But because of the manner in which most school districts operated, if a school model proved ill-suited to a student or his family and couldn’t pay out of pocket for another option, then he was essentially out of luck.

School choice regimes, in part, emerged as an answer to that embedded constraint of our factory model education system. (more…)

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December CompetencyWorks Catch-Up

January 1, 2017 by

calendar-page-decHere are the highlights from December 2016 on CompetencyWorks. Happy reading. And let us know if you have questions you want us to delve into!

SITE VISITS AND CASE STUDIES

Implementing Competency-Based Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders

Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England

 

HIGHER EDUCATION

December 19: Making the Case for CBE Programs: Evaluation for Improvement in CBE Programs

What’s New in Competency-Based Higher Education? by Natalie Abel

(more…)

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Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England

December 27, 2016 by

treesThis article begins the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England. On January 11th, CompetencyWorks is hosting a webinar to explore K-12 competency-based education policy and practice across five New England states: Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont (with a brief look at Massachusetts). Paul Leather of New Hampshire Department of Education and David Ruff of Great Schools Partnership will join Chris Sturgis in exploring lessons learned from New England.

Competency education is expanding across the country as a means to ensure that all students are mastering the skills and knowledge to be successful in college, careers, and civic life. In the New England region, competency education is developing and expanding at unprecedented rates: about one-third of districts in this region are planning or transitioning toward competency education. This series consolidates insights offered by the hundreds of policymakers and education leaders across the New England region who are leading this transformation and creating competency-based systems to better serve students.

This series begins by looking at why and how the New England region embraces competency education. It then turns to insights into the policy strategies being used across states and analyzes the impact of competency education on quality, equity, scaling, and sustainability. Throughout the series, we will add snapshots of the New England states.

Major Lessons Learned

There are three major lessons learned that need to be taken into consideration by anyone advancing competency education: (more…)

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What a Summer Prototype Taught Us about Measuring Quality in an Unbundled Education System

December 26, 2016 by

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on December 15, 2016 and EdSurge on November 29, 2016.

In the summer of 2016, a community of educators, research design partners, and over 150 teens and young adults in Colorado engaged in a bold experiment to rethink how quality and impact might be measured in a modernized system of learning. In this relatively small, short-cycle prototype, the lessons we learned were significant. They are informing a set of expanded pilots taking place in 2017. We also hope that the early ideas generated through our summer prototype will spark policymakers to get creative and reimagine quality assurance at a system level, as society shifts to more learner-centered systems of education. Here’s our summer pilot story:

ReSchool Colorado, a multi-year initiative of the Donnell-Kay Foundation to design and launch a new education system, has been testing emerging concepts with willing partners in safe spaces and at safe times, like the summer, where learning is occurring outside the regular school day.

Why focus outside of formal learning time for our design work? Because creating breakthrough, systematic innovations in education is challenging. High among these reasons is justified concern about testing new ideas that could have negative repercussions on students in the United States’ fully developed education system. As a result, finding safe spaces outside of the mainstream system to try out new educational concepts is critical to advancing bold new ideas.

Never were the advantages of this approach more apparent than this past summer when ReSchool partnered with Entangled Solutions and educational providers serving teens and young adults. Our collective goal was to begin to rethink quality assurance in an educational system with an array of learning providers.

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Framework for the Future of Learning (Source: ReSchool)

(more…)

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Developing Self-Directed Learners

December 22, 2016 by

gsmart3This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on December 6, 2016.

“I haven’t met many self-directed teenagers,” said a frustrated high school teacher during a recent presentation.

As we contemplate the vast problem of teenage disengagement and the apparent low level of self-direction, we have to ask, “Is it our kids or our schools?”

We’ve seen enough high engagement schools where most teens were self-directed to suggest that it may be the design of American secondary schools that’s the problem—not the kids.

For a century, the primary design meme of American schools has been compliant consumption. Students read, practice and regurgitate in small chunks in siloed classes in regimented environments. Low levels of self-direction shouldn’t be surprising—it is inherent in the traditional secondary school design.

High engagement schools start from a different conception—knowledge co-creation and active production. They design a very different learner experience and support it with a student-centered culture and opportunities to improve self-regulation, initiative and persistence—all key to self-directed learning.

Why Does Self-Direction Matter?

Growth of the freelance- and gig-economy makes self-direction an imperative, but it’s also increasingly important inside organizations. David Rattray of the LA Chamber said, “Employees need to change their disposition toward employers away from work for someone else to an attitude of working for myself—agency, self-discipline, initiative and risk-taking are all important on the job.” (more…)

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