March 11, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
This post originally appeared at Getting Smart and the Huffington Post on March 4, 2015.
Student agency changes the nature of the educational process. As students build their habits of learning, they can take on more and more responsibility of their own education. The more experiences they have in managing their education, the more opportunities they have to strengthen their skills in time management, project management, pacing management, and executing with professionalism. At it’s very core, this is what GenDIY is all about—students taking responsibility and ownership of their journey to a career of their choosing.
In many of the competency-based schools across the country, educators are creating opportunities for students to co-create or co-design their education. At Chugach School District in Alaska, all students have the opportunity to create Independent Learning Plans (ILPs). The ILP is a structured opportunity for students to build or apply skills outside of school. It’s a chance to focus on high interest contexts or inquiries. And, it’s a chance to learn the skills they will need in college as self-directed, independent learners. (more…)
March 10, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
This is the second post in a series on Lindsay Unified High School. Click here for the first post.
Lindsay Unified School District has moved beyond preparing students for college and careers – they want to prepare their students for life. Chugach School District also thinks more broadly than the next step to college or careers. Focusing on the skills students will need for life is a good example of personalizing education, as the college/career goal is easily flipped to emphasize what our businesses and economy need for the future: the dynamic, ever-developing, wonderfully imperfect human beings who will shape the next generation of consumers.
Here are a few of the ways Lindsay is creating the capacity to prepare students for life: lifelong learning competencies, plans, projects, and transitional support.
Lifelong Learning Competencies
One of the big – perhaps I should say HUGE – advancements at Lindsay Unified School District is the effort they’ve put into clarifying the lifelong learning competencies they want students to develop before they graduate.
First, they’ve thought about the competencies developmentally with six phases: (more…)
March 9, 2015 by Lydia Leimbach
You don’t have to be part of a proficiency-based learning (PBL) environment for very long to see the benefit of using technology. PBL shifts learning from the “sage on the stage” method to one where students are direct stakeholders. They are asked to be in charge of their learning, making decisions about how, where, and often when they will work through content.
Many schools in Maine are making this transformational leap. My district is one of them. We recognized right away the importance of providing an “anytime, anywhere” learning platform that gives students access to standards and content around the clock. What we haven’t given enough time to, however, is dealing with the difference between posting information in the school’s learning management system and structuring the blended learning environment to maximize learning rather than access.
Blended learning is more than just making a website, posting assignments, and waiting for the magic to happen. It’s a model of teaching and learning that helps move the walls of the classroom and provides learning opportunities (as opposed to homework opportunities) both in and out of the classroom. It is designed intentionally to require students to engage with the content in a variety of ways that suit their learning style. Collaboration is essential. Good blended learning uses strategies that provide opportunities for students to revisit their learning, reflecting on what they’ve learned, and that allow time to think about how all this becomes personal. It helps students apply what they learn rather than memorize facts. The tools and resources available in a blended learning environment maximize learning, plain and simple.
In a perfect world, developing a blended learning environment would look like this: (more…)
March 6, 2015 by Julia Freeland
This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on March 5, 2015.
This week the U.S. Department of Education made a groundbreaking decision to allow four school systems in New Hampshire to pilot a new accountability regime based on a mix of local and state assessments. This first-of-its-kind policy marks an important policy development for competency-based systems and signals a move in the right direction for federal accountability.
New Hampshire’s Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) pilot will allow locally managed assessments to count toward federal accountability requirements. New Hampshire’s PACE project began in 2012 as an opt-in effort for districts to coordinate local approaches to performance assessment. Starting this year, the four PACE implementing districts—Sanborn Regional, Rochester, Epping, and Souhegan—will administer the Smarter Balanced assessment once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school (in three grades instead of seven). In all other years when students aren’t taking Smarter Balanced assessments, the PACE districts will administer carefully designed common and locally managed “performance assessments” that were developed by the districts themselves and validated at the state level.
Although there is a range of definitions of what constitutes a performance assessment, according to the New Hampshire DOE, “[p]erformance assessments are complex, multi-part tasks that ask students to apply what they have learned in sophisticated ways.” The state emphasizes that different mediums may qualify as evidence of mastery. The Department explained that these assessments vary by context and subject, and sometimes by a student’s particular interests: (more…)
March 5, 2015 by Chris Sturgis
Congratulations to New Hampshire! The U.S. Department of Education has approved New Hampshire to use performance-based assessments in four districts that have been part of PACE.PACE is developing:
- common performance tasks that have high technical quality,
- locally designed performance tasks with guidelines for ensuring high technical quality,
- regional scoring sessions and local district peer review audits to ensure sound accountability systems and high inter-rater reliability,
- a web-based bank of local and common performance tasks, and
- a regional support network for districts and schools.
NH will be using SBAC for some grade and the performance assessments for others. New Hampshire plans to expand PACE to eight districts next year.
This is an enormous step forward to building out the systems of assessments that emphasizes higher order skills by using performance assessments. More to come later!
by Lydia Leimbach
This post originally appeared at Teacher Tech on November 30, 2014.
I had a conversation with a colleague on one of the last days of school that has stuck with me ever since. We were discussing classroom management (I had just posted my “Distracted by Tech” article). My colleague said, “I get so tired of listening to complaints from some of our staff. All I hear is what the students haven’t done or won’t do and what they (the teacher) isn’t going to do. I’d love to hear how teachers hold themselves accountable for student success.”
I write often about strategies for holding students accountable when using technology but rarely have I thought about my own accountability when teaching.
This post isn’t really about tech integration and may offend some people. It’s not my intent. My intention is to spur thinking for those who are stuck and frustrated and perhaps are thinking laptops and phones are the cause of the learning blockage.
Teacher accountability isn’t easy. It’s not about how detailed my lesson plans are or how clear my directions for projects are. It’s not about how much kids like me. It’s about how effective I am in my teaching practices. In a nutshell, teacher accountability means that I take a regular look at my teaching practices, my classroom management, and my personal pedagogy and see how well it is meshing with student achievement.
For me this falls into four segments: (more…)
March 4, 2015 by Brian Stack
This past week, I had the pleasure of spending some time with school principals from Henry County, Georgia in an effort to help them get ready to start their own competency education and personalized learning journey. Henry County has committed to a redesign structure framed around five personalized learning tenets: Learner Profiles, Competency Based Learning, Project Based Learning, 21st Century Skills, and Technology Enabled Learning. Work is now underway in their schools to move their plan into action from just a few cohort schools to all of the schools in their county. As a high school principal from New Hampshire who underwent a similar school redesign just five years ago, I came to Georgia to offer these great principals some words of “wisdom” from a practical sense, using my own redesign journey as a guide. The experience for me personally was an opportunity to reflect back on what I have had to do as a school principal to help support this massive change process in our school community. The focus of this article is to share some of that advice for other principals who are likely to start this kind of work in the coming months or years.
To frame my advice, I will use the work of Kotter (1996) on leading change in an organization. Although Kotter’s work was written originally for the business world, it can easily be transferred to education. It is a perfect guide for principals who are leading a transition to competency education in their school. To illustrate his research in a practical manner, Kotter (2005) later wrote a fable about a colony of penguins living on an iceberg off the coast of Antarctica who discover that their iceberg is going to melt over the coming season and they need to convince the colony that they need to relocate and change how they live. Five years ago our school district used this fable to help our administrators, myself included, understand their role in the redesign and change process. The fable follows Kotter’s multi step process for successful change and will frame my advice for principals.
1) Set the stage by creating a sense of urgency and pulling together a guiding team. (more…)