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.

a project of

inacol logo

Three Driving Questions for Developing High-Quality Competency-Based Systems

June 12, 2017 by

This is the sixth blog in a series leading up to the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. We are focusing on four key areas: equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy. (Learn more about the Summit here.) We released a series of draft papers in early June to begin addressing these issues. It is important to remember that all of these ideas can be further developed, revised, or combined – the papers are only a starting point for introducing these key issues and driving discussions at the Summit. We would love to hear your comments on which ideas are strong, which are wrong, and how we might be able to advance the field.

One of my big a-ha moments in the process of the Technical Assistance Group on Quality (thanks to all of you!) is that we couldn’t define quality until we were able to explain what a competency-based structure was more precisely. Remember, we take the position that the traditional system is a barrier to both equity and excellence, as it is designed around a belief that some kids are just smarter than others and there isn’t much to do about it, so part of the job of schools is to rank and sort students. If we are going to identify the parts of the traditional system that are problematic, we are going to have to replace them with something else. That something else is competency-based education. Thus, the efforts to define quality started with the question of what a competency-based structure is.

Below is the introduction to the paper In Search of Efficacy: Defining the Elements of Quality in a Competency-Based Education System. Tomorrow’s article will begin to answer these questions. We are looking forward to your reaction.

Efficacy, the degree to which something is successful in producing a desired result, is at the heart of competency-based education. After centuries of educating America’s children in schools that are designed to sort students, we are shifting from the traditional one-size-fits-all system and replacing it with a system that personalizes learning within a competency-based structure to ensure that every student is making progress toward college and career readiness (academic, higher order, and lifelong learning skills). In other words, competency-based education seeks to create a system that effectively supports students to learn to high expectations not for some, but for every student.

In order to advance the field of competency education, it is important that educators and policymakers create a shared understanding of what a high quality competency-based system looks like. Beginning to define what quality means in a competency-based system based on practitioner knowledge can expedite the process of states, districts, and school adopting these new structures and approaches. This includes clarifying how the structures and approaches incorporate equity strategies to ensure historically underserved students will benefit and thrive.  More importantly, having a shared understanding of high quality competency-based schools will position us to better serve and educate students today and not postpone it until some future date. We simply cannot allow students to continue to be passed on year after year to the next grade without the skills they need to be successful.

Attendees at the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education will explore three questions related to defining what high quality means in a competency-based district or school:   (more…)

Print Friendly

Charting the Course for Equity in Competency Education

June 11, 2017 by

This is the fifth blog in a series leading up to the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. We are focusing on four key areas: equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy. (Learn more about the Summit here.) We released a series of draft papers in early June to begin addressing these issues. This article is adapted from In Pursuit of Equality: A Framework for Equity Strategies in Competency-Based Education. It is important to remember that all of these ideas can be further developed, revised, or combined – the papers are only a starting point for introducing these key issues and driving discussions at the Summit. We would love to hear your comments on which ideas are strong, which are wrong, and how we might be able to advance the field.

By the end of the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education, we hope to be able to provide guidance and/or recommendations for how we can ensure that equality is not just rhetorically at the heart of competency education, but actually producing greater achievement for historically underserved students and greater equity in terms of overall outcomes. Below are a few examples of actionable steps that are needed. It’s just a starting point – we know this needs to be strengthened.

We encourage you to share your reactions to the ideas below. What other steps can be taken? What is needed to turn them from ideas into action? Please leave your suggestions in the comments section below.

Design for Equity

  • Strengthen Equity Strategies in Models and Implementation:
    • School designers and technical assistance providers should be explicit about how their approach and model takes into consideration equity strategies.
    • Professional learning should provide an overview for designing personalized, competency-based structures that highlight embedding equity strategies into design. This can include school design, pedagogy, operations (scheduling and calendars), grading practices, and disciplinary policies.

Consistency and Reliability in Determining Proficiency

  • Calibration: Districts and schools should co-create mechanisms to calibrate proficiency on core academic skills and higher order skills.

Processes and Metrics (more…)

Print Friendly

Building a Comprehensive Set of Equity Strategies

June 10, 2017 by

This is the fourth blog in a series leading up to the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. We are focusing on four key areas: equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy. (Learn more about the Summit here.) We released a series of draft papers in early June to begin addressing these issues. This article is adapted from In Pursuit of Equality: A Framework for Equity Strategies in Competency-Based Education. It is important to remember that all of these ideas can be further developed, revised, or combined – the papers are only a starting point for introducing these key issues and driving discussions at the Summit. We would love to hear your comments on which ideas are strong, which are wrong, and how we might be able to advance the field.

Districts and schools will need to design equity strategies based on their student population and data on student learning and achievement. However, there are a number of core strategies that can benefit all students and have been developed based on helping historically underserved students learn. We organized the ideas into four categories: data; instruction and assessment design; lifelong learning skills; and supports and opportunities.

The Power of Data

For competency-based schools and districts (and any school, for that matter) to take responsibility for students to be successful, educational leaders must use data within a short-term response to students who are struggling and a long-term continuous improvement cycle. The power of data cannot be underestimated in seeking out pockets of inequitable practices and spotlighting areas where educators, schools, and districts can learn and grow.

Within the traditional, top-down systems, data is often considered something that you send on to the next higher level of governance rather than something that can be acted upon. In competency-based education, data is also a tool to change practices, reduce bias, and test our equity strategies to discover which are the most effective. Seeking to uncover pockets of unmet need, unidentified talent, and bias (both personal and systemic) starts with asking questions such as:

  1. In what ways may we not be meeting the needs of groups of students?
  2. Are there trends or patterns that suggest that equity strategies are needed (from the perspective of state, districts, school, professional learning communities, or individual teacher)?
  3. What is preventing us from achieving greater equality?
  4. What equity strategies are needed (learner-based, belief-based, systemic) to improve the quality of education for students who appear to be under-achieving and/or underserved?

Multiple sources of data, including qualitative interviews and surveys, can help identify where inequity may be undermining programming and/or where stronger equity strategies are needed.

Instruction and Assessment Design

  • Creating learning environments using the principles of Universal Design for Learning.
  • Incorporating techniques of cultural responsiveness.
  • Providing transparency about student performance levels and progress.
  • Customizing additional instructional support and coaching in response to student needs.
  • Empowering students through individual or personal learning plans in which students set goals and make plans for accomplishing those goals, as well as reflections with educators, students, and parents on accomplishments and where there is need for greater attention.
  • Teaching literacy strategies across the entire curriculum.

(more…)

Print Friendly

Potential Pitfalls for Ensuring Equity in Competency-Based Systems

June 9, 2017 by

This is the third blog in a series leading up to the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. We are focusing on four key areas: equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy. (Learn more about the Summit here.) We released a series of draft papers in early June to begin addressing these issues. This article is adapted from In Pursuit of Equality: A Framework for Equity Strategies in Competency-Based Education. It is important to remember that all of these ideas can be further developed, revised, or combined – the papers are only a starting point for introducing these key issues and driving discussions at the Summit. We would love to hear your comments on which ideas are strong, which are wrong, and how we might be able to advance the field.

Even with the best school design imaginable, there is always a concern that inequity will rear its ugly head. We have to be vigilant in identifying where this might occur if we want to ensure competency-based systems live up to their promise. In our discussions with the Technical Advisory Group participants, we identified nine potential issues that may arise in personalized, competency-based systems. By identifying these issues, states, districts, and schools can create mitigating strategies and preemptively use data to look for early trends.

It is important to remember that most, if not all, of the following nine issues are also problematic in the traditional system. The difference is that competency-based schools make them transparent and take responsibility for addressing them. Districts and schools simply can’t ignore these issues and still fully engage students in putting their best efforts forward, reaching mastery, and making progress.

1. Are Pace and Progress Closely Monitored? The primary equity concern related to competency education is the fear that variation in pacing will mean that some students get left behind. However, the reality is that in traditional environments, gaps for students who lack core knowledge and skills already exist, and the time-based structure means these gaps only grow over time. What competency education requires is that we focus on students every day, giving them supports to stay on pace while still allowing them to have a variety of tempos in how they learn and ensuring they demonstrate mastery. The most developed competency-based schools monitor growth of students based on their learning trajectory, not just their pace on grade-level standards. Competency-based schools help students to set goals and teachers to reflect with students to identify gaps in skills that need to be addressed.

2. Are There Adequate Supports for Students to Ensure They Reach Proficiency and Make Progress? States, districts, and schools need to be thinking strategically about the most effective instructional strategies to help students with skill gaps (i.e., performance levels two or more levels below their expected grade level) to accelerate learning. Educators should engage in action research to identify the most effective evidence-based practices. In addition, districts and schools need to become more responsive to students who need additional support, including providing supports before, during, and after the semester. This will require different structures and budgeting strategies.

In competency-based education, students who are at or above grade level are also expected to progress even if it is to standards above their grade level. Thus, systems of supports in districts and schools need to take into consideration strategies to support 100 percent of the students. (more…)

Print Friendly

Introducing an Equity Framework for Competency Education

June 8, 2017 by

This is the second blog in a series leading up to the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. We are focusing on four key areas: equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy. (Learn more about the Summit here.) We released a series of draft papers in early June to begin addressing these issues. This article is adapted from In Pursuit of Equality: A Framework for Equity Strategies in Competency-Based Education. It is important to remember that all of these ideas can be further developed, revised, or combined – the papers are only a starting point for introducing these key issues and driving discussions at the Summit. We would love to hear your comments on which ideas are strong, which are wrong, and how we might be able to advance the field.

One of our challenges at the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education is to explore, clarify, and develop recommendations on how to approach and improve equity within a competency-based system. In a competency-based system we assume that there is some level of personalization and differentiation in order to meet students where they are, to build lifelong learning skills, and to engage and motivate students. In the participatory Technical Advisory Group we looked at several driving questions, including:

  • How should we define equity to be meaningful in a personalized, competency-based system?
  • How can competency-based learning systems and schools make outcomes more transparent and take responsibility for addressing equity issues?
  • What do we know about improving equity? What elements should be integrated into competency-based structures? What practices should be integrated into any classroom?
  • How can we work together as a field to ensure that competency-based systems take full advantage of what we know about equity strategies to benefit all students, especially those who have been historically underserved?

The first step was to clarify what we meant by equity. With a reflection on how the concept of fairness or equality has developed in American education, we came to an understanding that equity refers to the strategies – equity strategies if you will – that are used to ensure that all students succeed. After looking at many definitions, we are building upon the definition of equity advanced by the National Equity Project.

Educational equity means that each child receives what he or she needs to develop to his or her full academic and social potential. Working toward equity in schools involves:

  • Ensuring equally high outcomes for all participants in our educational system; removing the predictability of success or failures that currently correlates with any social or cultural factor;
  • Interrupting inequitable practices, examining biases, and creating inclusive multicultural school environments for adults and children; and
  • Discovering and cultivating the unique gifts, talents and interests that every human possesses.

(more…)

Print Friendly

CompetencyWorks Releases New Reports on Key Issues in Competency Education

June 7, 2017 by

In advance of the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education, CompetencyWorks released new draft reports exploring key issues challenging the field of competency education:

Competency education is expanding nationally – sometimes led by educators at the school and district level, and sometimes introduced by leadership at the state level – to effect change in the purpose of education from sorting students to ensuring that students learn to the levels of college and career readiness. This is an enormous leap with enormous consequences.

To make sure that we were understanding as many of these consequences as possible, CompetencyWorks designed a participatory process leading up to the Summit where practitioners could contribute their knowledge through Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs). Through the TAG process, organizations, schools, and leaders engaged in deep conversations around these issues and shared their collective insights, which we incorporated into these reports. Thank you to the 100+ people who participated in the Technical Advisory Groups to develop the ideas in the paper.  

During the Summit, attendees will discuss these key issues, collaborate on the field’s challenges, and brainstorm solutions and best practices to advance K-12 competency-based education, using these reports to guide discussions. After the Summit, we will revise these reports based on the attendees’ input.

If you didn’t get a chance to participate in a TAG and would like to chime in, please leave comments either here or in one of the blogs based on the papers. It is just as helpful to us at this point to know what you find really helpful or powerful as it is to know what isn’t or what is missing.

Four Emerging Issues in Competency Education

(more…)

Print Friendly

Goodbye ABCs: How One State is Moving Beyond Grade Levels and Graded Assessments

June 6, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at EdSurge on May 16, 2017.

The term “grades” has become almost taboo among some educators in New Hampshire, where seven elementary schools are slowly ditching the word altogether through a program known as NG2. The program—short for “no grades, no grades”—is hallmarked by the schools shifting to a more competency-based assessment structure and removal of grade levels.

Mary Earick, project director for NG2, says the purpose of the program is to create more flexible learning pathways for students through “competency-based multiage schooling,” which allows students to move on to new objectives only after mastering others.

“[NG2] tackles long-standing educational barriers to personalized learning . . . that of ‘Grades,’” Earick writes in an upcoming report on the project. Those barriers include “(1) student assessments that don’t accurately reflect students’ true understandings and skills and (2) methods for grouping students (by age) that often poorly align to their true needs as learners.”

The program follows six key tenets: project-based learning, learner agency, whole person development, blended learning and competency-based assessment. New Hampshire schools participating in NG2 represent urban, suburban and rural parts of the state. While the elementary schools are alike in piloting a “no grades, no grades” structure, each was given flexibility for how it would implement the program specifically.

“We don’t talk about that [grades] anymore,” says Amy Allen, principal at Parker Varney Elementary, a NG2 school. For Allen, moving away from just using the word “grades” has been an important piece of keeping students motivated in the program. So if a first-grade student is attending a kindergarten intervention group, he is not told he is going to a kindergarten class. Instead, he might be going to see “team cooperation.”

Allen says that about 80 percent of the school is participating in the pilot. There are two separate K-2 groupings, one second/third grade group, and a fourth/fifth group. (The other 20 percent of the school, including a standalone kindergarten and third-grade class, are sticking to the status quo.) (more…)

Print Friendly

New Hampshire Innovation Studios

June 5, 2017 by

This post and all pictures originally appeared at 2Revolutions.

Depending on the goals of our partners, Discover and Learn Days can take many formats. Innovation Studios are one example. Launched in partnership with the New Hampshire Department of Education and the New Hampshire Learning Initiative, Innovation Studios are half-day workshops at New Hampshire schools that focus on exposing educators and school leaders to innovation happening in their own backyard. Participants explore cutting-edge learning environments that foster personalization, competency-based learning, and student agency and then go on to design prototypes to bring these innovations back to their schools.

Public Will Through Community Engagement

The genesis of Innovation Studios came from New Hampshire’s state educational vision, called NH Vision 2.0, which laid out the foundational goals for the state in 2016 and beyond. One main goal of the vision, is to engage New Hampshire communities in transforming schools in ways that make sense for the kids and families attending them. The NH 2.0 visioning team of state officials, educators, district leaders, business and non-profit organizations, 2Rev, and others, realized that it’s more powerful to help communities create solutions that fit their distinct needs rather than coming to them with an answer. These studios are one mode for how this is unfolding—sparking and encouraging innovation by sharing ideas and approaches that are working in real schools with real kids.

 

Space for Exploration

Sessions begin with a range of design and learning activities, like this one, which is a play on the periodic table and helps participants identify the skills and dispositions where they shine and those areas where they need support. Creating transformative schools that go beyond academic competencies requires the educators in them to have experiences that tap into these essential skills and dispositions; activities like these are one way into that. After warming up, participants hear from the visiting school about the work they have been doing. Each studio has focused in on a different entry point to innovation: competency-based learning and assessments at Pittsfield Schools, project-based learning at Parker-Varney Elementary School, and student agency at Souhegan High School and Maple Street Magnet School. (more…)

Print Friendly

Looking to Ditch Traditional Grades? Here’s How to Get Stakeholders On Board

June 2, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at EdSurge on May 17, 2017.

You know that old interview question: What would change in education if you had a magic wand? For Scott Looney, there’d be no hesitating: He would have every school switch from traditional grading to competency-based evaluations. “They’re more authentic, more meaningful, and more logical,” he explains. “They just make sense.”

Looney is the mastermind behind the Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC), an organization made up of over 100 private schools. Rather than a traditional GPA, the group imagines a credit-based transcript , with links to artifacts that demonstrate students’ mastery across different competencies. The basic premise is that by providing a more complex and accurate picture of students, academic needs can be better met, colleges can make more informed admissions decisions, and intrinsic motivation will follow.

The MTC is not alone in its mission. An increasing number of schools—including charter and traditional public schools—are making a similar move to ditch traditional grades in favor of a more robust approach to assessing students’ skills. Whether they call it competency-, mastery-, or standards-based grading, the movement aims to improve students outcomes sans As, Bs, and Cs.

But making the switch may be easier said than done. Competency and mastery-based evaluations often require more work from teachers, more self-motivation from students, and less certainty when it comes to the college application process. So how to reap the benefits of competency-based education and make sure parents, teachers and other stakeholders are on board? We check in with the schools in the process of figuring that out.

Spoiler: it may boil down to good communication. (more…)

Print Friendly
WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera