April 10, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Based on school visits across the country, I have come to believe that competency education needs a large dose of personalization to bring it to life. In Maine where personalization is the leading policy concept, proficiency-based education and student voice and choice are being integrated as standard operating practices. However, in district-run high schools I visited in other states that don’t lead with personalization, competency education classrooms often lack that pride of learning that comes when students own their education. We need to build on the combination of what personalization and competency education together can offer if we are going to truly transform our education system into a place where everyone can succeed.
However, it’s hard to untangle the relationship between competency education and personalization, as the “field” of personalization hasn’t created a common understanding of what personalization is, and the variety of ways we can personalize education. I’ve often resorted to a basic Venn diagram where I’ve come to the conclusion that competency-based education is inherently personalized in terms of differentiated responses to students when they get stuck or fall behind, as well as offering flexibility in time. And it enables personalization by offering explicit competencies and rubrics. Looking at it through the lens of personalization, one can have many forms of personalization without competency-based practices. Some argue that personalization requires competency education in order to ensure equity. (more…)
April 4, 2013 by Gary Chapin
A new book by Linda C. Aronson, Unleashed to Learn: Empowering Students to Learn at Full Capacity, makes a clear and passionate argument about the power of performance assessment in a competency-based/learner-centered system.
Performance assessment – in which students pursue genuine interests, in real world settings, and in ways that suit their learning styles – is one of the keystones of Maine’s vision of proficiency-based/learner-centered education. The Senior Capstone, implemented by Hall-Dale High School (RSU2), is a shining example of performance assessment. A video featuring the Senior Capstone was included in Maine’s Center for Best Practice. The energy is remarkable.
Aronson spent six years at Hall-Dale High School designing and refining the Senior Capstone. Drawing from the stories of that time – both the shining moments and the hard challenges – she has written a moving case study and passionate jeremiad about why and how students should be allowed to guide their own learning. Performance assessment – and Senior Capstone – can help that happen.
April 1, 2013 by Nick Sproull and Susan Patrick
Associate Director of High School Review at the National Collegiate Athletic Association
Does the NCAA allow online courses for high school athletes to be eligible for college? The short answer is yes, as long as they are college preparatory in nature for core courses and exhibit clear characteristics where the nature of instruction, assessment and interaction (with evidence) are all college preparatory.
I get asked this question over and over about the NCAA and online courses.
Why is the NCAA in the business of reviewing high school courses in the first place? I have found the NCAA High School Review Committee to be very focused on helping make sure student athletes are prepared academically for future success.
In a discussion about the NCAA’s role, the NCAA notes:
Intercollegiate athletics is a high-stakes environment in which we have witnessed both adults and students looking for ways to “game the system,” by presenting documents that might suggest that students are prepared for college-level academic work though the opposite may be true. The NCAA is in a unique position in that it must be open to new and innovative learning models while simultaneously being mindful of the propensities for abuse. Because the NCAA observed alarming patterns of student-athletes attempting to gain a “quick fix” to their academic troubles through online courses in the last decade, rules were adopted by the NCAA membership in 2010 to allow for the approval of online and blended learning coursework that meets specific requirements to ensure college-readiness. (more…)
March 28, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
As it has done in the past years, the iNACOL Conference will have an entire strand dedicated to competency education. This year we would like to ask you for your guidance in identifying the most meaningful topics for workshops at the iNACOL Symposium’s competency-based education strand.
The iNACOL Virtual School Symposium name is changed – it is now the “iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium” (renamed for October 2013) in Orlando, Florida at the Swan & Dolphin Resort:
· Sunday, October 27: Pre-conference Session Workshop on Competency Education
· Monday, October 28 – Wednesday, October 30: Main iNACOL Conference Plenaries and 10+ Break-out Sessions on Competency Education
We’d love to hear your insights to the following questions. Just use the comment section below (or you can email me):
1. For beginner sessions, what are the 5-7 most important topics that need to be covered for people who are new to competency education?
2. Given the state of competency-based education today, what are the most important topics for people that have already been working in competency education (the top 5-7 “Must Have” session topics that need to be covered)?
3. What are the five most important “competencies” that someone working to transform their state, district or school needs to have?
4. If you have gone to iNACOL VSS sessions on competency education before, what parts do you think we should definitely keep? What was effective?
Remember, we are thinking about competency education broadly, not solely in the context of online and blended learning!
March 25, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
The Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC) has been working with many of the school districts around the country that are transforming their operations to “personalized mastery” systems. There aren’t a lot of technical assistance providers to help schools make the transition, so it’s good news that RISC is opening up their operations to a membership organization with four different levels of membership – individual, education institution, corporate and coalition members for those schools and districts using their framework.
I have a deep respect for the work that RISC is doing. There are two things that always jump out to me when I visit schools that have been partners with RISC: (more…)
March 22, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
We all know higher education plays a big role in designing and institutionalizing competency education, including alignment of admissions policies, increased access to competency-based dual credit courses, and teacher preparation, as well as building competency-based systems within their own organizations.
We are starting to see higher education formally take on this responsibility. Here are two examples (and let us know what is going on in your state):
1) Today, March 22 at the High School Redesign in Action Conference, 25 institutions of higher education in New England have formally endorsed proficiency-based education. These institutions include: (more…)
March 21, 2013 by Amy Laitinen
picture from the New America Foundation
This post was originally published on March 19, 2013 by the New America Foundation.
The U.S. Department of Education took a critical step forward today in moving towards a more flexible and innovative financial aid system—one that privileges (and pays for) learning, rather than time. In a letter released this morning, the Education Department let the world know not only that schools can award federal financial aid based on competency rather than seat time, but that the Department wants them to do so.
Up until now, the entire multi-billion dollar federal aid system has run on the credit hour. And while credit hours are useful for administrative functions like scheduling classes and determining faculty workloads, they are not so useful for measuring learning. (See our report Cracking the Credit Hour for more on the curious birth and harmful legacy of this time-based unit).
This shift in the Department’s stance has been seven years in the making. In 2005, Congress created an alternative path allowing federal financial aid to be awarded to a program that “in lieu of credit hours or clock hours as the measure of student learning, utilizes direct assessment of student learning (emphasis added).” While Congress didn’t give much detail about what direct assessment would look like, the general idea was that federal financial aid could be awarded based on the amount of learning a student had achieved, rather than the amount of time she had spent in class. Congress created this provision in large part to help an innovative, growing, and politically-connected institution, Western Governor’s University (WGU), receive federal financial aid. (more…)
March 19, 2013 by Rose Colby
From Making Mastery Work
Several weeks ago, I attended the CCSSO Innovation Lab Network meeting as a member of the New Hampshire team. At that meeting, Nick Donahue of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation spoke about how we must effectively message our work. After researching several of the resources he outlined (see wiki for the Frameworks Institute report Preparing America for the 21st Century: Values that Work in Promoting Education Reform), one important thought emerged and resonated with me as I prepared for a retreat with a school board and Principal of a traditional high school who wanted to know more about competency education.
I followed Nick’s advice as I designed the three hour work session with the first third of the meeting based on why we must prepare our students for the future. After doing a visioning exercise for the board to imagine what learning will look like on the campus in ten years, the members engaged and voiced many futuristic thoughts and ideas. It laid the groundwork for the discussion on college and career ready skills, competency frameworks, rich performance assessment and grade system reform.
At one point in the presentation, the board members became my ‘students’ and I launched them into a rich performance task (see below), having them unpack what they would have to do to tackle the problem, and then showed them how this work fit the competencies and the assessment plan I would use as a teacher. All of a sudden this school board was launched into 21st century learning using a competency based learning design. They got it! (more…)
March 13, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Gary Chapin just forwarded me the announcement that the Maine Department of Education’s Center for Best Practice has compiled a Glossary of Proficiency-Based Education in Maine to help educators navigate the shift toward proficiency-based/learner-centered education. The lack of consistency in language is one of the major problems that educators face when implementing such a system. One district’s “standards-based” may be another district’s “proficiency-based” or “competency-based” or “standards-referenced.” One district’s “standard” may be another district’s “performance indicator” or “learning target.”
This glossary was designed specifically for inclusion in the Technical Assistance Plan required by LD 1422. It is not intended to be exhaustive or comprehensive. It is intended to be useful to districts working to implement the proficiency-based diploma.
If your state is creating common language or glossary could you let us know at CompetencyWorks!
by Chris Sturgis
With interest in competency education growing rapidly, it’s absolutely critical that we make it easier for people to learn about what competency education is, what some design choices are, and some of the prevailing implementation issues surrounding competency education, so that they can develop robust systems that will move the needle.
One opportunity is just around the corner. The New England Secondary School Consortium’s upcoming meeting is highlighting competency-based (or proficiency-based) models from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Below are a few of the schools that will be sharing their learning. If you are attending, we would love to have you share a few of your “a-ha!” moments on CompetencyWorks. (more…)