Teachers in charge: USC Hybrid High’s approach to competency-based blended learning

June 4, 2014 by
Student at USC

From USC Hybrid High School web site

Originally posted June 3, 2014 at Christensen Institute.

Last week I had the privilege of visiting the USC Hybrid High School (HHS), a new charter school in Los Angeles and winner of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenges grant. HHS is pursuing a blended and competency-based model—that is, the school is leveraging technology to deliver some academic content online and building opportunities for students to advance upon mastery, rather than according to hours of instruction. HHS has seen numerous iterations over its past two years in existence (EdSurge’s Mary Jo Madda did a great write-up of these changes earlier this year).

For example, last year the school used Apex Learning almost exclusively to drive a flex blended-learning model (wherein online learning is the backbone, and teachers work with students one-on-one and in groups on projects and tutorials). Now, in its second year, the school has shifted away from a single-provider model to instead making teachers the primary designers of the blended-learning models in their individual classrooms by using a wider range of tools. The school is also putting its money where its mouth is in this design: each teacher receives a stipend to purchase his own software products according to his particular course(s) and tastes. (more…)

Step Two: Picture It

June 3, 2014 by
Artist_at_Work

From Wikicommons

One of the first things teachers and teams ask for when we begin talking about student-centered proficiency-based learning is an example of what it looks like. I tend to go here with teams and teachers after learning targets are in place; I think having something in place makes it easier to build the rest of the vision. (See Step One: Separate the Baby from the Bathwater.) To help people picture what a student’s day might look like in a competency-based system, I share this narrative with them:

Bobby walks into his team wing ready for the day to begin. It is early October and he has settled into his team and schedule. They spent the last few weeks building a team culture and working to understand where they are in their learning. At this point, Bobby feels like he knows where he belongs and is ready to jump in to his learning.

At the end of advisory, Bobby heads over to his numeracy workshop class. When he walks into the room his teachers, Ms. Brown and Ms. Green, have posted a problem on the whiteboard. He and his classmates work on it independently for a few minutes, then they are told to get into groups and share their answers and how they solved it. Ms. Brown and Ms. Green walk around and check in with each group. (more…)

Webinar on Competency Education and Expanded Learning

June 2, 2014 by
From CCSSO.org

From CCSSO.org

The American Youth Policy Forum is sponsoring a webinar Promoting Partnerships Between K-12 and Expanded Learning through Competency-Based Approaches on June 12, 2014, 1-2:30 PM ET. Expanded learning is an important technique for personalizing education for students — see examples from Pittsfield and Making Community Connections Charter School. This webinar is a great chance to get up to speed on the practices and policy conditions that can enable students to build their skills out in the real-world.

Below is the description of the webinar and you can register here:

Students need a broad range of knowledge, skills, and abilities to graduate from high school prepared for college and career success. K-12 systems have traditionally been unable to incorporate many of those skills into their instructional practices. However, many educators and policymakers are beginning to reframe their approach around a more student-centered philosophy in which student progress can be measured through demonstration of competency in place of seat time.

As this shift to a system focused on measuring actual competency takes hold in communities across the country, this means that educators can think more flexibly about what counts as an educational opportunity. Expanded learning opportunities that take place beyond the traditional school day, either at school in community-based organizations or in real-world settings, can provide student-centered learning opportunities. They should be seen as a key partner with schools to promote academic advancement and college and career readiness for all students. More intentional partnerships between school day educators and expanded learning opportunities can validate learning already happening in non-formal settings and allow for a wide range of learning experiences that might otherwise be unavailable to students.

This webinar will be the first in a series focused on showcasing promising initiatives in which expanded learning is being embedded into competency-based K-12 systems. This event will discuss the rationale for such an approach, describe program implementation strategies, and highlight the necessary conditions for implementation. Presenters will include Kim Carter, QED Foundation; Alexis Menten, Asia Society; Jennifer Portillo, Denver Center for International Studies; and Beth Colby, Council of Chief State School Officers.

Thoughts on Grain Size

May 27, 2014 by
david ruff

David Ruff

As schools across the country engage with and implement proficiency-based learning, one of the first steps educators are taking is to

identify the skills, knowledge, and dispositions students should know and be able to demonstrate in order to either progress in their learning or graduate from the K-12 system. Certainly, there are significant resources for this, including state standards, the Common Core, and various other national sets of standards. However, few of these resources are shaped to best support instructional and organizational implementation of proficiency-based learning.

First off, we need to clarify the different uses of standards within curriculum, assessment, and student level accountability.  There are many standards that can help teachers shape the learning experience in the classroom—the actual curriculum that is enacted. Many of these standards are worthy of being assessed, formatively and/or summatively. However, only a handful are worth using for student-level accountability. Essentially, what standards will we require students to demonstrate in order to graduate? (more…)

Three Steps for Personalizing Assessment

May 26, 2014 by

Why do we always assess students at the same time and let that be the governing factor for student achievement?timing

Andrew Miller, a faculty member at Buck Institute and ASCD, explores this issue in  Personalizing Assessment with Time in Mind:

 We know that students each learn at their own pace. Some take longer; some take a shorter amount of time. We have the same high expectations for our students, but we also know students take different amounts of time to get to those high expectations. One critical element of personalization is that time is no longer the driving factor. Instead of relying on the Carnegie unit, students show mastery and are assessed when they are ready. Granted, so many outside forces are demanding our time, but how might we move past them to meet students were they are in the assessment process?

Here are Andrew’s three steps for how you can start to create systems of assessments that enable you to further personalize the learning experience for students: (more…)

Iowa Goes BIG: Next-level learning

May 22, 2014 by

This blog was originally posed May 20, 2014 at the Iowa Department of Education with the sidebar, below. Be sure to watch the video about BIG – it’s really fun and interesting.

Some say they learn best by reading. Others say they learn best by doing.iowa big logo

For students who prefer the latter, the Cedar Rapids and College Community districts have joined forces to offer a non-traditional setting where the classroom has no walls, the coursework has no textbooks, and the grade level is not a consideration. Be assured this is no cakewalk: The students master skills and content consistent with their classroom counterparts. But they do so through projects that go beyond the school yard and solidly into the community.

The districts call the school Iowa BIG – big for its concepts, even bigger for its impact. (more…)

Iowa Goes BIG: From Reservations to Success

by

This blog was originally posted May 20, 2014 at the Iowa Department of Education. Be sure to watch the video about BIG — it’s really fun and iowa_de-150x150interesting.

There is no particular formula for successful competency-based education (CBE). Programs vary from in-school coursework where the student learns at his or her own pace to internships and project-oriented work.

Ideally, students could choose which path to take since they have different preferences in the way they learn, said Iowa Department of Education Consultant Sandra Dop.

“Some students might choose one type of learning over another,” she said. “For instance, a student might want a specific learning environment for gaining proficiency in a particular subject, but another learning environment to demonstrate proficiency in another area.  All of this is negotiated with the teacher.  Kim Carter of QED Foundation calls it, ‘negotiated pace with gradual release,’ meaning that the students are not completely on their own to set a pace, and they slowly take over their learning as they develop the skills to do so. ” (more…)

Blending Toward Competency: A closer look at blended learning in New Hampshire

May 21, 2014 by
Originally posted May 21, 2014 at Christensen Institute.

inside a classroom

New Hampshire abolished the Carnegie unit in 2005.

Blended learning comes in various shapes and sizes in New Hampshire.

In 2007, Exeter Region Cooperative School District (SAU 16) in Exeter, N.H., applied for a statewide charter to launch the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS), New Hampshire’s first fully virtual charter school. Steve Kossakoski, the district’s then assistant superintendent for technology and research, took the helm as CEO of VLACS in 2008. Under Kossakoski’s guidance, VLACS has grown into the leading competency-based online course provider in the state. VLACS students move through online courses at their own pace, and the school has implemented competency assessments that require that students not only complete coursework, but also demonstrate mastery of each competency associated with a given course.

In 2008, in Durham, N.H., Celeste Best, an award-winning science teacher at Oyster River High School, noticed that her students lacked ownership of their learning. Best decided that instead of teaching all of her students at once, she would assign students to different projects or learning opportunities—either online or offline—depending on how they were progressing through the material.

That same year, in Litchfield, N.H., Campbell High School received a Federal Title-II-D grant to implement technology in its classrooms. But Andrea Ange and Justin Ballou, a library media specialist and a teacher, respectively, at the high school, noticed that the program fell short because the software programs they purchased were not user-friendly. As a result, the two decided to start their own company, Socrademy, which launched in 2012. Socrademy aims to serve as a personalized learning platform, where students can select and complete competency-based, modular content focused on their passions at their own pace. (more…)

Threads of Implementation — Lessons Learned from Maine

by

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 12.13.09 PMThe Maine Department of Education has condensed their six case studies on districts that have embraced proficiency-based education into one article. Threads of Implementation: A Thematic Review of Six Case Studies of Maine School Districts Implementing Proficiency-Based/Learner-Centered Systems looks at nine issues:  vision and framework; policy; leadership; teacher engagement; finance and professional development; technology; communications; pace of implementation; and cultural change. Given that it’s a concise summary, we’ve reposted it below.

Beginning in February 2012, the Maine Department of Education through its Center for Best Practice (Center) began publishing a series of in-depth case studies of school districts who were implementing proficiency-based/learner-centered systems.  These districts were in very different stages of their implementation journeys.  For example, the member districts of the Western Maine Education Collaborative (WMEC) were just beginning implementation while Poland Regional High School (of RSU 16) had been completely proficiency-based since it opened in 1999.  Though each of the districts featured in the Center over the last two years took decidedly different paths on their way to change, there were common themes that emerged throughout the case studies.  Their experiences serve as lessons for other Maine districts just beginning this transition in preparation for all schools in the state issuing diplomas starting in 2018 to students based on demonstrated proficiency.

Vision and Framework
All districts involved in making this change considered it vitally important to engage in a vision-setting process that made explicit certain assumptions.  This visioning process came at different times for each district.  For RSU 18, the visioning process – a Future Search – happened early.  The school board invited 80 stakeholders to participate in a process that would answer the question: “What do great schools look like?  And what should kids learn in great schools?”  RSU 2 went through a similar process, but engaged in it after individual schools had been working on proficiency-based issues for years – in fact, their visioning process came only after a significant pushback from parents.  The individual schools of RSU 20 had clear visions of their own, but the district as a whole did not.  When the individual schools came together to form RSU 20, one of the early acts of the new school board was to approve a proficiency-based vision for the district (though individual schools were free to choose their own way to approach this vision). (more…)

Performance-Based Assessment in Action

May 20, 2014 by

Originally posted May 16, 2014 at gettingsmart.com.  For more on Danville’s overall approach see District Transformation in Danville.Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 7.09.43 AM

Close your eyes and imagine an innovative school, a next-generation school that excels at preparing students to thrive in college and career. Picture a school that engages students in rigorous and authentic project-based learning opportunities, a school that has developed ways to get technology into the hands of students in a way that connects to its goals around next-gen teaching and learning. You’re probably imagining a flashy high-tech building situated in well-resourced district with dollars to spare. You’re probably thinking “Sounds good, but my district can’t do this because of [insert your reason here].”

My guess is that you’re not picturing a traditional school district in the middle of Kentucky. My guess is you’re probably not picturing a building that was built in 1912. My guess is you’re probably not picturing Bate Middle School in Danville; but you should be. (more…)

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