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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Assessing Work Study Practices in a Competency Education School

July 19, 2015 by
Brian Stack

Brian Stack

Introduction

Five years ago, when my high school first implemented its competency education model, we as a faculty reached consensus on our purpose of grading. We believe that the purpose of grading is to communicate student achievement toward mastery of learning targets and standards. Grades represent what students learn, not what they earn. This helped us establish a common set of grading practices that every teacher agreed to use in their classrooms. They include things like the separation of formative and summative assessments (with formatives carrying no more than 10 percent weight for an overall course grade), the linking of summative assessments to performance indicators which link back to competencies in our grade book; the use of reassessment; the use of a 4.0 letter rubric scale for all assignments and assessments; and the separation of academics from academic behaviors. This article will focus on this last grading practice – from how we developed our academic behaviors to how we assess them and how we are using these grades to better prepare our students for their college and career futures.

At my school, we believe in the importance of separating what it is we want our students to know and be able to do (academics) from academic behaviors like working in groups, participating in class discussions, and meeting deadlines. While we firmly believe these behaviors are critical to academic achievement, comingling them with academic grades does not give us an accurate picture of the level of achievement our students have reached with their academic course competencies. When we first proposed this idea five years ago, separating behaviors was a big mind shift for many of our teachers who were accustomed to giving participation points as part of a course grade or taking points off of an assignment when they were turned in after a deadline. Early in our design phase we were charged with the task of finding a meaningful way to hold students accountable for these important work study practices without compromising the purity of our academic grades that we set out to establish. (more…)

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What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

July 16, 2015 by

CompetencyWorks in the News


Steps to Help Schools Transform to Competency-Based Learning
, a Mind/Shift article by Katrina Schwartz, features Chris Sturgis and CompetencyWorks’ recent report: Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders. A panel of district leaders implementing competency education presented a webinar on this report; you can find the archived webinar here.Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AM

School Designs

Competency Education Policy

  • States considering policies to support competency-based education are on the rise, according to a recent iNACOL blog post. Policy levers that support competency education and personalized learning include innovation zones, school finance changes, planning grants, new assessment frameworks, and pilot programs. Read more here. (more…)
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Catapulting Toward Competency Ed

July 15, 2015 by

CatapultThere is a new resource available for school designers that want to launch innovative schools. Check out the New Schools Venture Fund Catapult: Invent 2015. It’s for schools that will open in 2016. They don’t have a restrictive list of what it means to be innovative – but they do identify some of the ideas they find exciting, including:

  • Competency-based models that truly allow students to progress along a path and at a pace that best meets their needs;
  • New and better ways to integrate digital content with teacher-facilitated instruction which advance the current state of blended instruction;
  • Development and/or integration of novel approaches to measure academic and/or non-academic dimensions that support an expanded definition of student success;
  • Creative and scalable approaches that enable students to develop and explore their interests and pursue their passions; and
  • Bridges between early childhood and K-12 systems and ways to integrate the two.

Hurry, hurry, hurry. Applications due August 15th.

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State Policy: Resources for Getting Started

by
susan_patrick

Susan Patrick

Looking for a few resources to send state policy makers to get started on competency education? Here are some suggestions.

How Are States Advancing Competency Education?

The report Necessary for Success: A State Policymakers Guide to Competency Education (iNACOL CompetencyWorks) provides an overview and recommendations for state policy.

There is also a short briefing paper on Aligning K-12 State Policy with Competency Education that you can use and adapt for your state.

This article provides an overview on Iowa’s initiative.

New Hampshire’s efforts have been well-documented, including NH’s Story of Transformation and From policy to practice: How competency-based education is evolving in New Hampshire.

Maine also has been documenting their efforts. You can find resources here.

Background: Overview of Competency-Based Education

States considering policies to support competency-based education are on the rise. Policy levers that support competency education and personalized learning include creating innovation zones, supporting school finance changes, planning grants, implementing new assessment frameworks, and starting pilot programs.

Five approaches in state policy to enable competency-based education:

  1. Competency-Based Education Pilot Programs
  2. Innovation Zones
  3. Competency-Based Diplomas
  4. Competency-Based Task Forces
  5. Flexibility for Competency-Based Assessments

(more…)

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States Considering Policies Supporting Competency-Based Education

July 14, 2015 by

LibraryThis post originally appeared at iNACOL on June 26, 2015.

States considering policies to support competency-based education are on the rise. Policy levers that support competency education and personalized learning include innovation zones, school finance changes, planning grants, new assessment frameworks, and pilot programs. This week, we highlight states’ efforts to pass policies that support new models and systems of assessments, including flexibility for locally-developed, performance-based assessments.

How a state structures its assessments and accountability systems can significantly enhance or impede competency education. Acknowledging this, North Carolina HB 439 expresses legislative intent that the state “transition to a system of testing and assessments…that utilizes competency-based learning assessments to measure student performance and student growth.” The bill passed the House by a vote of 112-2 but has stalled in the Senate. North Carolina can still pass the bill but must move quickly in order to do so because the legislature adjourns on July 1.

Federal rules require states to administer summative tests at the end of each school year that include test items from only students’ current grade levels. These single-point-in-time assessment systems discourage schools from implementing personalized, competency-based pathways. (more…)

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Three Factors for Success: Agency, Integrated Identity, and Competencies

July 13, 2015 by

ydThere is growing interest – and I would also argue growing confusion – about all the skills and dispositions that aren’t academic content areas. They are often lumped together under the phrase “non-cognitive.” I fully agree with Andy Calkins that the term “non-cognitive” is problematic. In fact, I would say it is downright silly and makes us sound like we don’t know anything about learning and brain science when we suggest higher order thinking skills are not part of a cognitive process.

However, I don’t think the answer is in finding the right terminology, but in understanding how all these skills and dispositions relate to learning and to the development of young people into what we have called college and career ready. There is significant difference between dispositions such as grit or perseverance and skills related to self-knowledge such as self-control, not to mention skills used in projects and work such as collaboration and communication, and thinking skills such as analysis or evaluation used in almost every academic pursuit. I’m not quite sure where creativity goes at all …perhaps it is a category unto itself.

It’s important to understand these differences and think carefully about how they are nurtured, what they look like developmentally that might be structured as benchmarks, and how they are assessed. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating for formal summative assessments. It doesn’t make sense to me to try to have NAEP monitoring grit at this point in time unless we really understand how all these dispositions and skills fit together. And until we determine which ones, if any,  are important to measure. It’s much more important for us to figure out how schools and teachers, working with community partners, develop and assess as a cycle of learning and development.

The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research has just released an absolutely groundbreaking developmental framework that could help us on our way of understanding how these concept fit together. The report, Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework, provides a two-tier framework (captured in this infographic). The authors propose that young adults will be successful when three key factors are in place: agency, integrated identity, and competencies. According to the report, “These factors capture how a young adult poised for success interacts with the world (agency), the internal compass that a young adult uses to make decisions consistent with her values, beliefs, and goals (an integrated identity), and how she is able to be effective in different tasks (competencies).” Underlying the key factors are four foundational components: self-regulation, knowledge and skills, mindsets, and values.

The authors define these factors as:

Agency is the ability to make choices about and take an active role in one’s life path, rather than solely being the product of one’s circumstances. Agency requires the intentionality and forethought to derive a course of action and adjust that course as needed to reflect one’s identity, competencies, knowledge and skills, mindsets, and values. (more…)

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Keeping the Why

July 8, 2015 by

TeacherRecently, I found myself at a conference sponsored by the Maine Curriculum Leaders’ Association. The purpose: to discuss where we are as a state in our ability to award diplomas based on proficiency of concepts and skills. Since each district is tasked with defining their own plan, it was a welcomed opportunity to hear the challenges and successes other districts have been encountering. It was a wonderful day of professional collaboration minus the single moment someone shared that they were excited about the move to proficiency since “students will now be ready when they get to me.” The grade level of the teacher who spoke is not relevant because I saw nodding heads of agreement from teachers of all levels. Is this really why we are doing this? So we know that students are ready for us? My mind took off.

I have heard this phrase uttered before. And, in full disclosure, I would be untruthful if I said those simple words never passed over my lips nor that I gave a head gesture in an attempt to emphasize my point that competency-based learning is worth making a reality. That was before I realized the importance of starting with WHY (thanks Simon Sinek). What was the reason we want this shift in education? In my more recent history of the competency-based movement, I have solidified my deeper understanding of why I want to shift from a system that awards Carnegie Units based on seat time and subject grades to one that asks students to demonstrate competency of skills and knowledge. The truth is, competency-based in not about making sure kids are ready for the next level’s teacher. Maybe that is a good why if you think only of how skills are to be taught. But, by simply adding the words “learner-centered” in front of proficiency-based, we make the reforms in the systems of schooling about what the student needs. In other words, we tag a student’s proficiency not because we want to know they are ready for us. We tag so we know what to prepare so we are ready for them. The difference between the two phrases might seem subtle, and at first glance may even be synonymous, but the effects on the system are not the same. The Why and how we teach and assess shifts when we begin with the learner.

Doug Finn, an educational coach for ReInventing Schools Coalition (RISC), has offered a great explanation of the differences. He shared that the teacher-centered structure, common in most schools, starts with a teacher and then assigns age-appropriate students to build the teacher’s schedule of classes. In contrast, a learner-centered approach starts with identifying what the students’ current needs are, grouping them, and then finding an adult to guide them to the next level of the learning progression. (more…)

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