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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Building a Body of Learning Evidence: English Language Development in Adams County School District 50

October 20, 2014 by
Alice Collins

Alice Collins

The following is based on an interview with Alice Collins, Director of English Language Development at Adams County School District 50, with a focus on their structures, approach, and insights for other schools, including a look at the challenges and opportunities.

Background

Building up a body of evidence of learning about your students is at the heart of Adams 50’s approach to English language development. Director of English Language Development Alice Collins explained, “Teachers have to understand where learners are in their language acquisition, their content skill development, and what they need. The only way to do this is draw together as much data as possible.”

As their schools underwent rapid and massive diversification, Adams 50 turned to competency education as they realized that the traditional approach to education wasn’t going to work. The district is now 18 percent White, with Hispanic, African American, and Native American students making up 82 percent of the student body. It has the second highest percentage of English Learners in the state, with 45 percent of learners in the ELD program (and they aren’t a very big district, with 10,000 students). Spanish is the dominant other language with an additional thirty-one other languages represented in the district.

Adams 50 is an English immersion district with one elementary school offering a transitional Spanish-English bilingual track. Collins explained, “In competency education, teachers are constantly building their skills. Given the higher percentage of our learners in the ELD program, teachers are building their skills to provide quality instruction to students as they acquire English and master content standards. It doesn’t happen overnight – its part of our constant attention to building our capacity to meet the needs of our learners.” It’s starting to pay off – ELD elementary school learners are improving their reading skills, as shown on the TCAP assessments.

(more…)

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How Do We Ensure Equity and Prevent Tracking: Holding All Students to the Same High Standards and Expectations

October 17, 2014 by
Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick

To ensure equity in new learning models that are competency-based, holding all students to the same high academic standards is critical.

Giving students choices and agency on how, when, where they learn is key – so that students have access to online resources, tools, digital content, online courses and modules with robust feedback loops to help them learn any time and everywhere.

Standards, world-class knowledge, and skills are critical as the floor (not the ceiling) of expectations for each and every student.  From the report, Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education: “Standards set the benchmark foundation for student success. We must ensure robust competencies and high standards for all students. (more…)

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Considering Competency-Based Education? Reconsider How You Assess

October 16, 2014 by

This blog originally appeared here on The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) ed.review’s edudebate series on assessment titled “What Alternatives to Standardized Testing?”and reposted at Christensen Institute.

 

From Next Charter School website

From Next Charter School website

Testing reimagined: How and when we should be assessing competency

 

We can all remember the cycle of emotions involved in taking tests: trying to cram as much into our heads, sitting the test, and eventually receiving a grade, weeks later, already immersed in new subject matter. Our grades may have clearly communicated what we knew on the day of that test. But opportunities to go back and learn what we’d missed rarely presented themselves.

 

Competency-based education presents an alternative philosophy of when and on what terms students take tests and move on to new material. In competency-based models, students advance upon mastery. A different spirit of assessment sits at the fulcrum of competency-based approaches: students only move on to new or more challenging material once they can show that they’ve mastered more basic skills and concepts. This means that students will often advance at different paces, and sometimes along different pathways. This also means that a competency-based system requires paradigm shifts in both how and when we assess students’ mastery.

 

How are students assessed for mastery?

 

Competency-based high schools in the US use a variety of modalities to assess students. A number of these approaches are being used in the state of New Hampshire, which has mandated that all high schools measure credit in terms of competency rather than time. Some schools like Sanborn Regional High School still use many traditional pen and paper exams, but with one key difference: they offer “reassessment without penalty” for students scoring below an 80%. Therefore students do not fail, but rather revisit material until they are able to retake tests to demonstrate mastery. (more…)

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When Teachers Can Implement At Their Own Pace

October 15, 2014 by

bull dog for van meterI recently had the opportunity to visit Van Meter School in Van Meter, Iowa with Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills at the Iowa Department of Education and facilitator of the Iowa Competency-based Education (CBE) Collaborative. Two faculty members accompanied us from Drake University’s School of Education, Dr. Randy Peters and Dr. Laura Kieran. They are members of the CBE Collaborative, bringing vision, curiosity and dedication to scoping out the future of competency education in Iowa.

Van Meter Community School District is a small district located 15 miles outside of Des Moines. It has one school building comprising K-12. Total attendance is 677 students, of whom 158 chose to open enroll into the district (students in Iowa can enroll in another district of their choice). The Mission of Van Meter Community School District is “to personalize learning for each student’s success, today and tomorrow.”

Van Meter is transitioning to full-school competency education, but has been doing standards-based grading school-wide in K-12 for three years. Elementary Principal and Director of Teaching and Learning Jen Sigrist explained the evolution: “We had a few teachers trying it before (five and six years ago), which led to each secondary teacher trying it for at least one class four years ago. After that, we made the move district wide. The last team to come on board was 5th grade mostly because they were not included in the secondary conversations and were preparing kids for the secondary by giving traditional letter grades in the past. They were happy to jump on board with the entire district three years ago.” (more…)

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Thank Goodness, A New Accountability Paradigm is Before Us

October 14, 2014 by
Thomas Saenz

Thomas Saenz

If you haven’t had the chance yet, now is a good time to dive into Accountability for College and Career Readiness: Developing a New Paradigm, which explains a new approach to accountability (and my bet is that it will be embraced as the replacement to the NCLB approach). You can also listen in on a briefing and webinar on Thursday, October 16th sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education. (The briefing will also be highlighting the forthcoming report, Next Generation Accountability Systems: An Overview of Current State Policies and Practices, authored jointly by the Center for American Progress and the Council of Chief State School Officers).

The briefing will be live streamed from 12-2 ET and the webinar from 3-4 ET.

The briefing includes Stephen Bowen, Strategic Initiative Director for Innovation, Council of Chief State School Officers (and a CompetencyWorks advisor); 
S. Dallas Dance, PhD, Superintendent, Baltimore County Public Schools; Linda Darling-Hammond, EdD, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University and Faculty Director, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE ); Lara Evangelista, Principal, Flushing International High School (New York); Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner of Education, New Hampshire Department of Education 
(and a CompetencyWorks advisor); Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy, Center for American Progress;
 Thomas Saenz, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
; and Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director, National Center for Innovation in Education.

The speakers at the webinar will include Linda Darling-Hammond, EdD; Lara Evangelista; Gene Wilhoit; and Charmaine Mercer, PhD, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, Alliance for Excellent Education.

 

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Ten Ways that Competency-based Education is the same in K-12 & Higher Education

October 14, 2014 by
Charla Long

Charla Long

Last June, I had the chance to co-present on competency-based education (CBE) with Charla Long, dean of Lipscomb University. Lipscomb is nationally recognized for its pioneering work in competency-based higher education, and Charla has been the star of that work. In our presentation, we each shared about the opportunities and challenges that we have faced building and running competency-based programs – her in higher education and me in K-12.

Charla and I did not talk about our presentation with each other beforehand. So, we were both amazed when almost 50 similarities emerged between her experience and my own.

Here are just 10 of the nearly 50 ways that we found our CBE experiences in K-12 and higher education to be the same:

Opportunities

  1. We find that CBE permits us to focus on student learning and outcomes and operate from the belief that CBE is the best way to equip students with the skills they need personally and professionally.
  2. We find that the CBE experience works best when it is customized and personalized around student needs, interests and future plans.
  3. We have seen key technologies (like blended and online learning programs) help actualize and enhance CBE, but we do think that CBE can exist without these technologies.
  4. We have come to believe that CBE is a better way to organize schooling and learning and that it addresses both “excellence” and “equity” issues, in part by providing a quality education to all students, even those who struggle in traditional schools. (more…)
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Postcards from Abroad (#cworksgoesglobal)

October 13, 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 12.46.36 PMToday, CompetencyWorks is releasing An International Study in Competency Education: Postcards from Abroad by Sara Frank Bristow and Susan Patrick. The webinar highlighting the findings of the paper is archived here.

The paper is loaded with insights that allowed me take a step back from our work and think more broadly about three powerful changes that are taking place all around the world. First, many countries are taking steps away from one-size fits all time-based structures (even countries that don’t have a Carnegie unit to contend with still operate rigid time-based batching processes) to personalization that recognizes that students learn differently and are at different stages in their learning. Second and an equally powerful shift is that we are focusing increasingly on the higher order skills rather than the lower levels of recall and comprehension. Third, there is greater understanding that schools must design around students holistically, recognizing that their well-being and social-emotional skills cannot be isolated from learning academic skills. (more…)

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Leave Retention Behind in Favor of Promotion on Mastery

October 10, 2014 by
Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 2.24.48 PM

Getting Smart website

Originally posted on October 3, 2014 at Getting Smart.

 

The pastor was livid, he was so mad he could hardly talk (and he’s really good at talking). He had just come from a second day of school meeting that didn’t go well. The day before, his son came home and told him that all of his friends were in a different math class and his class was using the same book as last year. When he investigated, the teacher told him that in order to “promote college readiness” for his son, he was going to repeat 7th grade math. He had passed the class with high marks and the pastor and his son had attended three parent teacher conferences the prior year. With no notice, teachers had decided that 30 students, including the preacher’s kid, were going to repeat a math class.

 

When retention means repeating a grade, it is outdated and ineffective. It presumes that we don’t have any information about what the student struggled with and it wastes a year–for a student and a school system–repeating everything rather than pinpointing assistance. “No independent academic study suggests it works,” said former NYC Chancellor Harold Levy in a WSJ post. Retention without communication is malpractice (and when it comes to the son of town’s biggest public education supporter, well that’s just dumb).

 

The movement to end “social promotion” was part of state standards-based reform in the late 90s. Promoting kids based on birthdays ran counter to the goal of helping all kids reach high standards. But the decision to link No Child Left Behind accountability to grade level proficiency rather than harder to measure growth rates help solidify the old age cohort system. Schools become preoccupied with figuring out which kids they can get to pass the proficiency test at the end of the year and forget about kids that are two or more years behind because they don’t have a chance of passing. (more…)

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Fulton County Schools: A Big District Approach to Competency Education

October 9, 2014 by
Dr. Scott Muri

Dr. Scott Muri

I had the opportunity to talk last week with Dr. Scott Muri, Deputy Superintendent of Academics for Fulton County Schools (FCS) in Atlanta, Georgia. I knew that FCS was moving aggressively towards personalization, but I had never been quite sure how they saw competency education fitting into their strategy. (Although one definition of personalization includes competency-based progressions, in my opinion schools can be highly personalized without being competency-based: They can focus on completion rather than proficiency, they can pass students on with Cs and Ds, and they can personalize within age-based cohorts without opportunity to move beyond their grade level.)

When I asked Dr. Muri about their approach to competency education, he replied, “How can one  think about personalization without looking at competency education?  One is embedded in the other. If you don’t have a competency-based infrastructure, there is no way of knowing if your personalized approach is resulting in students learning.”

(more…)

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