October 2, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
I just got back from two days of school visits in Detroit — and I just have to give a SHOUT OUT to all the innovators that are creating student-centered, mastery-based schools that fully integrate blended learning into their operations. And they are getting results!
Seriously, Detroit is a hotbed of competency education.
The Education Achievement Authority, designed to help turn around low performing schools, is at the heart of much of this work with a vision for student-centered learning. The EAA leadership of Dr. John Covington and Mary Esselman, along with the hundreds of innovators in the EAA schools, share a powerful vision and the courage to be wonderfully creative. They also have that no-excuse mentality that comes from an incredible love for and commitment to children. Their work over the past two years hasn’t just been about implementing dynamic classrooms using the information management system Buzz, it’s been about cleaning out tons of junk out of schools (8 tons from one school), door knocking to create a community of volunteers, establishing hundreds of partnerships across the city, and creating a culture of safety and respect using restorative justice.
I visited 3 schools in the EAA that were in the 2nd year of implementation and they are already seeing the 2nd cycle of innovation as teachers explore ways to take advantage of a blended, mastery-based environment. Here are just a few highlights with lots more to come:
Challenge #1: Why do students spend 50 minutes on each subject regardless of whether they are ahead in English or behind in math? (more…)
by Dan Joseph
This article was originally published in the Reinventing Schools Coalition newsletter.
In the book Learning for All, Lawrence Lezotte offers practical ideas and actions that all schools can take to ensure learning is not optional. As leaders we must be dedicated to the idea that all students can learn and that they learn at differing rates. Unfortunately we are aware of the competing interests for our time and focus that may draw our attention from this basic and important belief. The sense of competing missions and visions are constantly challenging us to build and align systems to bring clarity to our mission and vision. Lezotte states the primary aim for our schools ought to be learning for all! Are our systems aligned and dedicated to this outcome? Our systems need to be focused to promote a pervasive sense of mission.
This idea of a burning platform is stated in a number of books on organizational theory. It has become common place in the vernacular of leadership and organizational change. It is easy to say the words, “All kids can learn…” but how do our system and culture create this outcome? This idea denotes a basic, yet foundational premise around what is important. Many times we need to understand the “why” before we discuss the “how.” The ideas of precision, strategic design, and high yield strategies are based on and aligned to an organization’s core values. These values identify the moral purpose of the organization and therefore can direct and support transformational change.
October 1, 2013 by Julia Freeland
This post was originally published by Clayton Christensen Institute on September 18, 2013.
At the Clayton Christensen Institute, we often talk about blended learning and competency-based education in the same breath. That’s because we see both as necessary features of accomplishing personalized learning at scale. A competency-based system allows students to move at their own pace upon mastering concepts, rather than being forced to move beyond material they don’t fully understand or being held back when they are learning at an advanced pace. You can imagine this highly individualized model in a traditional classroom with extremely low teacher-to-student ratios. But to operate personalization at scale, we believe technology must play a part. Software tools in a blended classroom stand to provide a mix of content, assessment, and meaningful real-time feedback that can help teachers move each student along an individual learning pathway at his own pace.
Although this theory sounds quite tidy, the reality on the ground is a bit messier. I keep asking myself: are practitioners and policymakers in blended learning and competency-based education coordinating their efforts? Both, from different angles, are building toward a vision of personalized learning. This common vision, however, does not always yield as natural a synergy as you might imagine. As Chris Sturgis of CompetencyWorks pointed out in her blog a few weeks back, competency-based education models could benefit from taking greater advantage of blended learning, particularly to lend extra support to students who have gaps in understanding or are falling behind. And although many edtech products describe themselves as “mastery-based,” these tools are not always customized to competency-based education classrooms’ needs to track students’ progress against discrete competencies and provide multiple pathways to learning.
There’s not really animosity between these two camps, if you can call them that. Proponents of competency-based education are certainly not luddites, nor are blended-learning entrepreneurs and educators gripping onto time-based policies. But at this point, it’s easier to find models that are either blended or competency-based, rather than both. I have a few working hypotheses of why these worlds aren’t always aligned, or why we aren’t seeing a lot of blended competency-based models yet. (more…)
September 30, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
One of the things about competency education that seems to confuse people is the idea of re-assessment. People jump quickly to an image of kids just taking tests over and over and over until they pass. A major education organization was quizzing me the other day – they asked, who gets to take re-assessments, when, how many times? There seemed to be an assumption that there should be a re-assessment policy rather than the responsibility being on the teacher to guide students through the cycle of learning toward proficiency.
What seems to be missing from this conversation is the concept of revision. In competency education we emphasize revision, not re-assessment. Sure there is re-assessment for students when they haven’t demonstrated proficiency yet. But the important part of the learning cycle is in the process of students revising their work or working with a tutor to help them correct misconceptions until they can explain their mistakes and do the problems correctly. Students can even learn how to manage part of the feedback and revision cycle themselves through self- and peer assessment.
Students at the Center’s video, Self-Assessment: Reflections from Students and Teachers, captures the importance of revision. It’s fun to listen to the students, and, as always, they get to the point. One student asks, What’s the point of school if you can’t learn from your mistakes?
Jobs for the Future has released three other videos as well on peer and self-assessment: Student Centered Assessment Jeopardy that reviews different forms of assessment, Peer Assessment: Reflections from Students and Teachers, and Heidi Andrade speaking about the culture of critique that is created through self- and peer assessment. It’s worth taking the 15 minutes to watch the videos if the concepts of self- and peer assessment are new to you.
photo credit: Student at the Center’s video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkFWbC91PXQ
September 25, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Providence After School Alliance
For more information see the American Youth Policy Forum’s The Role of Expanded Learning in Competency-based Education Systems.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in the American Youth Policy Forum’s meeting on The Role of Expanded Learning Opportunities in Competency-based Education Systems. It was a fun meeting for me as I hadn’t sat in a room with the nation’s after-school leaders since I was a program officer at the Mott Foundation during the launching of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
To open the meeting, I was asked to share some thoughts about the relationship between expanded learning opportunities (ELO) and competency education. I like the term ELO as it is so inclusive — think after-school, youth program, badging, online learning, community service, sports, arts, career/college exploration and of course jobs. As there are more and more people involved in ELO that are trying to make sense of where they fit into this expanding world of competency education, as well as educators trying to figure out how to effectively use ELOs, I’m sharing my comments. The following explains what competency education is and five ways that ELOs can contribute to students progress toward college and career readiness. Please please use the comments section to add your thoughts and questions so we can build up our knowledge on this important topic! (more…)
September 24, 2013 by Ephraim Weisstein
Launched nearly 35 years ago, Our Piece of the Pie® (OPP®) is dedicated to helping Connecticut youth become economically independent adults. All of OPP’s strategies and services are structured to lead at-risk or disadvantaged youth, ages 14-24, toward the goals of achieving a college degree or vocational credentials and obtaining rewarding employment. This posting will focus on OPP’s journey in building its signature competency-based high school model.
OPP’s Competency-Based High Schools at a Glance
- Founded in 2009, Opportunity High School in Hartford is a unique partnership between Hartford Public Schools and OPP serving over 100 over-aged and under-credited students
- Founded in 2012, Learning Academy of Bloomfield is a co-operated high school between the Bloomfield Public Schools and OPP. During 2012-2013 the school served over 20 students with all seniors receiving diplomas
- In August 2013, OPP began its work with Norwalk Public Schools under an agreement with the state to turn around Briggs HS in Norwalk, a “failing” school serving up to 100 high-risk students
- With the June 5, 2013 vote of approval by the CT State Board of Education, OPP will open Path Academy, its first charter school, in Windham in August 2014 serving a maximum of 200 high school students who are off-track; in doing so, OPP becomes a charter management organization (CMO)
Eight Core Philosophies
The Path Academy model is the prototype for all of OPP’s Competency-Based High Schools. OPP builds the model around eight core philosophies that guide the innovative school model: (more…)
September 23, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
A whole new set of districts are about begin the conversion to a competency-based system…
The Iowa Competency-based Education (CBE) Collaborative has launched with the support of $100,000 allocated by Iowa’s state legislature to support districts as they begin to innovate. Grant applications are due at the end of September, and we should hear about the 10 districts (or more if they are in a collaborative) by the beginning of November.
Iowa’s RFP instructions and criteria are available on the web if you want to take a look. I think the criteria they have set up is interesting; it asks for evidence that the community values learning and that the school staff believe that all students can learn. Makes me wonder if we’ll soon be seeing one of those “one book, one city” programs using The Growth Mindset to revitalize their community.
Below is the list of external and internal evidence asked for in the RFP. (more…)
September 18, 2013 by Brian Stack
My Uh-Huh Moment
Over the summer I spent the day with my math team as we prepared for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics into our school. We were working on an intense math problem when I had one of those uh-huh moments – the kind I used to describe to my students when I taught high school math in Andover, Massachusetts. The problem was a simple one to understand, but it had many layers of complexity to it for math teachers:
Imagine you are a peasant, and your ruler told you that you could have as much land as you could mark off by walking in one day. What is the most amount of land you could reasonably claim? Give your answer in square miles and be prepared to support and defend your work.
Among the questions that came to mind when thinking about how to solve this problem were these: How many hours can a peasant reasonably walk in a day? How fast can a peasant walk? How many breaks will the peasant need to take? Are there hills, mountains, or other physical obstacles that the peasant will encounter? What kind of tools will the peasant have to navigate with (i.e. a compass or a GPS)?
Very quickly, a group of us began to debate these questions and create a list of assumptions that we would use to derive our answer. We debated what type of a shape would produce the biggest area. With some trial and error and use of some mathematical formulas, we agreed that a circle might be the theoretical shape that would yield the biggest area, but the square was the shape that would be easiest for the peasant to trace, assuming they had a compass or could make use of a reference point such as the sun for direction. (more…)
September 17, 2013 by Justin Ballou
With the education market heating up, we are beginning to see many of the big names trying to carve out their space in transforming the education system. From Apple to Microsoft, Newsweek to LinkedIn, and everything in between, it seems as if everyone has a solution or a tool that helps to streamline the process of transferring knowledge and skill-sets to the next generation to prepare them for an ever-connected world.
Many of us look to innovations as being a gadget, app, or piece of technology that helps us facilitate the learning of objectives, making more efficient use of time in the classroom and working towards actionable metrics. We sometimes do not think about the process efficiency or innovation that can allow for this and a whole lot more.
As an educator, we look at these innovations as a way to help us in our quest to educate. Understanding that there is no “magic bullet” or save all for the educational landscape, there is one innovation that I feel will have the greatest impact on my students’ learning outcomes:
Google’s famed “20% time.” (more…)