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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How to Participate in the Equity Technical Advisory Group

January 12, 2017 by

equityAs announced yesterday, CompetencyWorks will be holding a National Summit on Competency-Based Education in June to convene 100 leaders representing a range of perspective, geography, expertise, and racial/ethnic diversity. Yet, across the country there are thousands of leaders and educators who have expertise in competency education who could make valuable contributions to these conversations. Thus, we have designed Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs for short) that will create a participatory process leading up to the Summit to draw on your knowledge and ideas.

The first TAG is coming up soon: We will be focusing on equity from January 30 – February 3, 2017. In the Equity TAG (E-TAG) we will be exploring the question:

How should we frame equity and the strategies to improve equity within a personalized, competency-based system?

Please note: We are asking that only people involved with district or school-wide competency education for at least one year participate in TAGs. These are not designed to support people just learning about competency education. (We suggest that those of you who are new to the topic start by reading the case studies of districts and schools.) You will have opportunity to learn from these conversations as the papers on each TAG prepared for the Summit will be made available in early June as well as the final reports post-Summit.

REGISTER for the Equity Technical Advisory Group here. (You can actually sign up for any of the TAGs. We ask for contact information and a sense of your expertise, and, at the bottom, you can sign up for the TAGs.) (more…)

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Who’s Leading the Way?

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A Promising Competency-Based Model for Historically Marginalized Students

who-is-leading-the-way-in-cbeCompetency-based education models are complicated organisms, and staging their development and growth is generally a multi-year task, whether one is a launching a new school or re-envisioning an existing program. As the world of CBE picks up momentum our team at reDesign is continually asking ourselves, “Who’s Leading the Way in Serving Historically Marginalized Young People?” In preparation for #iNACOL16 we documented some of our learning in a Prezi (pictured above). We will continue to add to it over the course of this year, so please let us know about the models you think of when you ask yourself the same question. (more…)

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National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education

January 11, 2017 by

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-11-23-15-amWe are delighted to announce that CompetencyWorks is hosting a National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education in Denver, Colorado on June 21-23, 2017. After we did our initial scan of the field in 2010, we helped to organize the first Competency-Based Learning Summit, bringing together 100 innovators to address challenging issues involved in creating competency-based systems. (See Cracking the Code: Synchronizing Policy and Practice for Performance-Based Learning and It’s Not About Time: Highlights from the 2011 Competency-Based Learning Summit.)

Six years later, competency-based education is advancing across the country as a critical component of creating an education system able to personalize education while staying true to the vision of an equitable education system. As our understanding of competency-based education has grown, so has our understanding of critical issues that must be addressed in order to ensure equity of access and outcomes as well as high quality of implementation. In response, we are convening the second National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education to draw on the collective leadership, creativity, and expertise to chart our course for the next wave of innovation, implementation, and expansion. The Summit will tackle six issues: equity, policy, quality, meeting kids where they are, identifying emerging issues, and revising the working definition of competency education.

The Summit is invitation-only and will convene 100 leading innovators to move the field of competency-based education through the next generation of ideas and actionable outcomes, with a specific focus on equity and diversity. However, there are thousands upon thousands of incredibly dedicated educators and policymakers creating competency-based systems. In order to gain insight into all of your knowledge and create the opportunity for you to participate in shaping the ideas to be considered at the Summit, we have created a participatory process to engage a wider network of experts and ensure we’re tapping into the collective knowledge of the field. We invite you to participate by joining a Technical Advisory Group (TAG), outlined below.

Join a Technical Advisory Group (TAG)

As part of this participatory process, we are creating a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for each of the following four key issues, where we will share a draft document and ask the TAG to share their insights at some point during a one-week virtual session. If you have at least one year of experience in competency education, we hope you’ll take the opportunity to sign up for at least one TAG here. You can use this opportunity to engage your organizations, schools, professional learning communities, and networks in deep conversations around these issues and share your collective insights. The schedule for the TAG sessions are listed below: (more…)

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Three Lessons Learned from New England States Transitioning to Competency-Based Education

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This is the sixth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

david-prinstein-quoteWhat can we learn about state-level strategies from New England states transitioning to competency-based education? At this point in the evolution of competency education, there are a few solid lessons to be learned from the New England region. It is helpful to compare and contrast the different approaches of the states, looking for powerful insights into the considerations of different strategies and approaches, as this provides deeper understanding and can shine a light on what is the best path for a state. Some states, such as Connecticut, may want to create enabling policies, while others, like Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, will contemplate bolder, more comprehensive steps toward transformation.

However, context matters: considerations need to include public demand and level of public trust, what is already in place, the degree to which districts and schools have already embraced some or all of the elements of competency education, level of consensus among leadership, competing agenda items, and the structural and financial issues that shape schools, such as district consolidations, funding, and political turmoil.

Three Important Lessons Learned

  1. Educators turn to competency-based education because it makes sense regardless of the state policy. Given the strong state leadership in establishing comprehensive competency-based policy in most of the New England states, it would be easy to think that state policy is always the first step in making the transition to competency-based education. However, there are innovators and schools considering competency-based education in Massachusetts with little encouragement from state leaders. In Maine, one of the original sources of early innovation were the districts that formed the Maine Collaborative for Customized Learning.
  2. Policy is important, but not sufficient. Establishing high-leverage policy such as proficiency-based diplomas or credits will direct districts toward competency education. However, it doesn’t mean they will move quickly to implementation or that they will implement it effectively. Creating innovation space doesn’t necessarily produce a groundswell of innovators. Statewide change requires a combination of innovation space, support, networks, and political coverage. Maine provided upfront training to a “coalition of the willing” before passing a policy that created proficiency-based diplomas. Vermont and New Hampshire have extensive support strategies, although they are very different in design. Most importantly, community engagement strategies need to be deployed to provide opportunities for shaping the vision of the district and schools as well as to learn about competency-based education practices.
  3. Walk the talk by using similar guiding principles as those found in personalized, competency-based districts. It isn’t going to work for states to use traditional change and communication strategies if they want to move beyond the traditional system. For example, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement competency-based education through compliance strategies. Compliance assumes that the state knows exactly what should be done when, in fact, there are many ways to design personalized, competency-based models. The paradigm shift is too important to the process of transformation—educators and community members need the opportunity to learn, to reflect, and to decide that this is what they want to do. In addition, the large systemic changes have many implications to be considered. Co-design or collaborative processes that draw on multiple perspectives is a much stronger strategy.

(more…)

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A Timeline of K-12 Competency-Based Education Across New England States

January 10, 2017 by

This is the fifth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

The New England region stands out for its early innovations, bold vision, and high percentage of districts becoming competency-based. Yet, a quick glance at the timeline shows that the earliest models popped up on both sides of the country – in Boston and Anchorage – around 1995. So why is it that competency-based education has taken hold in New England with such momentum?

timelineLet’s take a look at a few of the possibilities.

A Good Idea Creates Continuity

The New England states have not had continuity in leadership. Governors have changed, as have the Secretaries of Education and other key personnel. Complicated budget issues, volatile political dynamics, and redistricting have demanded attention. Yet competency education has continued to be a major priority. Why? Because there are enough people in influential positions who believe in it. Some have argued that because students in New England states are relatively high-achieving, there just isn’t any other way to generate improvement except to create a more personalized, flexible system. Moreover, many educators will vouch for it, affirming that once you understand what competency education can do, there is no going back. With strong local control, this makes it harder for state leadership to change course because the policy is perceived as beneficial to students and educators. (more…)

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The Trouble with Prescriptive Policies When Paradigms are Shifting

January 9, 2017 by
david ruff

David Ruff

This is the fourth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England. For a more in-depth look at this issue, join David Ruff of Great Schools Partnership and Paul Leather of New Hampshire Department of Education on January 11th for a CompetencyWorks webinar to explore K-12 competency-based education policy and practice across five New England states. Register here.

How can a state bring about a much-needed change when the only way to ensure effective implementation is for educators to want to make the change?

This is what some might called the paradigm-changing policy paradox shared by the New England states and most states across our country. This tongue-twisting, profoundly complex paradox is created because of two dynamics. First, given that competency education requires a paradigm shift or a change in values and assumptions, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to implement effectively without educators embracing those values. When the policies and practices of competency education are placed upon the old values of fixed mindsets and compliant students, classrooms become overwhelmed by linearity and checklists as students tediously climb a ladder of standards. It is very difficult to mandate or require people to believe differently or do something they don’t think is valuable. There has to be an opportunity to engage, reflect, and learn. Second, the states in New England (similar to most states across the country) value local control and are resistant to policies or regulations that feel like a mandate. Thus, prescriptive policies are unlikely to engage districts, schools, and educators and may even produce substantial pushback.

ellen-hume-quoteGiven that it is impossible to mandate that people accept new values and beliefs, state policy to advance competency education will not immediately translate to transformation of the education system, regardless of how bold, intricate, or high-leverage it is. What are state policymakers to do? How can they drive toward a new education system while not actually mandating that any school change? If competency education is more easily and effectively implemented by educators who have come to their own conclusion that it is needed, how do you engage districts and schools through state policy to want to convert?

Thus, states are challenged to find ways to engage districts in the learning that it is needed to implement competency-based education. (By the way, this same paradox challenges districts, principals, and teachers as they seek to engage and motivate school leaders, other teachers, and students). (more…)

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Why Educators are Moving Away from the Station Rotation Model

January 6, 2017 by

desksThis post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on December 13, 2016.

The Station Rotation has consistently reigned as the most popular blended-learning model implemented by elementary schools. Of the 235 active elementary schools currently profiled in the BLU school directory, 136, or 58 percent, of them have a Station Rotation program. Over the past few months, however, we’ve started to see a number of these schools shift away from the Station Rotation model and instead opt for an Individual Rotation or Flex model. Although still early, this data provides a trend line worth following as blended and personalized learning continue to evolve.

In 2013, when we published our hybrids paper, Clay Christensen, Michael Horn, and Heather Staker predicted that the Station Rotation would remain the most popular blended-learning model at the elementary school level for years to come. There were several reasons, both practical and theory-driven, for this prediction:

  1. Low-hanging fruit. Many educators, particularly at the elementary school level, have rotated students among centers or stations for decades. As a result, replacing one of those stations with online learning is a low conceptual hurdle for teachers to overcome.
  2. Scalability. A Station Rotation typically operates within the confines of a single classroom and therefore can require little to no coordination with other teachers, departments, or facilities. As a result, a Station Rotation allows educators to introduce the benefits of online learning while preserving the traditional classroom structure, which makes it easily scalable.
  3. Differentiated instruction. A Station Rotation breaks up the class into smaller groups, which allows teachers to work with students in small-group settings on a daily basis. In these settings, teachers can more easily differentiate instruction for groups of students based on their respective needs. Online learning also gives students independent time to work through adaptive online content and receive real-time feedback on their learning progress.
  4. Pockets of nonconsumption. Disruptions often get their start in pockets of unmet demand, called nonconsumption. For this reason, we envisioned high schools and, to a large extent, middle schools to be susceptible to larger scale changes because they operate on a course-by-course basis where pockets of nonconsumption, such as students in need of advanced courses or credit recovery, are rampant. Elementary schools, on the other hand, operate on a whole-class basis instead of course-by-course and aren’t yet dealing with dropouts or students in need of credit recovery.

In light of this growing subset of schools that are innovating within a Station Rotation modelor moving away from them entirely—it will be essential to understand what is causing the change and whether or not it is a trend that has the potential to scale.

Note: Early next year, I will be doing an in-depth case study on this trend and would love to hear from practitioners who are shifting away from a Station Rotation model. Feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below.

(more…)

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Five Drivers of Transformation in New England States

January 5, 2017 by

fiveThis is the third post in the series on Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

Competency education is advancing in New England through a combination of shared vision and values, mutual respect and collaboration, and courageous leadership that is motivated by a sense of urgency to do better for students, communities, and the economy.

The following five concepts are the core ideas that are driving change in New England at the school, district, and state levels.

  1. Theory of Change Based on New Values

In most of the New England states, competency-based education is advancing with a new set of values that are the foundation of competency-based education as well as being used by principals, districts, and even state policymakers to catalyze the transformational process:

  • A growth mindset that deeply believes that with the right conditions, educators can learn the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are needed to help every student succeed and to teach within a personalized, competency-based system.
  • A strong culture of learning and supporting communities of learners, which eliminates the culture of “blaming and shaming.”
  • Transparency and mutual accountability that builds trust and respect, establishes continuous improvement, and increases responsiveness.
  • Autonomy and empowering strategies that engage others in problem-solving and co-creating new systems and practices.
  • Personalization that responds to the unique contexts and needs of districts, schools, and educators rather than one-size fits all policy, technical assistance, and professional development.

These values are used to shape classrooms and the school day, upgrade district operations, and redesign statewide policies and structures. They are also driving the leadership approaches and change process needed to transform schools.

  1. Coalitions of the Willing

Working independently, courageous district leadership might have been seen as marshalling unique efforts. However, local collaboratives and regional networks such as the New England Secondary School Consortium amplified the lessons learned, created political coverage, and created avenues for communication with state leadership as well as other stakeholders such as parents and college admissions officers. Thus, the effort in New England to date has been driven through a coalition of the willing.

  1. From Compliance to Support

State leadership in these three states has begun to reduce the reliance of the state education agencies on compliance. Instead, they are seeking to provide more support to help create the conditions necessary for transformation. This is an important step in creating a statewide culture of learning and organizational agility so that districts, schools, and educators can be more responsive to students’ needs. To do so requires that state education agency staff become substantially more sensitive to the context in which districts operate and their long-term strategies. (more…)

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The Every Student Succeeds Act: A Catalyst for Competency Education at Scale?

January 4, 2017 by
Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick

This essay by Susan Patrick and Maria Worthen was featured in the report Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

New England’s competency education journey is the story of how stakeholders, coming together to create a shared vision for student success, can move the needle on state – and ultimately federal – policy.

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed in December 2015, it reflected the lessons learned and the advocacy of educators, superintendents, state leaders, and congressional representatives from New England to make room for systems that align to competency-based education. Congressional staff looked to states like New Hampshire to ensure that they could continue to implement innovative performance assessments for accountability purposes that also support learning.

The new flexibilities in ESSA did not appear out of thin air. They are the result of years of hard work by states who are getting results from competency-based education, but were unable to fully realize their vision due to the limitations of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The New England states featured in Beyond the Tipping Point: Insights in Advancing Competency Education in New England  are well-positioned to take advantage of ESSA’s opportunities to deepen their efforts in shifting to personalized, competency-based education.

What Are ESSA’s Opportunities for States?

recommended-reading-on-state-policyESSA, the new K-12 federal education law, shifts significant power back to states, with increased flexibility to rethink accountability, redesign systems of assessments, and modernize educator development. It provides a new opportunity for states to redefine what success means for students, beyond a single test score, and to align systems around this vision. It is now possible to design a more student-centered education system in which assessment supports learning and accountability enables data-rich, continuously-improving personalized learning environments in which students advance upon mastery. In this new era, states also have the opportunity to shape the future of the teacher workforce, building the capacity to take on the new roles required in a competency-based system.

Rethinking Accountability

Under ESSA, state accountability systems will now be required to include at least four indicators, providing a historic opportunity for states to rethink the definition of student success. These indicators include:

  • Grade-level proficiency;
  • English language proficiency;
  • Graduation rates; and
  • An indicator of school quality selected by the state, which could include student and teacher engagement, school climate, and non-cognitive skills.

States may include any other indicators beyond these four in their accountability system; however, all indicators must be disaggregated by student subgroup, and the first three indicators listed above must carry the greatest weight in identifying schools for improvement. States must identify at least the bottom five percent of the lowest performing schools in the state for comprehensive improvement, and the schools with the greatest achievement gaps for targeted improvement of subgroup performance. (more…)

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What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

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What's NewUpcoming Events

CompetencyWorks is hosting a Leadership webinar on advancing competency education in New England on Wednesday, January 11 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET. Learn more and register.

New York City’s Mastery Collaborative is hosting upcoming Living Lab online sessions. Register here.

  • Wednesday, January 4, 4:00 p.m. ET: KAPPA International High School—Messaging Mastery with Language and Visuals
  • Thursday, January 5, 4:00 p.m. ET: Harvest Collegiate High School—Building a School-Wide Philosophy of Mastery

Reports

Podcasts

  • This podcast by Cortney Belolan and Matt Shea discusses the “what” and “why” of competency education, and the “how” of implementation.
  • Getting Smart released a podcast featuring students from the iNACOL Symposium’s student panel, sharing their thoughts on transforming K-12 education.

School Models

(more…)

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