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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Growing into the Framework: D51’s Implementation Strategy

February 15, 2017 by

This article is the fifth in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Growing into the Framework

Superintendent Steve Schultz doesn’t ask “How are we going to implement?” Instead he thinks, “We have forty-four schools. How are they each going to grow into the framework?” The job of the district is to help learn, grow, and co-create with schools the new performance-based system (P-BL). The answer is through a more personalized approach that lets schools and educators start where they are in their current learning and move forward from there.

Five Phases of Implementation

Everything is in motion at District 51, and everyone is moving forward with the understanding that the different pieces will eventually need to be aligned. Thus, everything is draft and everything stays open until related work is done. Paul Jebe, Director of Educator Effectiveness, likened it to the whirling tea cups at Disneyland, bringing back that experience of loving every spin while simultaneously praying that it might be over soon.

Still in their first year of implementation, D51 has intensive activity in three of their five phases of work underway – so don’t make the mistake of thinking phase suggests sequence. There is a cohort of seven demonstration schools that are hungry to put the entire model into place as soon as it is ready. (When they sign up to be a demonstration school they are committing to demonstrating to others what performance-based learning looks like – it’s important to understand that they are not pilots.) The trick is that given the simultaneous development of many of the pieces, the demonstration schools might find themselves operating in the third phase even if they are missing some pieces from phases one or two. In a few more years, there will be efforts underway, schools and educators in all five phases as they continue to design, refine, skill-build, and engage.

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Remember, D51 describes the journey to transformation described in the previous article separately from the implementation strategy. Both are important – the journey captures the new conditions (strong learning culture, shared vision, collective ownership, personalized, transparency, and data-driven) that will shape the system (i.e., the paradigm shift), and the phases are how the work is being organized. Below is a quick scan of the phases and the different sets of work underway. (more…)

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Massachusetts: Home of the Early Innovators

February 14, 2017 by

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

We were evolving, with a greater range of learning opportunities for students. The question was how could we further institutionalize so that we offered a cohesive and consistent set of educational experiences that also allowed for personalized learning experiences? We think competency-based education is the answer.
– CYNDY TAYMORE , SUPERINTENDENT, MELROSE PUBLIC SCHOOL, MASSACHUSETTS

 

massachusettsThe Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the only state in New England that has not taken proactive steps toward introducing or advancing competency education statewide despite there being no significant policy obstacles beyond the end-of-year grade level accountability exams. Massachusetts has deployed a state exit examination as its high-leverage strategy to improve student achievement and ensure proficiency. Currently, students must score at a passing level on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System in English, math, and science.

As in other states, however, individual schools and districts often move ahead of the state leadership in building new approaches and working collaboratively around challenging issues. Massachusetts is home to two of the early models of competency-based education: Diploma Plus and Boston Day and Evening Academy. There are also a number of other schools across the state using rich, personalized learning strategies to engage students in their learning. For example, in Chelsea High School, a number of practices such as performance-based assessments and inquiry-based learning have deepened the learning opportunities. Plymouth high schools are creating more personalized approaches, including authentic assessments and involving students in leadership and decision-making. (more…)

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Put Us In the Room Where It Happens: Teacher-Driven Shifts To Mastery

February 13, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Center for Collaborative Education blog on January 4, 2017. 

I wanna be in the room where it happens.

This line from the Broadway hit Hamilton is one I refer to often when thinking about how we can effectively bring students and teachers in to create honest and equitable systems of assessment.

Our little school in Queens, New York, has worked tirelessly to create and maintain a teacher-created system of mastery-based grading. I’m thirteen years into my middle and high school English teaching career, but the school I have had the privilege of being a part of for the past six years is The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria. Our school is grades 6-12, public, all-girls, and Title I.  On average, 98% of our graduates are accepted to and attend college, and we have been a mastery-based school for the past seven years.

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Christy conducting a coaching session.

Our mastery work began when our founding principal shared a paper with her then-staff, “Removing Structural Barriers to Academic Achievement in High Schools: An Innovative Model” by Camille A. Farrington and Margaret H. Small.  The gist of the paper addressed the dropout rate as a “structural problem” connected to traditional systems of determining final grades and course credit. It was a call to action honoring “differential learning rates”. For our founding teachers, this was an issue of social justice-being able to provide multiple opportunities for students to achieve mastery of skills over time was simply more equitable. Our through line was, and remains, educational equity.

(more…)

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How to Participate in the Meeting Students Where They Are Technical Advisory Group

February 10, 2017 by

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

The third Technical Advisory Group (TAG) is coming up soon: We will be focusing on Meeting Students Where They Are between February 27 and March 3, 2017. The Meeting Students Where They Are TAG is an opportunity to think about how students learn academic skills and content as well as how it varies by age, stages of development, and across domains. We know that any academic learning is also dependent on students developing a growth mindset, student agency, and social-emotional learning. We are delighted to announce that this Technical Advisory Group will be facilitated by Antonia Rudenstine, Dixie Bacallao, and Sydney Schaef from reDesign, an organization specifically committed to developing strategies, practices, and designs that help practitioners meet the needs of our most vulnerable students.

Our focusing question: (more…)

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Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Revisiting the Vision

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calendarThis post originally appeared on Courtney Belolan’s website on January 4, 2016. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

January, the start of a new year and at the same time the middle of a year. In the rest of our lives outside of school we are all thinking about new starts, reflecting on the successes and struggles of the previous year and laying plans for embracing what we have learned in order to grow and move forward. In contrast, many of us in school are picking up with a new learning opportunity and continuing along the content marathon of the school year. This year, why not take some time for reflection in school as well?

We all know that using the first hours and weeks of a new school year are optimal for setting culture in our classes and buildings. Turning the culture over to the learners, by engaging them in vision crafting and creating codes of conduct, is a powerful move for establishing a learner centered community that fosters learner agency. It is even more powerful when sustained over the course a year. A culture that fosters learner agency is the cornerstone of learner centered proficiency based learning. It is worth taking the time to revisit, review, reflect, and revise.

Once we get into the groove of content and targets it can be a challenge to find the time for culture sustaining work. It is easy to fall into the pattern of valuing content completion over the nurturing of a learner-centered culture. Now is a great time to revive attention to the culture in our classes and buildings, and it does not have to be overwhelming or complicated at all. Here are some ideas to get you and the learners you work with reflecting on how the year has gone so far, and how to move even closer to their vision of the learning environment they want. (more…)

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Connecticut: Making Room for Innovation

February 9, 2017 by

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

In Connecticut, superintendents are among the strongest advocates for a personalized, mastery-based system, as they believe it to be the best way to help each and every student reach college and career readiness. Across the state, communities are raising expectations; providing opportunity is no longer adequate, they want greater accountability that districts will fully prepare each and every student for college and careers.

In 2009, a group of Connecticut Association of Public Schools Superintendents (CAPSS) members realized that the traditional system was not designed to offer the level of personalization necessary to reach this goal, so they began studying the issues and creating the vision for personalized, mastery-based learning. They brought in experts, read articles, and began to outline their vision. In 2011, CAPSS issued its first report, NextEd: Transforming Connecticut’s Education System (2011), followed by A Look to the Future: Personalized Learning in Connecticut (2015), which was published in partnership with the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), and, most recently, with a series of recommendations in the 2016 NextEd: Next Steps.

These publications were a major impetus in creating the policy environment for the legislature to pass the 2013 Connecticut’s Act for Unleashing Innovation in Connecticut Schools. The legislation enabled mastery-based learning by giving districts the opportunity to use credits based on the demonstration of mastery. In 2015, with support from Great Schools Partnership (GSP) and the New England Secondary Schools Consortium (NESCC), the Connecticut Department of Education (CDOE) issued Mastery-Based Learning Guidelines for Implementation. The guidelines are organized in three sections – community engagement, policy, and practice – with suggested steps in each. The section on equity identifies several important issues and suggests mitigating steps. (more…)

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Holacracy: Organizing for Change at D51

February 8, 2017 by

Holacracy1This article is the fourth in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Posted inside the conference space where many of the district-level meetings and gatherings of principals are held is a Managing Complex Change chart that describes the conditions for successful implementation. It identifies five elements to think about (vision, skills, incentives, resources, action plan) with five likely issues that might develop if any are not well-managed (confusion, anxiety, resistance, frustration, and false starts). Although the chart is very simple, it does provide language and concepts to jump start conversations to identify indicators that something isn’t working well. For example, in one meeting, I heard someone say, “I don’t want to false start them by putting them in a meeting that is too deep in the weeds,” to refer to not having a formal plan to introduce new ideas. In many meetings, attention was given to possible anxiety and angst if teachers don’t have the chance to access supports based on where they are in their own learning.

But how do you make sure that vision + skills + incentives + resources + action plan are all in place and all aligned to bring change? D51 knows, as pretty much any district leadership involved in the conversion to competency education knows, that top-down hierarchical structures aren’t helpful. They force decisions to the top when what we want is to create empowering, flexible organizational structures.

So what’s a district to do? D51 is testing out if holacracy will do the trick. (more…)

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Competency-Based Learning Centers

February 7, 2017 by
Jill Lizier and Lisa Brown

Jill Lizier and Lisa Brown

The following article will explore the use of competency-based learning centers in the elementary classroom. The examples will be focused around math, but the basic structure can be used for ELA competencies along with integrating social studies and science content. As a reference, when speaking of competencies and learning progressions in this article, we will be referring to the NH College and Career Ready K-8 Math Model Competencies.

Traditional Centers vs. Competency Based Learning Centers in the Elementary Classroom

Elementary classrooms have been utilizing centers for years. Terms like workshop, station rotation, and centers have been used. Centers allow for educators to teach to different academic levels as well as keep students moving and on task. While school districts work to implement competency-based education, this article will help educators take a framework like centers and enhance them into competency-based learning centers.

One aspect that makes the center model so suitable for competency-based learning is the flexibility of student learning groups. Utilizing data, teachers can group and regroup students based on their progression toward competency. Then, as students work through centers, modifications can be made to support, remediate, or challenge different groups. As students begin to grasp new concepts, other students may still need more time to practice. This is where the flexibility of grouping comes into play; students can be reassigned to new groups based on needs.

Flexible grouping in a CBE model acknowledges that students have strengths in different areas through different modalities. The use of CBE centers allows for the classroom teacher to make this change based on formative assessments and can happen fluently. This way of working becomes authentic rather than keeping students in a leveled group for longer periods of time. (more…)

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