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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Is There Enough Time for Learning?

November 4, 2014 by
Oliver Grenham

Oliver Grenham

Because of the growing number of mass-administered, required tests under state and/or federal law, there is an increasing and unsustainable demand being placed on student time in school. In recent years, these mandated test increases have affected students in Colorado at all grade levels, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

While student assessment is vital to learning, excessive testing is not, particularly in the way it is handled today. The quantity and quality of instructional time is what matters most for productive learning to occur.

Our experience in Adams County School District 50 has shown that a mass administration of the same test to students of the same age at the same time does not promote learning. In fact, it penalizes students, their teachers, and their schools. An overemphasis on testing significantly reduces the quantity and quality of time that could be better utilized in closing the achievement gap: something our data shows we are successfully doing.

The Teaching Learning Cycle in a Competency-Based System

We all know that teaching and learning take place in the classroom. As educators, we refer to this cyclic process as the Teaching Learning Cycle.

Teaching Learning Cycle (more…)

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5 Key Takeaways from The Past and the Promise: Today’s Competency Education Movement

November 3, 2014 by

Originally posted on October 20, 2014 at Jobs for the Future.

Students at the Center, a Jobs for the Future initiative that synthesizes and adapts for practice current research on key components of student-centered approaches to learning that lead to deeper learning outcomes, has just launched a new research series on competency education. Competency education is both a core tenet in our student-centered framework and an area of increasing interest to practitioners and policymakers.

Over the coming months, we will continue to release this series of research syntheses and updates from the field that help build the foundational data, theory, and information needed to support effective implementation and policy for competency education. (Sign up to be sure to receive new research.) We encourage you to read and share this publication with others in the field. Here are five key takeaways from the recent report:

1. Competency education is one important part of a broader vision of education reform that places students at the center of their education experience.

Students at the Center has collected and published evidence and arguments concluding that students are more engaged, more motivated, and achieve better learning outcomes under four key conditions:

  1. Education is personalized to their needs
  2. They can advance upon mastery of clear learning targets
  3. They have a range of learning opportunities in and out of school
  4. They have voice, choice, and agency in their learning experiences.

The potential impacts of competency education are greatly enhanced when combined with the other three reform strategies. (more…)

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What’s New in K-12 Competency Education

October 30, 2014 by

iNCL_CW_logo_K12CompetencyWorks released An International Study in Competency Education: Postcards from Abroad in October. You can access the archived webinar and additional resources here. We also just learned about the Common Ground Project based in Brussels, offering a slightly different way of framing competency education. (See Our Learning EcoSystem.)

Resources and Blogs

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Data Integration? More Like Data Cooperation

by

Originally posed October 15, 2014 by the Christensen Institute.

Data Cooperation

Are new software platforms revving the engine of competency-based blended learning? This week, Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) released a comprehensive summary of Spark, a new platform built by the team at Matchbook Learning to help one of the schools it operates, Merit Prep, realize its goal of supporting blended and competency-based learning. The report looks at how Spark came about and where it may be headed in the coming years. The new tool is certainly exciting in and of itself, but it also reflects broader activity in the still relatively slim overlap of blended and competency-based approaches on the ground.

As I wrote about nearly a year ago, technology tools still lag some of the aspirations of competency-based and blended school systems. Yet Spark now joins a small but growing set of software programs designed to help competency-based schools that are using a variety of online learning programs to deliver blended instruction. Products like Project Foundry, Empower (by Educate), JumpRope, Engrade, and Buzz (powered by Agilix) orchestrate tasks like content delivery, assessment, and data dashboards in schools pursuing blended learning and competency-based education in various capacities. Other school systems are even turning to Salesforce for Education, which doesn’t offer the same real-time assessment data or online learning content delivery as those mentioned above, but does allow for individual scheduling and tracking of student information in a more competency-based manner.

All of these platforms are trying to tackle new challenges that educators face as they wade into the blended and competency-based spaces. Not only do blended learning educators want students to enjoy a seamless online learning experience, but they also want up-to-date information on how students are performing in online work to inform what they teach offline. And to make these blended learning experiences fit into a competency-based progression, educators also want to be able to track student mastery on an individual basis, and advance students to new or more challenging material when they prove ready. This means that a platform may need to deliver online assessment on an on-demand basis and to track individual student progress across standards and competencies. (more…)

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RSU Students Now Proficiency Based

October 29, 2014 by
School District RSU #14

School District RSU #14 Web

This post was originally published in the RSU14 Maine Fall Newsletter.

The students who are entering kindergarten this year will be working until around the year 2100.

Think about it. Did your head just explode?

In a very real and somewhat scary sense, the future that we’re preparing our kids for hasn’t been invented yet. Employers and colleges throughout Maine and throughout the country say they need graduates who not only know specific things – the content of our classes – they need graduates who know how to learn independently; graduates who are active citizens; graduates who can persevere; graduates who work collaboratively; graduates who can approach problems with both critical and creative thinking; and graduates who can communicate effectively with different audiences.

And it isn’t just some graduates. It’s every graduate.

Every Kid: John Davis, an educator in Maine, puts it very simply, “We are here for every kid.” He says it, rightly, as a moral argument: we have an obligation to every child in our care.

That means something different than it used to. In the past, schools were here to help sort kids and send them off to their particular professions. Some would go to college, some to skilled professions, and many to the mills. That was enough. Schools today have a different mission. Because of conditions in Maine and throughout the world, we need every student succeeding to the highest level possible. RSU 14 is committed to that. It’s necessary for our community, and it’s necessary for our kids. We act on this commitment in a number of ways. (more…)

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Competency Education: Frequently Asked Parent Questions

October 28, 2014 by

FAQI worked for a school district and high school that made the transition from a traditional to a competency-based grading and reporting system about five years ago. As one of the early adopters of what has now become a national educational reform movement, my fellow administrators and I often get inquiries from colleagues around the nation who are looking for advice as they make a similar transition in their own school or district. One of the biggest categories of questions we field from other administrators is on communication with parents about the competency education model. In this article, I will share with you some of the most frequently asked questions that we get from our parents and how we typically respond.

How is a competency education model different from a traditional one?

Competency education is based on the principle that the grades a student receives measure what the student knows and is able to do. Courses are organized into competencies that measure a student’s ability to transfer content and skills in and across content areas. Students are assessed on these competencies through performance assessments—multistep assignments with clear criteria, expectations, and processes that measure how well a student transfers knowledge and applies complex skills to create or refine an original product. Teachers use rubrics to measure student learning on these assessments and report that learning on report cards and transcripts by skill or competency.

Competency education diverges powerfully from the traditional “one size fits all” approach. In the best examples, students are given many opportunities and many pathways to demonstrate that they have reached competency. They are able to progress at their own pace. Their teachers provide individualized instruction and coach them through their learning progression. Teachers collaboratively develop the assessments that will measure how well students have performed. The result is a more rigorous education that identifies exactly what students know, are able to do, and to what degree.

(more…)

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