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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The SAMR Model in Blended Learning

February 16, 2015 by

LaptopI’ve worked as a technology integrator and teacher for fourteen years. We’ve adopted a proficiency based philosophy for five of those years. It’s been a monumental shift, but one that is so important for students. No longer is it okay for them to know just 65 percent of the material as evidenced by an averaged grade.

As a teacher, I’ve had to learn to differentiate instruction and scaffold learning for each individual student. Most importantly, I’ve had to learn to let go of what works best for me and focus on what works best for each student.

The switch to a proficiency-based model means that teachers have to be much more intentional in their teaching. It’s no longer a matter of turning to the planbook and seeing what you are teaching that day. You may be teaching pieces of three, four, or five days (or weeks) of your planbook at once. Proficiency-based teaching and learning hinges on the premise that the student determines the pace at which they will work and the means by which they will learn. They expect to have access to learning materials, resources, and interventions as close to 24/7 as possible.

We all recognized early on that technology could be a crucial tool in supporting students in this new model. How well it is used remains a factor.

In technology integration, we have a tool called SAMR. It’s a model that we use to determine the value added to learning by the use of technology. It was developed by Dr. Reuben Puentadura in 2010 and has been used worldwide to move the use of technology in the classroom from simply replacing what we are already doing to transforming the kinds of tasks that students can do. (more…)

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Beyond the Carnegie Unit

February 11, 2015 by

Chinese Proverb Quote“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”

– Chinese Proverb

It’s striking, isn’t it – the juxtaposition of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching’s recommendation that we keep using the Carnegie Unit (CU) because we don’t really have anything better, and Scott Marion’s incredible post describing a new, interlocking system that better defines student learning goals and targets, teacher goals and outcomes, and assessments that promise a more meaningful measure of learning. The contrasts could not be clearer: one is a system to engage students deeply in learning in a competency-based environment where schools claim responsibility for ensuring that students learn, compared to the less than meaningful Carnegie Unit, in which we only promise exposure to a topic, thereby leaving students to sit through one more lecture in a traditional classroom setting.

Across our country, educators are coming to the conclusion that we can’t wait for think tanks or federal policymakers to lead the way to a personalized system. Instead they are creating a new personalized system of education piece by piece. (You can read all about leading states, districts, and schools here at  CompetencyWorks.)

No one expects any one organization to come up with all the answers, but certainly the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) could have offered something more in their report than telling us what we already know – that the CU is rarely a barrier, with the exception of financial aid and getting the full benefit from online learning, but neither is it a valuable unit of learning. Thus, it allows the standardized system to continue to operate with lower quality than our students deserve and contributing to the inequity that plagues the standardized education system. The report by CFAT was a major disappointment at a time when our country needs leadership and creativity about how we can proceed in re-engineering the standardized system into a personalized one in which students are at the core.

There are three major problems with the paper in regard to the K12 public education system. (more…)

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Performance-Based Home Schooling

February 10, 2015 by

7 alaskaThis is the seventh post in the Chugach School District series. Read the firstsecondthirdfourthfifth, and sixth posts here.

Why do parents choose the Chugach homeschool program? Parents want a clear roadmap of what their children need to accomplish, ways to determine if they are learning, and indicators that help them understand how they are doing. Parents want to make sure their kids are learning everything they need to without any gaps or holes in their learning.  – Annie Dougherty, head homeschool teacher

One of the eye-openers for me during my visit to Chugach School District was the conversation with CSD’s FOCUS homeschool teachers. It had never crossed my mind that homeschooling programs could be performance-based, or that they play a powerful role in education throughout Alaska and for families with high mobility (parents of course enrolling students for a whole host of reasons). CSD serves 230 students all across the state, from both rural and urban areas. The teachers, living all over the state, work with between forty to sixty students at a time. I could try to summarize our discussion, but I think you’ll appreciate hearing it directly from them.

The Benefits of Taking Time Out of the Equation

Janet Reed started off the conversation with, “The performance-based system takes time out of the equation. Parents really like it that kids can spend more time where they need it. They also really appreciate knowing their kids aren’t just being shuffled forward.” (more…)

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Never The First to Finish: Why Pace Matters

February 9, 2015 by

HourglassThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on January 30, 2015.

Remember how it felt to be halfway through a math quiz and a classmate gets up and turns it in to the teacher? Maybe that other student rushed, or maybe he or she just happened to be super speedy. Either way, I always came to the same conclusion: I’m just never going to be that fast.

Years have passed since I’ve had to take a math quiz. As an adult, I’m comfortable with my own strengths and weaknesses and the time it takes me to do particular things. But as a mother of a fourth grader, I relive those math quiz memories every time she comes home and says, “I’m just never going to be that fast.”

She is what you might call “slow and steady.” But many of her peers, some on grade level and some above it, sail through these drills.

The slower pace is not usually an issue at home or with homework. She does not get frustrated with the amount of time it takes to do her math work. She enjoys “crossing her t’s and dotting her i’s.”

But bring in a timer, and it’s a different story. I noticed this first when we worked on a website the school recommended for supplemental math work at home. I had to put a post-it note over the timer in the upper right of the computer screen. (more…)

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Where to Meet Up with Competency Educators

February 5, 2015 by

AirplaneFor those of you ready to network with your colleagues, there are a few meetings that include competency education in the strands of sessions and speakers.

New England: Coming up soon is the New England Secondary Schools Consortium High School Redesign in Action conference on March 26-27 in Massachusetts. (Note: there are only about 100 spots left.)

Oregon: The Oregon Annual Proficiency Conference co-sponsored by BEC and COSA is scheduled for April 10, 2015. Jaime Robles, Principal at Lindsay High School, is a keynote speaker.

National: The 2015 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium will take place on November 8-11 in Orlando, Florida at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. A request for breakout sessions and workshop proposals opened on February 4th if you would like to share your knowledge and lessons learned. Registration for the Symposium will open in March.   (more…)

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Teaching Through the Culture: Native Education in a Performance-Based System

February 4, 2015 by
5 student at t

A Student at Tatitlek

This is the sixth post in the Chugach School District series. Read the first, second, thirdfourth, and fifth posts here.

Living in New Mexico, I think and learn about Native education more than I ever have before. In Alaska, over 16 percent of the student population is Alaska Native, which means it is even more important that schools there are designed to fully serve the interests of the eleven language groups and twenty-plus dialects: Athabascan, Alutiiq (you might be more familiar with this spelled as Aleutic), Yup’ik, Cup’ik, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Inupiaq, and St. Lawrence Island Yupik.

Above all else, Chugach School District values it students, families, and communities; therefore, they value the culture of the Alutiiq people who live in Chenega Bay and Tatitlek. The CSD performance-based system has been co-designed with Alutiiq communities. Given that CSD is the first district to design a competency-based district, it raises the question, “Is competency education rooted in Alaskan Native values?”

There are several aspects of how Chugach School District embraces Native Education within a universal structure and process:

1. It Starts with Respect; Respect is Shown Through Listening and Partnership

It all started when school board and community members from Whittier and the Alutiiq villages of Chenega Bay and Tatitlek questioned district leadership about low achievement scores and the fact that their children were not reading and writing at grade level. The first response was the same as in most districts; a scripted reading program was selected and implemented throughout the district. However, the district leadership listened and realized there was a fundamental issue that needed to be addressed: the CSD education system wasn’t designed to meet the needs of their students. The next step was redesigning to be able to personalize education and adapt to the changing needs of students, families, and communities. The school board made a five-year commitment to ensure there would be time for effective implementation and mid-course adjustments. (more…)

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What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

February 3, 2015 by

From the States

  • North Carolina: North Carolina New Schools is making the case for competency-based learning in North Carolina, as Angela Quick, Senior VP, explains in her blog. A convening of thought leaders was held in December to operate as a “think tank” to identify enablers, barriers, and readiness factors regarding North Carolina’s transition toward competency education. Mooresville Graded School District is now offering credit by demonstrated mastery (CDM) to middle and high school students. In 2013, the NC State Board of Education changed policy to enable mastery-based credits. (The Journal)
  • Michigan: Mary Esselman, former deputy chancellor at the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan, announced her resignation in January. She championed Michigan’s turnaround district by reshaping teaching and curriculum around student-centered, technology-focused models.

ESEA Reauthorization

New Reports and Resources (more…)

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Two Sides of the Same Coin: Competency-Based Education and Student Learning Objectives

February 2, 2015 by

This paper is also available in PDF form here

Introduction

Coins

We are in the midst of two major reform initiatives occupying the attention of school district leaders throughout the country. Teacher evaluation has been the most prominent educational policy issue of the past five years, and evaluating teachers in the so-called “non-tested subjects and grades” has been one of the thorniest challenges in the design of these new educator evaluation approaches. Student learning objectives have emerged as the most common approach for documenting teacher contributions to student learning (Hall, Gagnon, Thompson, Schneider, & Marion, 2014). Competency-based education has taken hold to help ensure that students have mastered critical knowledge and skills before becoming eligible for graduation or moving on to the next learning target rather than simply occupying a seat for a certain amount of time. Unfortunately, many school leaders do not see the strong relationship between these two initiatives and feel like they have to do “double-duty” to meet both sets of policy goals. I describe each of these initiatives below and then illustrate how the close connection between the two can create coherence and efficiencies.

Competency-Based Education

While there are potentially many definitions of competencies and competency-based education, I rely on the following from Patrick and Sturgis (2013):

Competency education is an approach to teaching and learning in which: (more…)

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What Would Andrew Do?

January 29, 2015 by
Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

(See the second post on this topic Beyond the Carnegie Unit)

Earlier today, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) released their report The Carnegie Unit: A Century-Old Standard in a Changing Education Landscape. [Disclaimer: I was a member of the Advisory Committee.] It’s a beautifully written report with sweeping historical context and fun little details. (Why is liberal arts college four years? Because CFAT, in designing the requirements for institutions of higher education to have access to Andrew Carnegie’s pension plan, said so.) It’s a must-read for the summary of how competency education is evolving in the K12 and higher education sectors.

However, if you are expecting something as big and bold as Andrew Carnegie himself would dream up, you’ll be disappointed. In fact, I imagine that deep under the snow in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, New York, Andrew Carnegie is wishing he could find a way to join the conversation.

It’s easy to agree with the findings—that Carnegie Unit (CU) rarely acts as an actual barrier, as in actually prohibiting innovation, with a few important exceptions such as federal financial aid. However, there is an enormous difference between an idea acting as a barrier and  catalyzing improvements in the education system. In focusing the scope of the report on whether or not the CU is a barrier to improvements, CFAT trapped themselves in either-or-ness, rather than engaging in an open inquiry into how we might be able to move beyond the confines of the CU to a more equitable, flexible, and transparent system. Even an analytical report that takes us up close to how the CU operates in administering the education system, specifically higher education, would have allowed us to think more deeply about how to re-engineer the system. (more…)

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