February 19, 2013 by Brian Stack
At least twice a week I have the opportunity to do a formal observation of the karate instructors that help my wife Erica and my two oldest boys, Brady (7) and Cameron (5), as they work towards their black belts. There are so many parallels between how their karate classes are structured and how we as administrators would like to see our teachers structure their twenty-first century competency-based classrooms. I think we can learn a lot from the karate studio environment. Here are some tips I have gleaned from countless karate classroom observations that I have completed:
1. Embed the School’s Core Values and Beliefs Into the Classroom
As administrators we spend a lot of time working with our schools to develop documents that identify our school’s core beliefs and values and student expectations for learning. These documents are usually printed with catchy phrases or mnemonic devices on eye-catching posters and banners to help our staff and students remember them, but how often do our teachers refer to them in their classroom? At the karate studio, each class starts with everyone (students and parents alike) standing up to face the American flag and reciting the karate school’s core values and beliefs in unison. Throughout class, the instructors regularly refer back to these values as needed during instruction. There is no question that every stakeholder at the karate studio knows exactly what the school stands for and believes in. As a school administrator I am not suggesting that we make our own students recite our school’s core values statement each day, but I do think we need to find better enduring ways to embed these values into the daily fabric of our students’ lives. (more…)
February 15, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
I’ve never seen anything like this in all my days of visiting schools and districts — whole district reform designed around a shared vision, similar practices, and such a high degree of transparency. Of course we have a growing number of competency-based schools generating innovative practices, but my visits to Maine and Lindsay California have convinced me that the power of competency education is through aligning all the schools!
You’ll have a chance to hear about how a district is making this shift at our next webinar on February 26th at 3:30 – 4:30. Register here.
Bruce Beasley, Superintendent and Karen Caprio, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development from MSAD 15 or Gray-New Gloucester, Maine will be joining us to take us through their journey.
· Why did MSAD15 decided to embrace a proficiency-based model?
· What was the pre-implementation process?
· What is the overall structure or approach you use in proficiency-based education?
· What were the major issues that developed when you first began to implement proficiency-based education?
· How does your approach vary across elementary, middle and high school?
· What were the major issues that developed in implementation in high school?
If you want to do some background reading before the webinar, MSAD 15 is highlighted in Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education .
February 8, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Interested in this topic? Join us for the Pacing and Personalization webinar on February 12th, 3:30 ET. Register here.
There is no doubt we are creating new language to describe the next generation education system. It’s emerging quickly and is going to become one of the topics that I write about.
I stumbled upon the concept of tempo in Sal Khan’s book The One World Schoolroom. It’s a beautiful and magical word to describe the rhythm of a student’s learning and how it changes. I doubt we’ll end up using musical language to explain the tempo of student learning such as larghissimo , andante, presto, allegro and agitato (note how those last two both indicate emotion and tempo). I do think we will soon be creating language that helps us discern how a student is engaging in their studies:
- Slow pace with many distractions from the traumas in their life (remember how hard it was to work during 9/11? Imagine what it feels like to be a student trying to study in a school in lockdown or your mother ill with cancer
- Slow pace, challenged by the material and committed to fully mastering it.
- Teacher pace of moderate pace with deep dives to explore a topic
- Rapid pace in reviewing content they have covered before
- Rapid progress at level three, moving onto advanced material without exceeding expectations for proficiency
- Rapid pace constantly striving to exceed expectations
Or perhaps we will find an entirely different way of thinking about the tempo of student learning?
I saw a glimpse of how pacing is going to become a common way of monitoring effectiveness during my visit to Barack Obama Charter School (more to come about this and other school visits in California this week), I had the opportunity to look at how their information system, Educate, offers principals, district staff…and yes, even state officials, the opportunity to keep an eye on pacing. (more…)
February 6, 2013 by Barbara Weed
Reflecting on the work that has just been completed is one of the most valuable steps in the learning process, but it’s a step that is easily neglected in school. Students who take the time to look at what they’ve done and think about what they could do to improve are the students who make consistent, visible progress in their learning. Reflection is a competency that should be a routine activity in every student’s school day. Teachers know that students need to reflect, but time constraints make it easy to drop this relatively passive step that is already at the end of a learning experience.
Helping students develop positive learning habits is one way that we ensure that students are prepared to be lifelong learners. Thoughtful reflection has to be one of those habits, otherwise students are just engaging in the skills of the moment and aren’t building on previous learning. Getting students to take the time to ponder what they have learned helps them deepen their learning by connecting the various steps in their process and comparing them to previous experience. (more…)
February 5, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
From MCSD website
The following is the testimony from Andrea Stewart, Gifted and Talented Coordinator for Muscatine Community Schools and member of the State’s Competency-based Education Task Force at the Iowa State Legislature last month. It is a powerful statement as it demonstrates that competency education can be valuable for students in gifted/talented programs as well as those who are struggling to catch up.
We are here, not because we have perfected a system of learning for our students, but because we have with us student voices to share how their learning is changing in our pilot CBE classrooms this year. Muscatine is an innovative district supported by bold leaders who recognize that our students’ needs can no longer be met by our antiquated system and that the time for an educational paradigm shift is now. Through deliberate and ongoing engineering, our district is piloting competency-based education in 14 classrooms because it removes the barriers of time and place from our students’ educational experiences—two of the most intractable elements in our schools today. By focusing on the core competencies of each course instead of on the Carnegie unit, our educators have combined fidelity to the Iowa Core with enduring concepts and depths of knowledge that allow students to demonstrate their learning in refreshing, personalized ways. CBE benefits struggling learners who need additional time to master concepts, content, or skills, learners who have graduation requirement deficits, students who are ready to learn anytime, anywhere, gifted and talented learners who progress at ages younger or rates faster than their chronological peers, teachers who are looking for ways to more effectively differentiate the learning taking place both in and out of their classrooms, and administrators who are looking for real-time data and school-wide patterns. (more…)
February 4, 2013 by Bill Zima
1970′s ZOOM from website
When talking with people who are not educators, I often think of Fannee Doollee, a character from the Zoom television series, which ran on PBS in the late seventies, who has a fascination with double letters. Fannee Doollee loves one thing but hates something very similar. For example, she loves swEEts but hates candy (notice the double EE in sweets). Similarly, in my conversation with parents and community leaders, I am always amazed at how they can advocate for one thing while mocking a possible solution.
For example, last week I found myself at a round table with eight influential community members. Then it happened. One of the leaders begins talking about her granddaughter in Virginia and how the school gives students a chance to “do over” an assignment until they get it right. She looked at me and pleaded, “Bill, tell me your school does not do that.” All heads nodded in support, and then slowly turned toward me. Enter the image of Fannee Doollee; “They love having students prePPed, but hate giving them time to learn.” (more…)
by Chris Sturgis
Hi all – iNACOL has opened up its process for presentation proposals for sessions at the Virtual Schools Symposium. The theme of this year’s symposium will be “Transforming to Student-Centered Learning.”
As you may know, iNACOL organized a strand of presentations on competency education last year. This year we want to make it even better by being a bit more strategic – by finding out what topics people want to learn about as well as pro-actively constructing a set of presentations that build upon each other.
So first step – can you use the comments section (or email me) to list any topics you would really like to see covered at VSS? We videotape some of them so they can be used later as well. Or, if you are already working on a presentation proposal, let us know so we can coordinate around it and avoid duplication.
The conference will be held from October 27 – 30, 2013 in Orlando, FL at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. The Request for Presentation Proposals (RFP) is currently available on the conference website. To access the RFP and submit your presentation, please visit http://vssrfp.inacol.org. The deadline for submitting presentation proposals is March 25, 2013.
January 30, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Digital Learning Now has just released it’s new paper — and its on competency education. (Disclaimer: I’m one of the authors)
The Shift from Cohorts to Competency takes a look at competency education through the lens of what is possible with digital tools. The paper includes 10 design choices that schools are making and 10 new capacities that states will need to develop.
The info graphics are great and I’m sure they will be of value to you in your work.
by Chris Sturgis
From Garfield H.S. website
Teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle WA are boycotting – they have voted to not administer the district-mandated Measuresof Academic Progress (MAP) standardized test. The formal reason for the reason behind the boycott of this specific assessment, one of many used in Seattle, is it not aligned with state standards or the district curriculum.
I happened to be in the car yesterday and caught an interview with Jesse Hagopian, a high school history teacher on the radio. (Here is his op-ed to the Seattle Times) He explained that the teachers felt that it was unfair to students, in fact he described it as setting students up for failure, as the test included math content that the students had not been exposed to as the curriculum was not aligned with the test.
That’s one of the premises of designing assessments for competency-based environments – students need to have demonstrated proficiency (not just be exposed to the curriculum) before taking summative assessments. In fact, when used appropriately MAP, an online, adaptive assessment, can be used to help understand where a student is on their learning progression when they first enter a school so that instruction can be targeted.
Hagopian also explained that the teachers were generally concerned with standardized tests that were not assessing the deeper learning skills of creativity and problem-solving. He suggested that other types of assessments would be more helpful.
That’s what building systems of assessments is all about. If you are interested in the topic, you can join us on Friday at 2:30 ET for the webinar featuring Casco Bay High School, Vergennes Unified High School, and the Center for Collaborative Education to hear about how these schools are building their capacity for designing assessments that are meaningful to students.
January 29, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
“CBE allows me to be teacher that I always knew that I could be and that I should be. It’s allowed me to be a facilitator. Students are now coming to me as a resource rather than as the source of information.” That is what Muscatine High School language arts teacher Chanda Hassett told Iowa’s State Legislative panel about competency-based education.
As reported in an article Competency based education draws rave reviews in Iowa House hearing by Jason Noble in the Des Moines Register website, both teachers and students were enthusiastic about their competency-based pilot. (If you haven’t read it, here Elizabeth Sturm’s student at Muscatine’s reflection on competency education)
I hear the students were incredibly powerful speakers with great insight into competency education.
Halie Osborn, a junior at Muscatine High School testified, “I have a lot of friends in college at this point and they’ve all told me that freshman year is the worst because they don’t know how to study. CBE has taught me how to study.”
It’s reported that Chanda Hasset said she “can’t go back” to teaching the old way. Does this mean that competency education is going to take hold and never let go?