Three Steps for Personalizing Assessment

May 26, 2014 by

Why do we always assess students at the same time and let that be the governing factor for student achievement?timing

Andrew Miller, a faculty member at Buck Institute and ASCD, explores this issue in  Personalizing Assessment with Time in Mind:

 We know that students each learn at their own pace. Some take longer; some take a shorter amount of time. We have the same high expectations for our students, but we also know students take different amounts of time to get to those high expectations. One critical element of personalization is that time is no longer the driving factor. Instead of relying on the Carnegie unit, students show mastery and are assessed when they are ready. Granted, so many outside forces are demanding our time, but how might we move past them to meet students were they are in the assessment process?

Here are Andrew’s three steps for how you can start to create systems of assessments that enable you to further personalize the learning experience for students: (more…)

Iowa Goes BIG: Next-level learning

May 22, 2014 by

This blog was originally posed May 20, 2014 at the Iowa Department of Education with the sidebar, below. Be sure to watch the video about BIG – it’s really fun and interesting.

Some say they learn best by reading. Others say they learn best by doing.iowa big logo

For students who prefer the latter, the Cedar Rapids and College Community districts have joined forces to offer a non-traditional setting where the classroom has no walls, the coursework has no textbooks, and the grade level is not a consideration. Be assured this is no cakewalk: The students master skills and content consistent with their classroom counterparts. But they do so through projects that go beyond the school yard and solidly into the community.

The districts call the school Iowa BIG – big for its concepts, even bigger for its impact. (more…)

Iowa Goes BIG: From Reservations to Success

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This blog was originally posted May 20, 2014 at the Iowa Department of Education. Be sure to watch the video about BIG — it’s really fun and iowa_de-150x150interesting.

There is no particular formula for successful competency-based education (CBE). Programs vary from in-school coursework where the student learns at his or her own pace to internships and project-oriented work.

Ideally, students could choose which path to take since they have different preferences in the way they learn, said Iowa Department of Education Consultant Sandra Dop.

“Some students might choose one type of learning over another,” she said. “For instance, a student might want a specific learning environment for gaining proficiency in a particular subject, but another learning environment to demonstrate proficiency in another area.  All of this is negotiated with the teacher.  Kim Carter of QED Foundation calls it, ‘negotiated pace with gradual release,’ meaning that the students are not completely on their own to set a pace, and they slowly take over their learning as they develop the skills to do so. ” (more…)

Blending Toward Competency: A closer look at blended learning in New Hampshire

May 21, 2014 by
Originally posted May 21, 2014 at Christensen Institute.

inside a classroom

New Hampshire abolished the Carnegie unit in 2005.

Blended learning comes in various shapes and sizes in New Hampshire.

In 2007, Exeter Region Cooperative School District (SAU 16) in Exeter, N.H., applied for a statewide charter to launch the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS), New Hampshire’s first fully virtual charter school. Steve Kossakoski, the district’s then assistant superintendent for technology and research, took the helm as CEO of VLACS in 2008. Under Kossakoski’s guidance, VLACS has grown into the leading competency-based online course provider in the state. VLACS students move through online courses at their own pace, and the school has implemented competency assessments that require that students not only complete coursework, but also demonstrate mastery of each competency associated with a given course.

In 2008, in Durham, N.H., Celeste Best, an award-winning science teacher at Oyster River High School, noticed that her students lacked ownership of their learning. Best decided that instead of teaching all of her students at once, she would assign students to different projects or learning opportunities—either online or offline—depending on how they were progressing through the material.

That same year, in Litchfield, N.H., Campbell High School received a Federal Title-II-D grant to implement technology in its classrooms. But Andrea Ange and Justin Ballou, a library media specialist and a teacher, respectively, at the high school, noticed that the program fell short because the software programs they purchased were not user-friendly. As a result, the two decided to start their own company, Socrademy, which launched in 2012. Socrademy aims to serve as a personalized learning platform, where students can select and complete competency-based, modular content focused on their passions at their own pace. (more…)

Threads of Implementation — Lessons Learned from Maine

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Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 12.13.09 PMThe Maine Department of Education has condensed their six case studies on districts that have embraced proficiency-based education into one article. Threads of Implementation: A Thematic Review of Six Case Studies of Maine School Districts Implementing Proficiency-Based/Learner-Centered Systems looks at nine issues:  vision and framework; policy; leadership; teacher engagement; finance and professional development; technology; communications; pace of implementation; and cultural change. Given that it’s a concise summary, we’ve reposted it below.

Beginning in February 2012, the Maine Department of Education through its Center for Best Practice (Center) began publishing a series of in-depth case studies of school districts who were implementing proficiency-based/learner-centered systems.  These districts were in very different stages of their implementation journeys.  For example, the member districts of the Western Maine Education Collaborative (WMEC) were just beginning implementation while Poland Regional High School (of RSU 16) had been completely proficiency-based since it opened in 1999.  Though each of the districts featured in the Center over the last two years took decidedly different paths on their way to change, there were common themes that emerged throughout the case studies.  Their experiences serve as lessons for other Maine districts just beginning this transition in preparation for all schools in the state issuing diplomas starting in 2018 to students based on demonstrated proficiency.

Vision and Framework
All districts involved in making this change considered it vitally important to engage in a vision-setting process that made explicit certain assumptions.  This visioning process came at different times for each district.  For RSU 18, the visioning process – a Future Search – happened early.  The school board invited 80 stakeholders to participate in a process that would answer the question: “What do great schools look like?  And what should kids learn in great schools?”  RSU 2 went through a similar process, but engaged in it after individual schools had been working on proficiency-based issues for years – in fact, their visioning process came only after a significant pushback from parents.  The individual schools of RSU 20 had clear visions of their own, but the district as a whole did not.  When the individual schools came together to form RSU 20, one of the early acts of the new school board was to approve a proficiency-based vision for the district (though individual schools were free to choose their own way to approach this vision). (more…)

Performance-Based Assessment in Action

May 20, 2014 by

Originally posted May 16, 2014 at gettingsmart.com.  For more on Danville’s overall approach see District Transformation in Danville.Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 7.09.43 AM

Close your eyes and imagine an innovative school, a next-generation school that excels at preparing students to thrive in college and career. Picture a school that engages students in rigorous and authentic project-based learning opportunities, a school that has developed ways to get technology into the hands of students in a way that connects to its goals around next-gen teaching and learning. You’re probably imagining a flashy high-tech building situated in well-resourced district with dollars to spare. You’re probably thinking “Sounds good, but my district can’t do this because of [insert your reason here].”

My guess is that you’re not picturing a traditional school district in the middle of Kentucky. My guess is you’re probably not picturing a building that was built in 1912. My guess is you’re probably not picturing Bate Middle School in Danville; but you should be. (more…)

What does competency-based education have to do with disruption

May 19, 2014 by

christenseninstituteOriginally posted May 16, 2014 at christenseninstitute.org

Last week, we published the first paper in a two-part series on competency-based education. That paper investigates what competency-based education means in practice in New Hampshire, the first state to abolish the Carnegie unit and grant high school credit on the basis of mastery rather than hours of instruction.

What does that policy—and corresponding practice—have to do with the theory of disruptive innovation? Disruptive innovation describes a force by which industries that start off expensive, centralized, and complicated (they require deep expertise) become affordable, accessible, decentralized, and offer products that are more foolproof. When we talk about disruptive innovation in education, we often think about the explosive growth of online learning over the past two decades that has offered students a new paradigm in learning. Other innovations like peer-to-peer learning or early college high school models likewise may tug at the foundation of the traditional, centralized, factory- and time-based models that have dominated our education system for over a century. (more…)

Step 1: Separate The Baby From the Bathwater

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courtney  belolan

Courtney Belolan

Consider this moment:

I’m sitting in a summer planning session with a team of teachers from different grade levels and contents. We’re talking through a vision of student-centered, proficiency-based learning, and our goal is to have some plans in place for the start of the school year.  As we’re discussing student engagement and motivation, a teacher chimes in with:

Let’s just make sure we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

I hear this phrase whenever talking through change, especially change related to instructional practices. I agree completely, although I’ve never been a fan of the phrase (there is just something about the imagery). We do need to make sure we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; there are many things we already do as educators that support a student-centered, proficiency-based philosophy, regardless of how we design and run our classes. The hard part is getting into that bathtub and making sure we know what really is the baby and what is bathwater. (more…)

The Journey to a Personal Mastery System

May 14, 2014 by
dan joseph

Dan Joseph

Originally published in the Reinventing Schools Coalition May newsletter

It all starts with an essential question.  What do we want our students to know, do and become?  This question is to be asked and answered at all levels of the learning community. If our answers to this question do not fit the reality, then we must reflect on our systems for educating all of our children

As a leader of a school that has engaged in these deep reflective questions, I am reminded of a typical exchange I would have with visiting members from other school districts.  Over the few years, a number of schools and districts would come to visit and see our standards based educational model.  Often times I would ask a very simple question: “Why are you here and what is the outcome that you would like to have as a result of your visit?” This was a question that we asked prior to any exchange of information or classroom visits.  The most popular answer was:  “We need to produce a standards based report card.”  Aside from a state mandate, this is not a compelling and deep reason to change a system of instruction to meet the needs of all students.  There was a disconnection in these teachers’ minds relating to the identification of the right solution or even the problem.  However, by lunchtime these same teachers and leaders would realize the depth of change they were seeing.  I do believe they returned to their districts with a better sense of what the change needed to encompass.

So are you and your district on the right track?  We thought we were, until we started to look at ourselves and our system. Why were we working so hard, yet our students were not making the gains that we believed they should be making?

This statement brought to light a system that needed to be changed, not any one program or teacher, but the entire system.  You probably work in a district that was similar to ours.  We had RTI (Response To Intervention), 504, IEPs, PBIS, AIMSweb, NWEA, PLCs and UBD.  How and to what could we align these silos?

Well to start off, we needed to make the following promises for every child:

  • Understand how a student learns best and have a strong voice in their learning.
  • Have students work at their instructional level to engage and accelerate their learning.
  • Offer clarity and transparency so that students can navigate and monitor their learning.
  • Finally, build a system where students are driven by their passion and realize their potential.

Sounds great, but many times the journey away from the reality of our current situation to the vision of the promise is too difficult to even take a first step. Transformational change is difficult and deep; it requires an understanding of individuals, systems and the culture of an organization. I often reflect on Phillip Schlechty’s quote, “Structural change that is not supported by cultural change will eventually be overwhelmed by the culture, for it is in the culture that any organization finds meaning and stability.” (Schlechty, Shaking Up the Schoolhouse: How to Support and Sustain Educational Innovation (2001), p. 52) (more…)

The Questions I Ask

May 13, 2014 by
Chris Sturgis

Chris Sturgis

What is competency education and what isn’t it? It’s a question that is being asked a lot these days, especially as people try to sort through what it means to design for a school to emphasize personal mastery or student ownership of their learning, competency-based progression, issues of pacing, and how to respond to students that enter a classroom more than two grade levels behind.

Some folks have gotten caught up in the concept of “time is a variable” and talk about competency education as self-paced, forgetting that another variable is how we use instruction and supports to help students stay on pace. First and foremost, competency education is about designing schools and learning environments so that every student reaches proficiency, step by step, standard by standard. (Wait that sounds too linear — learning progressions don’t always have to be perfectly linear. We just don’t want to leave kids with gaps that are going to cause them to stumble on more advanced work!)

Today I was asked what types of questions I ask and what I look for when I do site visits, as a way of trying to better understand competency education.  So I jotted down the primary questions that help me filter quickly what is happening in a school. The questions aren’t usually asked in this sequence, as I think one way of learning about a school is listening to what they think is important.

1.     What is your overarching philosophy of education or theory of action?  

 I listen for:

  • Examples of a growth mindset;
  • A culture of learning that sees mistakes as part of learning and that adults are learning, too;
  • Starting where kids are, i.e. teaching kids, not curriculum;
  • Inclusiveness of students rather than segmenting. An example is honors level coursework rather than a class or track;
  • Asset-based;
  • Student agency and the importance of transparency;
  • Motivation and engagement strategies;
  • Focus on getting kids to proficiency and higher levels of depth of knowledge;
  • Flexibility in responding to kids – calendars, schedules, instruction, support;
  • Holistic approach to learning, such as emphasis on social-emotional learning , habits or lifelong learning competencies, or trauma-informed care. (more…)
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