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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A Deeper Dive into the EPIC North Design (Part 2)

December 8, 2014 by
Mr. Dash

Mr. Dash’s Science Class

This article is part of a series of case studies of schools in New York City. For the full story, start with my overview of the Magical Mastery Tour and the three biggest takeaways. Part 1 of the EPIC North visit can be found here or just scroll down the page.

The EPIC North school design is best explained by the students themselves.

Teachers give us guidelines for our projects. We can learn in different ways, including learning from outside of school. We have to figure things ourselves and we have to learn how to do it ourselves. But we are never all by ourselves. Teachers are always there to help us.

Like most mastery-based schools, EPIC is founded on the idea of student ownership, transparency of learning expectations, and demonstrating proficiency before advancing to the next stage of learning. In this case, EPIC embeds the mastery-based structure within a tightly woven culture and programming based on youth development and future focus through CORE and Summer Bridge.

A Personalized, Mastery-Based Structure

Across the three EPIC high schools, staff and students use technology as a means to personalize learning. Students interact with the schools’ LMS (Educate) and relevant Google programs to receive, complete and submit assignments, collaborate, and track their learning progress. Currently the schools are implementing a one-to-one (student to device) program. In classes, teachers use both procured and teacher-generated digital content. In classes like targeted support, students use interactive software to practice and develop their skills towards mastery. As students access material and produce works, staff are available to provide direct support and guidance. However, it is important to note that at EPIC schools, teaching and learning is highly blended. In addition to technology use, students participate in class activities, discussions, and labs that require collaborating with peers and working with teachers. (more…)

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EPIC Schools: Putting Young Men of Color in the Center of the Design (Part 1)

by
Harvey Chism

Harvey Chism

This article is part of a series of case studies of schools in New York City. For the full story, start with my overview of the Magical Mastery Tour and the three biggest takeaways. Click here for Part 2.

I’ve visited a lot of schools. I’ve seen confident students before. But the students at EPIC North took me totally by surprise.

Even though they were only in their second month of school, twenty ninth-graders streamed into the library, surrounding me, shaking my hand, introducing themselves, and… networking?

The questions flew at me from all sides. Where are you from? Why are you interested in EPIC North? What company do you work for? Have you met any of the staff at EPIC before? You do, how did you meet Harvey? Then two students sat down next to me with the clear intent of continuing the conversation: Now that we’ve met, what can I tell you about EPIC North?

I wasn’t interviewing students – they were interviewing me! When ninth graders know that they have powerful voices and aren’t afraid to use them, it’s clear that something special is happening. (more…)

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Carroll Gardens School for Innovation (MS 442): Intentional School Design

December 5, 2014 by

carroll gardens

This article is part of a series of case studies of schools in New York City. For the full story, start with my overview of the Magical Mastery Tour and the three biggest takeaways. You can also read the report on Bronx International High School

Carroll Gardens School for Innovations (MS 442) has only been using a mastery-based structure for three years, but it’s definitely one of the most well-developed competency-based schools I’ve visited. It’s the best example of a school designed so that personalized, mastery-based education works as well for students in special education as it does for all students. In other words, it’s a universal approach that works across a diverse population.

Thanks to Michael Preston, Jeremy Kraushar, and Joy Nolan for their leadership in bringing CGSI to the attention of CompetencyWorks. I am grateful to the extraordinary educators at CGSI for sharing their insights: Deanna Sinito, Principal; Noreen Mills, Assistant Principal; Liz Reale, technology and problem-solving teacher; Lisa Genduso, math coach and problem-solving teacher; Grace O’Shea, science teacher; Eric Silberberg, special education teacher focused on science; Jared Sutton, math teacher and technology specialist; and Connor Allen, science and problem-solving teacher.

The CGSI Approach

CGSI has created an integrated approach. Or perhaps I should call it an intentional approach, as every policy, practice, ritual, and routine reinforce each other and contribute to the culture of learning. Even though I saw each of the strands in all of my visits to the classrooms, it’s nearly impossible to pull out any single one as distinct from the others. I haven’t seen anything quite like this model in my many school visits, so I’m just going to call it the CGSI approach. (more…)

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The Case for Performance Assessments in a Standards-Based Grading System

by
DeLoreto

Louis F. DeLoreto

If only measuring students meeting academic standards in the classroom was as easy as it is in the performing arts or athletics. Concerts and games are authentic performance assessments. They provide the opportunity for students to demonstrate their skill levels and grasp of the concepts before an audience. Observers can see and hear the results and make judgments on the level of performance using their knowledge of the criteria commonly used to determine proficiency levels. If only we, the audience, could see how well a student is performing on authentic challenges in the classroom like we do at an orchestra concert or a basketball game.

The principle of demonstrating performance on an academic standard is the same as in the performing arts and athletic arenas. The “audience” wants to see what the student is being asked to do and to be able to understand how they did. However, the traditional classroom performance assessment is not as readily identifiable as the complexity of a musical piece or the competitive level of an opposing team. Therefore, the degree to which the student grasps an academic standard in a classroom is difficult for counselors, administrators, and parents to see and understand in today’s traditional high school assessment systems. (more…)

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First Stop of the Magical Mastery Tour: Bronx International High School

December 4, 2014 by

BxIHS

This article is part of a series of case studies of schools in New York City. For the full story, start with my overview of the Magical Mastery Tour and the three biggest takeaways. You can also read the report on Carroll Gardens School for Innovation.

Inspiring. I know no other word to describe the students and staff at Bronx International High School (BxIHS). Arrived from all around the world, the 400+ BxIHS students come to the school with hope, drive, curiosity, creativity…and little or no English.

Designed as a high school to serve new immigrants, BxIHS “accepts students who score at or below the 20th percentile on the Language Assessment Battery (LAB-R) and have been in the United States fewer than four years.” Students enter with a wide range of academic experiences behind them, some having spent little or no time in a formal education setting.

Regardless of background, the two things all the students share is a desire to learn English and to complete high school. Staff members, many of whom were English language learners at one time in their own lives, work collaboratively and joyfully in an “outcomes” approach to ensure that students reach proficiency in language/literacy, content, and skills. (more…)

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The Big Three Takeaways of the Magical Mastery Tour

December 3, 2014 by

ThreeAlthough there were many takeaways from my visits to schools in New York City (what Jeremy Kraushar of the Digital Ready team referred to as the Magical Mastery Tour), I’ve selected three to write about here, as they respond to questions we’ve received over the past six months.

Please note: I’m using mastery-based, the term used by NYC, and competency-based interchangeably.

Most of these findings are based on schools that are doing tremendous work in developing highly developed mastery-based models. Descriptions of Bronx International, EPIC North, Bronx Arena, Carroll Gardens School for Innovation, and Maker Academy will be published in the coming weeks. However, one insight discussed below came from a school that shared the difficulties it was having developing a prototype model. While it’s important to learn from challenges as well as successes, schools trying their best to innovate don’t need the light from the internet shined upon them, so we didn’t write up a case study in that particular case. (more…)

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Magical Mastery Tour

December 2, 2014 by
Digital Ready

Photo from the Digital Ready Website

In October, Jeremy Krausher, Joy Nolan, and Michael Preston of Digital Ready organized what can only be called the Magical Mastery Tour. (Click here if you’d like the Beatles to accompany your reading.) Don’t be misled by the name Digital Ready – this team, based in the Office of Postsecondary Readiness at the New York City Department of Education, is promoting student-centered, personalized, mastery-based learning drawing on blended learning to increase and enrich learning opportunities for students. Their work is supported by the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. We were joined by Julian Cohen, Senior Executive Director for the Office of School Design and Charter Partnerships, and Debbie Marcus, OPSR’s Deputy Executive Director of Sustainability and Strategy, on part of the tour. I am so grateful to everyone for sharing their knowledge about schools and providing greater depth to my understanding of how competency education is taking root in New York City.

During the three-day Magical Mastery Tour, we visited Bronx International High School, Carroll Gardens School for Innovation, EPIC North, Bronx Arena, and Urban Assembly Maker Academy (one of the Carnegie Corporation Opportunity by Design schools). In-depth descriptions of each will be published over the coming weeks.

Innovation is alive and well in the New York City schools. Bronx International and Carroll Gardens School for Innovation are two of the most developed competency-based models I’ve seen. Bronx Arena is challenging assumptions of traditional schooling every chance they get. EPIC North and Maker Academy (with only two months under their belts) are already on their way to pushing our understanding of how competency education can serve as the backbone to very different school models. (more…)

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What’s New in K-12 Competency Education

November 26, 2014 by

ReportsiNCL_CW_logo_K12

Early Progress: Interim Research on Personalized Learning was released by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rand Corporation last week. They define personalized learning as, “Systems and approaches that accelerate and deepen student learning by tailoring instruction to eachstudent’s individual needs, skills, and interests.Students have a variety of rich learning experiences that collectively will prepare them for success in thecollege and career of their choice. Teachers play an integral role by designing and managing the learning environment, leading instruction, and providing students with expert guidance and support to help them take increasing ownership of their learning.” At the iNACOL Symposium last week Vicki Phillips introduced a four part operational definition (you can find it on Ed Week) that includes competency-based progressions, flexible learning environments, personal learning paths, and learner profiles.

So You Think You Want to innovate? Emerging Lessons for State and District Leaders Working to Build a Culture of Innovation by 2Revolutions and The Learning Accelerator is a toolkit for district and state leaders.

An Up-Close Look at Student-Centered Math Teaching released by the he Nellie Mae Education Foundation finds that students in more student-centered math classrooms are more highly engaged in what they are learning and show growth on problem-solving skills, as compared to students in less student-centered classrooms. Led by researchers Dr. Kirk Walters and Toni M. Smith, the study also finds that: (more…)

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