January 28, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Last week on the CompetencyWorks advisory board call we had a conversation about the growing interest in competency education. It’s both good and not such good news. It’s good for kids because it will help us advance competency education across our nation. It’s not such great news as we are still in early stages of fully understanding all the implementation issues so that underserved students get the help they need when they need it. So if it becomes the newest trend, we are likely to see models that are called competency education where students are still being left behind.
So one way to guard against it is to share resources widely from trusted partners that have equity at the heart of their work. For example, the Great Schools Partnership is offering a free webinar on February 5th on the topic of developing effective graduation standards and performance indicators” “In this webinar, participants will learn about the fundamental components of an effective proficiency-based teaching and learning system. Because in a proficiency-based classroom, teachers target standards as their instructional foci, participants will also learn how to identify graduation standards—those skills and concepts that are at the heart of a discipline—as well as the performance indicators students must achieve to demonstrate proficiency of those graduation standards.”
You can register by clicking here.
January 24, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
from Making Mastery Work
Do you find the topic of assessments befuddling at times? I certainly do. But I’ve dedicated myself to increasing my assessment literacy. I’m making headway — in understanding all the issues involved in the different types of assessment, as well as developing an understanding what a system of assessments looks like in a competency-based world. I’d love any recommendations for the very best resources on assessment (please leave recommendations in comments) as I’m starting to update the wiki page. In the meantime here are three resources:
1) The upcoming webinar on Creating a System of Assessments will feature two of the schools from Making Mastery Work – Casco Bay High School and Vergennes Unified. We will be hearing how each school took a different approach to building out their capacity. You can register here.
2) The Quality Performance Assessment Initiative at Center for Collaborative Education has a lot of helpful information. I’m reading their new guide right now, and it is helping me understand with greater depth why performance assessment is so important. I’m realizing that it is just as important for teachers as student so that they can build the deeper teaching skills needed for deeper learning.
3) In Paul Leather’s presentation to the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents last year, slide 30 shows how NH is thinking about a balanced system to assess student mastery along learning progressions. It made a lot of sense to me and helped me understand how the pieces fit together. (by the way, this presentation has a ton of useful slides).
You can find the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Proficiency-based Learning Task Force report here.
by Brian Stack
This past week I had the privilege of attending an IEP meeting for Carter, a student that I have come to know quite well over the past three years. Carter has a learning disability and was diagnosed with ADHD back in fifth grade. School has always been a struggle for him, particularly the parts of school that require him to be focused and attentive in class and to meet assignment deadlines for his teachers in a timely manner. When he is focused, school comes relatively easy to him. With the help of his case manager and the support of his parents over the last two years, Carter has managed to earn all of his freshman credits and sophomore credits. The final course grades that appear on his transcript aren’t stellar, but regardless no one can argue with the fact that he reached proficiency for each of his course competencies and thus received credit for each of his courses. (more…)
January 23, 2013 by Andrew Miller
Competencies provide a unique opportunity to truly teach and assess 21st Century Skills. While there are many 21st Century Skills out there, the 4Cs (Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication) are probably the most prevalent. As I wrote in a blog on the Huffington Post, many educators run up against the wall of true assessment of 21st century skills in our traditional Education System. Many districts are not comfortable putting “grades” to 21st Century Skills, but as we move towards competencies, all educators will not only have be comfortable, they will have to embrace them with open-arms. (more…)
January 21, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
from Making Mastery work
In the report Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education, the authors highlight four findings on information management systems used by the ten schools in the Proficiency-based Pathways Project:
- Performance tracking is often the first priority for competency education system building. A simple system can go far, but there is still far to go.
- Schools must often—still—straddle traditional and competency education systems.
- Neither packaged courseware products, which have little flexibility, nor learning management systems that allow for maximum customization but offer no content, meet teacher needs for online curriculum delivery systems.
- A human system needs to work in tandem with the performance data system
Most importantly they remind us that “even though a student or teacher can go online and track performance, people need to figure out how to use that powerful information effectively.”
The report goes on to give examples of how the schools are managing all the data on student learning that is generated, making sure that there is transparency so students see that data as well, while deploying resources to either retrofit time-based products or convert into time-based structures. (more…)
January 19, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
from Making Mastery Work
There is something a bit magical about the transformation from time-based/A-F structures to competency-based education. Over and over again students, teachers, parents and administrators discover and rediscover the magic of learning.
All of it starts with creating powerful questions. We all know that our learning is shaped by how we construct questions. In fact QED Foundation includes “Question Making” within their Curiosity and Wonder rubric, one of their essential habits of learning.
Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education helps us understand the questions behind competency-based schools. The authors capture the questions the ten schools use to drive their decision-making as well as the variety of design decisions that each school makes. For example, the questions below guide the overall design of schools, focusing on the mastery and assessment system.
- What are the learning targets or competencies that best represent the skills and knowledge students are expected to master?
- What is the relationship between the program or school’s learning targets, the Common Core State Standards, and other relevant standards? (more…)
January 16, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
In addition to Iowa, two other states are releasing reports regarding how their states can move forward (I’ll add the links as soon as I can):
Awarding Credit to Support Student Learning: A Report to the Governor recommends how Pennsylvania can develop credit flexibility. It outlines parameters and principles of a credit flexibility policy to be managed at the local level. There are some interesting building blocks in Pennsylvania including Keystone exams that are required end-of course exams in high school. Competency education doesn’t require end-of-course exams but it is certainly one way to maintain quality control. In addition, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is researching an alternative flex-credit program for CTE.
The Kentucky Department of Education is releasing Competency-based Education: Helping All Kentucky Students Succeed. Kentucky, part of the Innovation Lab Network supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers, convened more than 150 multi-sector participants. The report explores why competency education is valuable, highlights districts and schools moving in the direction towards competency-based models, and responds to all those frequently asked questions (a great resources for any other state or district preparing materials).
Both of these states were part of the National Governors Association’s initiative on Awarding Credit to Support Student Learning with the support of the Mott Foundation.
January 15, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Sandra Dop, Iowa Dept of Education
Iowa’s Competency-based Instruction Task Force has released its preliminary report. State leadership in Iowa has been calling for competency education for over three years. This engaging report provides recommendations for how the state should move forward. With a meeting being organized in June, momentum is building in Iowa.
One of the questions that comes over and over again are what are the ways we should be thinking about the metrics that could be helpful in guiding implementation and benchmarking districts and schools. It’s a tough question and needs a thoughtful approach. The Iowa report starts to give a glimpse at some of these process and outputs as it reviews the findings from researchers that visited the two districts charging forth on competency education, Spirit Lake and Muscatine (see Elizabeth Sturm’s post, a senior at Muscatine High).
In Muscatine researchers looked at grades, the distribution of students based on where they were on learning progressions (remediation, intensive interventions, and acceleration) and opinions of teachers.
The district and community were increasingly concerned about a graduation rate that fluctuated below the state average. Following implementation of the pilot projects, zero percent of students earned Ds or Fs in competency-based education classrooms, compared to 38 percent of all students in the 2011-12 school year. Additional data points expand the positive impact of competency-based education:
- Six percent of the students engaged in learning contracts or short-term remediation to reach proficiency prior to the end of a term;
- Four percent of the students needed intensive remediation, which required additional time beyond the term;
- Three percent of the students were able to accelerate their learning through content or a course;
- Teacher support for the methodology was rated at 85 percent, as evidenced through a district-wide survey following building presentations in the fall of 2012. (more…)
by Elizabeth Sturms
The following was originally posted on The Iowa Forum on Competency-Based Education. Elizabeth Strum, a senior at Muscatine High School, reflects on competency based education in response to a question in the application for the Presidential Scholarship at University of Iowa: Tell us about an idea or an experience you have had that you found intellectually engaging. Describe specifically how the idea or experience engaged and affected you, as well as its significance.
Imagine you are given the opportunity to redesign education with no limitations. You can eliminate what no longer works to create a new education system from scratch. This may sound far-fetched, but I was blessed with this amazing opportunity toward the end of last school year when I was invited by district members as one of six students to be a part of the design team for a new methodology called competency-based education (CBE). CBE is an innovative way of educating where the primary focus is not seat time, but rather demonstration of understanding of the Iowa Core standards. My role on the design team included attending meetings during the school year and summer to voice my opinions on what was being discussed in the process of designing a plan for CBE. At the first meeting I felt reserved about CBE. I grew up in a traditional classroom so my mind was stuck there. I was stubborn about changing what I was comfortable with, but as I attended more meetings I realized the many benefits that CBE would provide, and that change in our education system was long overdue. Everything from trends to technology have evolved from my grandparents’ time to my time—even from my parents’ time to my time—but education has remained the same, which is a disservice to my generation. We are receiving an old-world education to prepare us for new-world times; however CBE is the solution to this gap in education. I am honored to be a part of this team that is enhancing and shaping my education as well as the future education of all students who attend Muscatine High School. (more…)
January 14, 2013 by Melissa Young and Janna Peskett
Competency based learning has its origins in the business world. High school graduates who decide to become a barber, for example, would need specialized training in cutting hair. They would take an assessment to verify competency before receiving a license to cut hair. In order to maintain global standing, industry and education leaders teamed up to create a description of elements for 21st century outcomes. These elements would identify those skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for our future work force to be competent in the 21st century market, much like a competency exam that a plumber, electrician, mechanic, or other trained and skilled professional would need in order to practice their profession competently. These 21st century learning skills are embedded in the Common Core State Standards as well as the focus of the work and design of Florida Virtual School (FLVS) courses.
Many examples of benchmark competency-based practices can be found in FLVS courses. These include the following:
Assessments Against Competencies
Florida Virtual School builds its courses around this concept. Courses are built with formative and summative assessments embedded throughout the course measuring the students’ competency and mastery of the standards, which are based on the 21st skills. There are three components of these assessments against competencies: self-assessment, multi-source, and assessments through other methods.
- In the self-assessment, learners are able to manage their own mastery level, and take appropriate action to relearn skills before attempting a formal assessment. Students are able to “own” their own learning and work on those things they actually need to do as opposed to a traditional school where a student will sit through a lesson with the rest of a class even if they don’t individually need it.
- Multi-source assessments allow the learner to get feedback through multiple formats. With pre-tests, formative assessments throughout the lessons, and summative assessments, students receive feedback from multiple sources. In addition, Florida Virtual School teachers complete discussion based assessments in each unit of study. Teachers verbally assess for mastery before students can move on to the next module. This ensures a deeper understanding in subjects that build upon previous understandings, such as foreign languages or math. The teacher is the gatekeeper, who only allows the students to move on when mastery is demonstrated through work products and thorough discussions. Students also have some collaborative projects which provide opportunities for students to work together and building knowledge collaboratively.
- An assessment through other methods is the third format delineated. FLVS provides many assessment options in its courses. In Physical Education, students will actually self-monitor and report exercise logs and personal goals and benchmarks of activity. In many courses, especially in science, students perform labs and will video tape their work. Students use multiple ways to communicate to their teacher evidence of mastery.