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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Idaho Agrees: Flexible Pace > Seat Time

June 4, 2015 by

Desk ChairThis post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education on March 27, 2015.

The goal of a high school biology student should be to learn biology, or at least learn all the course has to offer.

That sounds simple enough. But in reality, it is not how the public education system works. Instead, the goal is to have the student sit in a biology class for a specific amount of time (often about 180 days), regardless of how long it actually takes the student to master the material.

An advanced student has to slow down; a struggling student has to keep up.

Inserting an artificial time restriction into learning forces students to adapt to someone else’s learning schedule. A better approach is to allow students to progress at a flexible pace so they can move on when they have mastered the material. Idaho is taking a bold step in this direction. The state recognizes the need for education to be more personalized in order to reach their goals.

Earlier this month, the Idaho legislature unanimously passed HB 110, which directs the Department of Education to begin Idaho’s transition to a mastery-based education system. And last week, Governor Butch Otter signed the bill into law.

This is another stride towards implementing Governor Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education, and it is an important step forward in preparing Idaho students for success in the 21st century. (more…)

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New Release – Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders

June 3, 2015 by

ReportCover-ImplementingCBEinK12SystemsToday, CompetencyWorks released Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders. It is a comprehensive look at how districts across the country from Alaska to Maine have been transforming their districts from the time-based system to one that puts students and their learning in the center of all decisions.

The paper is based on conversations with educators during the past four years about how they are managing the transformation. Throughout the paper you will hear directly from district leaders as they reflect on the transformational process and their lessons learned.

Each week, additional districts begin to explore competency education and what it would take to design their systems to be more personalized so students get the support they need to be successful. In order to make it easier for you to use the paper as a discussion tool, CompetencyWorks has created excerpts for each of the four stages: 1) Ramping Up for Transformation 2) Designing the Infrastructure for Learning 3) Transitioning to a Competency-Based System and 4) Embracing Continuous Improvement and Innovation.

Please join us on June 25th at 2 pm ET for a webinar on Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems. Register here.

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Needed: Partners with Assessment Expertise

June 2, 2015 by

MeasurementI had a sense of dread as I flew to Colorado to join the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment for its annual Colloquim on Assessment and Accountability Implications of Competency and Personalized Learning Systems. A room full of experts on measurement? I was prepared to have any ideas I might have about what assessment looks like in a fully developed competency-based system destroyed in a Terminator-like fashion.

Instead what I found was a room of incredibly thoughtful, creative, forward-thinking people who are willing to explore along with all of us how we might organize a system that keeps the focus on learning while using discrete and meaningful mechanisms to ensure rigor and equity. Along with myself, Ephraim Weisstein, founder of Schools for the Future, Maria Worthen, Vice President for Federal and State Policy at iNACOL, and Laura Hamilton of Rand were invited to the Colloquium to kick off the conversation. My brain started churning as I listened to the presentations from Kate Kazin, Southern New Hampshire University; Samantha Olson, Colorado Education Initiative; Christy Kim Boscardin, University of California, San Francisco; and Eva Baker, CRESST.

And then my brain went into overdrive listening to the insights of the team of assessment experts as they sorted through the conversation, explored different options, and identified where there was opportunity to create a system that generated consistency in determining levels of learning. It would be a system in which credentialing learning generates credibility, a system that allows us to trust when a teacher says a student is proficient, providing us with real confidence that they are, in fact, ready for the next set of challenges.

Some Big Take-Aways

Below are some of the big take-aways that Ephraim, Maria, and I came away with.

1. Get Crystal Clear on the Goal: It’s critical for the field and competency-based districts and schools to be explicit about their learning targets (however they might be defined and organized) so results can be evaluated and measured. There are a variety of ways of structuring competencies and standards, and we need to think about the ways in which we can measure them (or not).

2. Consider Applying Transparency to Designing Assessments: We all operate with the assumption that summative assessment items have to be hidden in a black box. However, we could make test items transparent – not their answers, of course – but the questions themselves. Consider the implications—lower costs, more sharing, more opportunity for the stakeholders to understand the systems of assessments. It’s worth having an open conversation about the trade-offs in introducing transparency as a key design principle in designing the system of assessments to support competency education. (more…)

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Competency-Based Education Approaches in K-12 Schools, Part One

June 1, 2015 by
Stefanie Blouin

Stefanie Blouin

This post originally appeared at Next Generation Learning Challenges on May 26, 2015.

Competency-based education (CBE) isn’t just gaining ground in higher ed: a number of K-12 educators from across the country are now embracing the approach—with promising results.

In this first post of a two-part series, you’ll learn how educators from Philadelphia’s Building 21 share some of their best CBE resources. Below is a round up of tools and resources focused on competency-based education to help practitioners personalize learning for students.

But First, Get A Student’s Take on CBE
Listen to Nico, a student from E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., talk about how competency-based education has helped engage him as a learner: (more…)

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When Schools Design Their Own EdTech Platform

May 28, 2015 by
Al Motley

Al Motley

This post originally appeared at Next Generation Learning Challenges on May 12, 2015.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series where Matchbook Learning’s Chief Technology Officer Al Motley examines the process his team is using to design, develop, and launch Spark 2.0, a technology platform that integrates multiple tools to create an ecosystem for students, teachers, parents, and administrators that supports student learning. In this interview with NGLC staffer Kristen Vogt, Motley talks about involving the organization’s executive team, the school’s leadership team, and teachers and students in designing Spark 2.0.

How did you launch the design of Spark 2.0 with your team?

We started with a kickoff meeting. It was a really important step for us. We used it to make sure that key stakeholders were aligned on the purpose and goals of Spark, that the groups involved knew each other’s roles on the team, and that everyone understood the steps of the project. The meeting helped us create excitement about this project, and we wanted to make sure to get into classrooms to see how teachers and students are using the tools we have now.

The success of a tech development project like this is often all about process. We are building buzz each step of the way, making it a big deal. We want everyone at the school to know that, “This is for you, to solve your problems.” During the meeting, our CEO, Sajan George, and I both tried to frame the project around what it means to Matchbook, to the education community, and to future students and schools that will use the tool. We set the tone for urgency and what it means for the organization.

“I think the key in framing was to appeal how Spark could and would further each strategic partner’s respective mission. Too often customers with an IT project appeal to vendors in how they can better fulfill a customer’s mission. The relationship can become transactional and cost driven very quickly. Two different missions with two different partners leads to a more strategic relationship that supports and drives Matchbook Learning’s vision for Spark.”  –Sajan George, CEO, Matchbook Learning

Who is part of the team?

(more…)

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Credibility Starts with Consistency with Common Assessments

May 26, 2015 by

Screenshot 2015-05-26 08.55.53The more I think about what the key elements of a competency system might be — those elements that if they working perfectly allow the system to weaken or be corrupted — the more I focus on ensuring that the system is calibrated or tuned. When a district or school puts that a student is proficient on the transcript then we need to have absolute trust that their is an agreement on what that means and that the next school or college will have a pretty darn close understanding of proficiency as well. Basically, we want our system to be credible and trusthworthy. That’s what accountability is all about.

And that’s why we need to do everything we can to build in this capacity into our districts and schools as fast as we can.  Our traditional system doesn’t expect this nor does it have the mechanisms in place to make it happen. That’s why we’ve had to turn to NAEP and state accountability assessments to tell us how we are doing helping our kids to learn.

And that’s why the webinar Ensuring Consistency When Using Common Assessments sponsored by Great Schools Partnership is so important. It’s tommorow, Wednesday May 27 from 3-4 EST.

Here’s the description: Ensuring consistency when using common assessments requires collaboration with colleagues to calibrate scoring, refine assessment tasks and scoring criteria, and collectively reflect on the results. This process ensures that there is a constant practice of evaluation and refining scoring criteria and assessment tasks and the instruction practices leading up to this. Ultimately, having more trustworthy judgments enables teachers to better align instructional strategies to student needs, provide more consistent feedback to students, and create opportunities  for deeper learning. In this webinar, we will present protocols and processes to create a system that supports teachers in the process of making consistent judgments on the quality of students’ work.

Presenters
Jon Ingram, Senior Associate, Great Schools Partnership
David Ruff, Executive Director, Great Schools Partnership
Becky Wilusz, Senior Associate, Great Schools Partnership

FYI — it’s free but registration is limited.

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Aim for Individual Mastery and the Rest Will Follow

by
Julia Freeland

Julia Freeland

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on May 20, 2015.

As debates about ESEA reauthorization continue on the Hill, Congress is grappling with the question of how to square current accountability structures with emerging personalized learning models. A recent Bellwether Education Partners report, A Path to the Future: Creating Accountability for Personalized Learning, summarized the apparent friction facing policymakers:

Personalized learning aims to change instruction in ways that customize students’ experiences—and, ultimately, lead to systemic changes in how students are assessed and progress to more advanced content. Standards-based accountability seeks to mold the K–12 system by creating common expectations for student performance—and, ultimately, incentives for instructional changes to help students achieve them. In other words, personalization and accountability meet in the middle, creating challenges for policymakers when the two appear to be in conflict.

The report’s side-by-side comparison of personalized learning approaches and standards-based efforts raises important questions about the potential minefield of trying to reconcile these two worlds. But it also conflates inputs with outcomes. Indeed, the apparent tension between standards and personalization dissolves if we can better delineate prescriptive inputs and desired outcomes.

Personalized learning is a means, not an end. Standards are an end, not a means. Debates about both, however, tend to muddle these distinctions. (more…)

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The End of the Big Test: Moving to Competency-Based Policy

May 25, 2015 by

TestThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on May 19, 2015.

What’s next? With all the frustration surrounding NCLB and big end of year tests, what’s the new policy framework that will replace grade level testing? For a state ready to embrace personalized and competency-based learning, what are the next steps?

This post suggests the use of assessment pilots and innovation zones where groups of schools apply and become authorized to operate alternative assessment systems. But first, some background.

Jobs to be done. To get at the heart of value creation, Clayton Christensen taught us to think about the job to be done. Assessment plays four important roles in school systems:

  1. Inform learning: continuous data feed that informs students, teachers, and parents about the learning process.
  2. Manage matriculation: certify that students have learned enough to move on and ultimately graduate.
  3. Evaluate educators: data to inform the practice and development of educators.
  4. Check quality: dashboard of information about school quality particularly what students know and can do and how fast they are progressing.

Initiated in the dark ages of data poverty, state tests were asked to do all these jobs. As political stakes grew, psychometricians and lawyers pushed for validity and reliability and the tests got longer in an attempt to fulfill all four roles.

With so much protest, it may go without saying but the problem with week long summative tests is that they take too much time to administer; they don’t provide rapid and useful feedback for learning and progress management (jobs 1&2); and test preparation rather than preparation for college, careers, and citizenship has become the mission of school. And, with no student benefit many young people don’t try very hard and increasingly opt out.

But it is no longer necessary or wise to ask one test to do so many jobs when better, faster, cheaper data is available from other sources.

What’s new? There have been six important assessment developments since NCLB was enacted in 2002: (more…)

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