June 17, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
from LUSD website
We often think of innovation as an urban phenomena, a natural outgrowth of concentration of an industry, strong peer networks, and competition driving toward excellence. However, Lindsay, California shows us that innovation can take place anywhere, even in a town of 12,000, beribboned by orange groves at the edge of California’s Central Valley.
The Lindsay Unified School District is well on their way to transforming their entire system to a personalized, performance-based system. The conversations among district management teams vibrate with how they can fully implement a system in which all students are able to achieve. Students are part of the process – taking advantage of the new possibilities and helping to solve problems as they pop up. The high school began implementation in 2009 and they are now beginning to roll it out to middle and elementary schools.
This case study will be in two parts. This initial post will be on the design elements and the second part will be on the big take-aways from my site visit.
Lindsay is partnering with the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC), so many of the design elements will be familiar to those who have visited Maine or Adams 50.
Overarching Design: LUSD describes their system as performance-based: “In a performance-based system, students work at their performance level and advance through the curriculum when they have demonstrated proficiency of the required knowledge or skills.” LUSD identifies the following benefits of a performance-based system. Note they use the phrase “learner” instead of student and “facilitator” instead of teacher. (more…)
June 12, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Maine’s Center for Best Practices is building up a resource center that can help principals and educators understand the nuts and bolts of personalized, proficiency-based education. As I was reading the latest case study based on RSU 20 (highlighted here), I was poking around in the resource section and found a document on the Basics for Assessment for Learning. For those of you who are asking the question “What does competency education look like in the classroom?” this may be helpful – although if you are familiar with the work of Rick Stiggins, this won’t be anything new.
Essentially this describes the core practices of a proficiency-based classroom. You can see all the most important ingredients – clear, transparent targets; preparation for when learning isn’t taking place; strong emphasis on formative assessment; and empowered students.
Getting Started: Assessment for Learning
5 Keys to Quality Assessment
- Clear Purpose-Year 1
- Clear Targets-Year 1
- Sound Assessment Design-Year 2
- Good Communication-Year 2
- Student Involvement-Year 1 (more…)
March 1, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
In the last three days, in three different meetings, I’ve been asked to summarize what I’m learning about competency education. In yesterday’s meeting with RTT districts I shared the following list of things people starting off in competency education need to think about earlier than later in their process…i.e. this is a place where implementation can go wrong.
1) Start With The Students: We think a lot about college and career readiness, Common Core curriculum, and what we expect students to know and do. If we want to get students there then we need to start with where they are. This means when students enter your school, doing assessments to understand where they are on their learning progression and what gaps they have is essential. Teachers will need to do pre-assessments when students enter their classroom to understand how they are going to need to differentiate, group/regroup.
This is one of the game-changing dynamics of competency education. At today’s meeting with Race to the Top districts this kicked off a huge conversation. Once you do this we can no longer ignore the fact that some students are 2,3, 4 or 5 years behind or don’t have the prerequisite skills they need to do the grade-level curriculum. Scott Benson, Gates Foundation referred to this as the “design and accountability challenge of our time “. I call it the Elephant that we’ve been successfully ignoring for decades. There are many ways of trying to accelerate learning…but we haven’t been systematic in researching this so that districts and schools can be sure they are deploying resources most cost-effectively. (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…)
January 30, 2013 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 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.
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.
January 9, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
We are now starting to see whole networks of schools move towards competency education. The Asia Society, which has 34 schools in their International Studies Schools Network (ISSN), has four schools (Newfound Regional High School in Bristol, NH; Sharpstown International School in Houston, TX; and two schools in Denver, CO – the Denver Center for International Studies and the Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello) working together to build a Graduation Performance System (GPS) as the basis for a mastery-based system that awards credit based on proficiency in core courses. They are designing the GPS with an eye towards integrating anywhere/anytime learning opportunities that include community- and digitally-based learning environments.
The ISSN has a focus on preparing students for global competence, with an activist dimension, that includes but goes beyond the Common Core and our national focus on college and career readiness
The ISSN schools have organized curriculum and learning pathways into 6 core subject disciplines and 4 domains of global competence (investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas, and take action). They continue to use grade-level benchmarks as a way of organizing learning progressions and assuring proficiency along the way.
Competencies are designed with “I Can” statements. For example: I can develop a mathematical model that fits a particular situation. This means that I can use mathematics to create a representation, description, or quantification of some aspect of a situation. It also means that the model should use all the relevant data and information provided. (more…)
January 3, 2013 by Courtney Belolan
The Zone of Proximal Development is the sweet spot of education; this is where meaningful learning happens. We all read about Vygotsky and Social Development Theory at some point in our teacher education.
The ZPD is at the core of performance-based learning, individualized learning, and customized learning. So, how many of us still keep the basic idea of the Zone of Proximal Development at the forefront of our thinking and planning for teaching and learning? Well, when’s the last time you gave a pre-assessment and used it to plan instruction? (more…)
December 14, 2012 by Chris Sturgis
Photo by Jorge Machado
It’s getting popular. Many schools claim to be using competency education. Does offering adaptive software or blended learning immediately make a school competency-based?
It’s getting confusing. Blended/online learning and competency education are often used interchangeably, even if the blended learning is being used in a totally time-based system.
What to do? We need some common language. So here is a first cut using a competency-based grading model. (A note: I use course to describe a unit of learning and level to describe a band of learning along the full K-12 learning progression, which we refer to as grades such as 1st or 10th grade in the time-based system) :