Tag: competency education, competency-based learning

Competency Education Can Address Readiness Gaps—But Not Alone

December 19, 2014 by
Equity in Competency Education

Equity in Competency Education: Realizing the Potential, Overcoming the Obstacles

This post originally appeared at Jobs for the Future on December 4, 2014.

My youngest brother’s senior year of high school—in a public school in New Jersey—was also my first year running a competency-based high school for over-age and under-credited youth in St. Louis. It is hard to describe just how different his experience was compared to my students’.

My brother attended one of the best public high schools in a state known for its high marks in public education and student achievement. In his final year of high school, he took a handful of Advanced Placement courses, served as student body president, played drums in the school band, wrestled, and still found time to work at the local pizza shop and connect with family and friends. He was accepted into Harvard University and decided to go.

By contrast, most of my students came from schools known as “dropout factories.” These students had significant academic catching-up to do. We did not have demand for AP courses, nor did we have time for robust extracurricular activities.

The starting point of my brother’s and my students’ senior years paints a stark picture of deep and persistent inequities that many young people in under-resourced communities face. In my brother’s case, his age and stage of learning matched. My students, all of whom had transcripts that said they were juniors and seniors, rarely had the full scope of academic, social and emotional skills they needed.

I was reminded of these glaring oppositions when I read Jobs for the Future’s Equity in Education: Realizing the Potential, Overcoming the Obstacles, part of a competency-based education research series produced by its Students at the Center initiative. (more…)

A Construction Kit for Personalized Assessment of Competency Based Learning

December 18, 2014 by
mc2

From the MC2 Charter School Website

This post originally appeared December 15, 2014 at Q.E.D. Foundation.

“What Changes in the Learner Are You Trying to Cause?”

Our perspective at QED is that competency based learning is first and foremost performance based, which means assessments – and assessment literacy – are essential, even more essential than the curriculum. Years ago, (1990, long before it became a rallying cry for Common Core opponents), Grant Wiggins identified assessment as “the Trojan horse” of education restructuring, or the means to “adapt schools to meet the needs of learning.” (Ed Week, 10/10/90)

Citing Ralph Tyler’s Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction at a much more recent training (July, 2014, Lambertville, NJ), Wiggins exhorted educators to “honor the Ralph Tyler idea that you don’t design backward from the curriculum, but from the learner being different: what changes in the learner are you trying to cause?” (more…)

The Courage to Confront Equity Issues in Competency Education

December 17, 2014 by
EPIC Schools NY

From the EPIC Schools NYC Website

Innovators and early adapters of competency education want to do right by kids. The vision of personalized education is that every student will be able to engage in meaningful and highly engaging learning experiences – with the right mix of instructional supports when they need it – so that everyone is successful. Failure is not an option; it’s just part of the learning process.

However, my stomach turns when I hear these very same incredible education leaders dismiss equity because “every student is getting what they need.” In the same ways the police and criminal justice systems have betrayed African-Americans for decades, so too have our schools betrayed low-income communities, African-American communities, Hispanic communities and Native American communities. People may not be in the streets because of their schools, but the distrust is there.

So here are five equity issues I think we are going to need to tackle. They aren’t new or created by competency education. They just get raised in competency education because of the transparency system and our need to constantly nurture respect and trust so that educators can partners with students, families, and communities to resolve issues as they develop.

Keeping Students in School: Policies regarding the graduation crisis have improved greatly over the past decade. Uniform ways of measuring graduation and dropout rates are helping us to be more honest. There have been investments in credit recovery to try and find a way to improve the probability of kids who get off to a rough start in high school still reaching graduation. As a result, graduation rates are increasing…except when they aren’t. Our African-American students, specifically young men, and Native American/Alaskan Native students aren’t seeing much of an increase. Students in ELL and special education hover around 61 percent.

There have been efforts to re-engage students into school (some call it multiple pathways to graduation; some refer to it as serving over-age, undercredited students; others use the terms re-engagement or recuperation). No matter what you call it, these are all efforts designed to help students get back into school and stay there. Competency education must take into account the structures needed to make sure students can climb back on board the college/career track, picking up where they left off.

The Christensen Institute highlights areas of non-consumption as a place to derive the benefits of disruptive innovation. Indeed, online learning can be beneficial, but only in the context of high-quality blended learning that draws on the best of face-to-face instruction for older youth who may have experienced substantial challenges and trauma in their lives. Too many districts are focusing solely on online credit recovery when they should be developing schools such Apex, Schools for the Future, Our Piece of the Pie, and Bronx Arena.

Addressing Inequity in Educational/Social Capital: How much of a child’s learning takes place in school compared to that of their community and family? What type of learning is happening in families and communities, and how does it impact students’ abilities to succeed in school? (more…)

Asking the Right Questions: Urban Assembly Maker Academy

December 16, 2014 by

UA MakerDesigning a school with only a blank page to start can be a daunting task. Where do you begin? Values? Themes? Needs of target population? Instructional approach?

I couldn’t stop thinking about design at the very, very new UA Maker (the twenty-fourth in the Urban Assembly network) because design itself is at the core of the school model. So are its values. A poster on the wall articulating the norms of UA Maker really brought this home:

We agree to center our work on the core values: curiosity, empathy, risk-taking, self-awareness and resilience.

We agree to:

  • Engage in Design Thinking and understand this work as iterative
  • Engage in growth mindset
  • Document our process
  • Respect each other’s time

The following highlights of their school design are based on conversations with Luke Bauer, Principal; Madelaine Hackett, Urban Assembly’s Carnegie Design Fellow embedded at the school site; Alexis Goldberg, Urban Assembly’s Achievement Coach; and members of the NYC Department of Education’s Digital Ready team Michael Preston, Jeremy Kraushar, and Joy Nolan. (more…)

Implementing Competency Education with Resolute Leadership

December 11, 2014 by

Dufour and FullanI work for the Sanborn Regional School District in New Hampshire, a district that was an early adopter of a K-12 competency education model, one that is now in its fifth year of implementation. My fellow administrative team members and I regularly receive questions from educators around the country who are looking to implement a similar model in their schools. One of the most popular questions we receive is, “What kind of leadership is necessary from district and school-based administrators in order to effectively implement a competency education model?” When I am asked this question, I am reminded of a passage in Dufour and Fullan’s (2013) book on sustaining reform, known as Resolute Leadership:

“Ultimately, the most important factor in sustaining reform is the willingness of leaders at all levels to demonstrate resolute leadership in the face of adversity. Resolute leaders anticipate opposition and honor opponents rather than vilify them. They don’t quit in the face of resistance. They don’t become discouraged when things don’t go as planned. They don’t divert their attention to pursue the newest hot thing. They stay the course. They demonstrate determination and resilience. They maintain their focus on core goals and priorities, and they continue to work, year after year, on improving the system’s ability to achieve those goals, but they are also open to innovations that might enable them to go deeper. More than ever, our educational systems need leaders with the collective efficacy that enables them to persist in the face of problems, plateaus, and paradoxes.” (more…)

Bronx Arena: Organizing Spaghetti (Part 1)

December 10, 2014 by

BronxThis article is part of a series of case studies of schools in New York City. For the full story, start with the overview of the Magical Mastery Tour and the three biggest takeaways. Part 2 about Bronx Arena is below.

Ty Cesene and Samantha (Sam) Sherwood, co-principals at Bronx Arena (BxA), opened our conversation with an unexpected reference to spaghetti:

Competency-based structures are just one part of our school. In fact, for us, they’re the back-end. Our primary focus has always been to have a student-facing school that makes sense to students and also constantly reminds staff that our job is to support students.

Once you take away the element of time, as we did, the door is opened wide to everything you ever wanted kids to know and do. Of course, then there has to be some way of prioritizing. That’s where defining the competencies has become really important for us. Yes, there may be lots of ways to organize instruction, but we know exactly what we want kids to be able to do when they graduate from Bronx Arena.

As we started to put together all the ideas – asynchronous learning; responding to the intersection of our students’ social-emotional lives and their cognitive development; competency-based learning; flexibility in staffing, structures, and how we use time – we felt like we were trying to organize spaghetti.  (more…)

Bronx Arena: Innovating Until 100% of Students Graduate (Part 2)

by

One Hundred PercentThis 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 Bronx Arena visit can be found here.

Students at BxA are unquestionably at the core of everything the school sets out to accomplish. You can see this in the way students are arranged academically.

Instead of traditional grades, students at BxA are “leveled.” Those assigned to Level 1 are focused on passing the Regents exams based on tenth grade skills, while those at Level 2 are in eleventh and twelfth grades. Students at Level 2 prepare for their senior portfolio, which includes designing their own capstone project for a course. Students select the competencies they will be demonstrating, as well as the rubric that will be used for assessment. This demonstrates that they know how to structure their own learning experiences – a skill that will be very handy in college and taking on new challenges in the workplace.

Designing Curriculum: Two Challenges and a Capstone

BxA has created a course model for teachers to follow. Every course is organized around two “challenges” and a capstone. A challenge is designed around one to two competencies and tends to be a bit larger than a unit. The challenge has a summative project by which students demonstrate proficiency. The capstone is designed for students to transfer the skills into a new context. (more…)

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