May 17, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
I am receiving an increasing number of emails from people that have questions about competency-, proficiency-, mastery-, and performance-based education, and I’m sure many of you do as well. Given the increased attention to competency education, we need to make it easier for people to get an answer — a really solid good answer — that offers the spirit of competency education and considers issues of equity so that we are as effective as possible in early implementation.
So we’ve started a FAQ page(s) on the wiki. And when I add a new one I am going to put a blog as well because we need your help —
- How might you revise the answer to be more helpful?
- Do you have examples or resources that you can point us to that can help newbies better understand the nuances of the issues?
- Have you done any training on the issue? Could you share with us how you do the training so that we can build up our capacity as a field to teach others what we are learning? (more…)
May 15, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
I think about design a lot. Indeed, Fast Company is a monthly read. Design is an empowering, creative process. It can also help us rethink the assumptions holding us back.
The way design and the design process is taking hold in education is exciting and sometimes disturbing.
It’s exciting that competency education and time (as in, flexible use of time so students keep working until proficient and extending time to learn anytime) are being included in many of the new sets of design frameworks. For example:
- The Carnegie Corporation’s 10 Principles for Secondary School Design “prioritizes mastery of rigorous standards aligned to college & career readiness:
- Curriculum that enables all students to meet rigorous standards
- Multiple opportunities for students to show mastery through performance-based assessments
- Student advancement based on demonstration of mastery of knowledge and skills.”
- Wave IV of Next Generation Learning Challenges “emphasizes redesigned, scalable, whole-school models that combine the best aspects of place-based and online learning with more personalized, mastery-based approaches to result in substantially improved outcomes for students.”
Have you seen other examples of competency-, proficiency-, mastery- or performance-based approaches being built into school or systemic design? Please let us know in the comments section!
- Race to the Top-District competition emphasized personalized and mastery-based. However, the only winner that had a well-developed idea of what a mastery-based system means is Lindsay Unified. Middletown (NY) will be piloting an elementary school model, and Carson City (NV) is making college level courses available whenever students are ready. Fingers crossed that we’ll see the other grantees dig into what is possible once they start to focus on student learning.
It’s disturbing that we aren’t fully designing around our most underserved students. A mainstream, linear, factory-based assumption is gripping us so tightly (I can’t help but think about the saber-toothed tiger in the tar pits) that we keep designing around the antiquated idea of students as widgets. (more…)
May 13, 2013 by Lillian Pace
This post was originally published by Knowledgeworks on April 30, 2013.
A truly remarkable education transformation is underway in five New England states – CT, ME, NH, RI, and VT – inspired by the idea that every child can graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge to succeed in life. This transformation – called proficiency-based learning (aka: competency, mastery, or standards-based) – flips the education system on its head, providing multiple pathways, extra time, and intensive supports for a truly customized learning experience.
I was fortunate to experience this transformation first hand last week, thanks to an impressive tour led by the Great Schools Partnership. This organization is impacting every level of the system: from the grassroots coaching partnerships they have with schools and districts throughout the region to the high-level systems change conversations they lead as the coordinator for the New England Secondary Schools Consortium (NESSC). My big take-away from the tour is this: These leaders have the right vision for learning and an incredibly talented team of experts to help make that vision a reality. (more…)
May 9, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Do you have questions about how other states are transforming their education systems to competency-based schools?
Here is your chance to hear directly from two state leaders and ask all of your questions. Join us for a CompetencyWorks webinar on May 17th at 3 pm ET on How State Educational Leaders are Advancing Competency Education based on Necessary for Success: Building Mastery of World-Class Skills — A State Policymakers Guide to Competency Education. Join Susan Patrick, iNACOL; Jason Glass, Iowa Department of Education; and Don Siviski, Maine Department of Education for what promises to be a great conversation. And if you haven’t joined one of our webinars before, you should expect two great conversations because the chat room is always spinning with exchanges, ideas, and new relationships. You can register here for the webinar.
If you want to get up to speed on state policy issues we have a few resources you might find interesting: (more…)
May 8, 2013 by Rose Colby
In the NCLB era of disaggregated student achievement data, we have zoomed in on our population of struggling learners, grouped into their age appropriate cohort. That up close and personal view of our students has unleashed a demand on our educators to differentiate instruction in order for our struggling students to meet the bar. Differentiation is as much a philosophy and a belief in teaching and learning as it is a set of orientations to the process, product, content, and environment. But is it really possible for teachers to fully differentiate learning in order to meet these student needs?
Prior to working in the world of competency education, I provided many professional development opportunities from courses, workshops, and small group and individual coaching for teachers and school leaders to learn more about this practice we call differentiation. I know I became a better teacher myself the more my thinking opened up to planning student choice, voice, and readiness in a variety of learning settings for my students. However, I have some deep-seated doubts about how differentiation has been fully embraced by most educators. Differentiation is a set of practices in response to teacher reflection. Yet, many educators are faced with having to teach to specific time-based curricular objectives demanded by programs or local requirements for fidelity to programs that do little to differentiate needs. Many educators are faced with such a wide range of student readiness that it is incredibly challenging to plan for and meet these needs with limited resources. When asked, many educators say that differentiation is too overwhelming. They may embrace a particular aspect of differentiation that works for them. One teacher I know excels in differentiating homework based on formative assessment daily. Another teacher excels at offering student choice in product. Yet, many teachers readily admit they know about differentiation, want to differentiate, but don’t have the planning time either alone or collaboratively to pull it off every day. (more…)
May 6, 2013 by Lillian Pace
Over the past few years we have seen a groundswell of interest and adoption of competency based models for learning. At least 40 states have one or more school districts implementing one of these models and a growing number of states have begun serious conversations about how to redesign their system to ensure students have the extra time, multiple pathways, and supports they need to master content and skills. But despite this paradigm shift, a major road block lies ahead: federal K-12 policy.
At KnowledgeWorks, we have decided to dive head first into this challenge. Last week, we released our first policy brief on competency education titled: An Emerging Federal Role for Competency Education. Our goal is to help policymakers understand the elements of federal law that make it difficult for states to redesign their systems to support competency education at scale.
Here are the accountability barriers we identified in the paper: (more…)
May 1, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Competency education didn’t just pop out of the woodwork as a new reform. It’s been built upon many other reforms, learning from each and integrating them into the systemic reform that is now being adopted across the nation. One of the building block reforms is mastery learning.
In one of her presentations, Rose Colby identifies some of the key features borrowed from mastery learning and the enhancements that are expected in a competency-based system. Mastery learning includes diagnostic pre-assessment with pre-teaching; high quality group-based instruction; progress monitoring through regular formative assessment, corrective instruction and practice; and enrichment activities when students have reached mastery.
The three major enhancements seen in competency education that were not present in mastery learning are:
1) It is often too difficult for individual teachers to manage the differentiated support for students, and it is often logistically so challenging that students aren’t able to get the help they need. In competency education, providing supports to students that are “not yet proficient” at the end of a unit (however that may be defined) is a school-wide function, not an individual teacher responsibility. Schools are organizing themselves to offer opportunities for supports each day, throughout the module or course, and built into the school year. See The Learning Edge: Supporting Student Success in a Competency-Based Learning Environment.
2) Mastery learning did not embrace the depth of knowledge that is now embraced in our overall education policy. Our emphasis on deeper learning through performance tasks that embed the Common Core Standards and college- and career-ready skills drives greater emphasis on the application of learning and high quality assessment systems. (more…)
April 26, 2013 by Tom Vander Ark
This post was originally published by Getting Smart on April 14, 2013.
“Education is like the night sky; edreform offers a few points of light and the rest is dark matter,” said Nick Donohue. “The real opportunity is deeper public engagement–tapping the dark matter.”
Nick Donohue has been a high school head master, a college trustee, and a state chief. These days he leads The Nellie Mae Education Foundation. In addition to being a big advocate of innovations– particularly competency-based learning– Nick serves on the iNACOL board (with me) and supports the work of CompetencyWorks. (more…)
April 22, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
In a discussion with Lilian Pace from KnowledgeWorks this morning, the fascinating question of whether every student should be in a competency-based system or whether it should be an option for students came up.
This led to a discussion of whether competency education is a specific school design, instructional model or a systemic framework. In a policy environment that encourages choice and personalization, we of course don’t want to establish one-size fits all school designs or instructional approaches. (And I certainly don’t think competency education is a school model or instructional approach). However, as a systemic framework, is competency education something we want for everyone?
The only way I know to answer this question is to walk through it step by step:
1) Should a student be provided with education that responds to where they are in their learning progression?
It’s the Goldilocks answer. If the curriculum is too easy or too hard, frustration, boredom and disengagement occur. We want the curriculum to be “just right” – at and above the level where students are in their learning progression so they are challenged. The zone of proximal development, if you will. (more…)
April 17, 2013 by Brian Stack
from Making Mastery Work
Introduction: Rethinking the Effectiveness of the Dog & Pony Show Model
During my first three years as a high school math teacher in Massachusetts back in the early 2000s, I had grown accustomed to having an administrator in my classroom observe as I taught a math lesson. As a new teacher I was required by district policy to be observed at least three times per year. Both my administrator and I knew how the drill worked: We would pick a date and a class for me to be observed. We would meet in advance to talk about what I was planning to teach. During my observation I would make sure to use innovative teaching strategies or cooperative learning activities with my students. We would meet after the lesson to talk about what went well and where I could improve. The administrator would write up a narrative, I would sign it, and it would be filed away. The process would then repeat, and repeat, and repeat. Over my first three years I had nine observations. Once I reached my fourth year, I was considered tenured and thus my observations went down to one every other year. This means it would have taken me an additional eighteen years of teaching before I would have completed another nine observation cycles.
I don’t think my experience in this regard is unique, as many school districts used and still use a model very similar to this one. As I reflect back on that experience as a new teacher, years later, I don’t think I ever remember actually using anything that came from my evaluations as a way to improve my own teaching. Don’t get me wrong, my pre- and post-conferences always yielded great advice. My administrator and I always had great discussions about my lessons. We never really talked about my teaching. What I did on a day-to-day basis as a teaching professional to impact the lives of my students wasn’t easily observable during the dog and pony show, the name I had given for the act of preparing an observable lesson that would showcase all the innovative teaching strategies I could cram into a ninety-minute block. (more…)