Tag: competency education, competency-based learning

Counted or Not, Doing What Counts in Competency-Based Education

April 29, 2014 by
Eduardo Briceño

Eduardo Briceño

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
– William Bruce Cameron (and on a sign hanging in Albert Einstein’s office)

Competency-based education comes with the risk that we focus only on those competencies that can easily be measured and overlook other competencies that are also critical for success in today’s and tomorrow’s world. If we’re mindful of what students need and design our competency-based systems accordingly, however, we can make competency-based education all it can be.

How we can get into trouble

In a competency-based system, each learner focuses on knowledge and skills at the right challenge level, just beyond what is known, and progresses to the next level upon mastery rather than based on age or time. This makes a lot of sense. It’s how people learn. (more…)

Working in a Competency Education School: Hiring Tips for Potential Teacher Candidates

April 28, 2014 by

job_interviewWelcome to May, the month when most school administrators begin the process of filling open positions in their schools for the upcoming school year. Maybe my administrative team and I are getting picky as we mature as a team, or maybe we are just getting wiser, but we honestly believe that our hiring practices have changed dramatically since our school made the shift to competency education four years ago. For those of you who are thinking about applying to work in a school like ours, we would like to offer you some words of advice before you get your résumés and cover letters together for us.

 1. We need team players. In our school, very few big curriculum, instruction, and assessment decisions are left to teachers to make on their own. Most are made by teams of teachers as part of their Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). If you join our school, be prepared to share and collaborate with your PLC on just about everything you do. With your PLC team, you will build common performance assessments, you will administer them to your shared students, and you will analyze the data with your team. We strongly believe that PLC teams work far more efficiently than individuals ever could towards advancing our vision of learning for all. Our PLC teams are organized by grade level, not by subject area. This allows them to share kids and focus their work on student learning. At our school, there is no such thing as a traditional department meeting. (more…)

How a District Ended Student Dropouts with Personalized Learning

April 22, 2014 by

This post originally published on EdSurge. Author Roger Cook is the Superintendent of the Taylor County School District in Campbellsville, Kentucky.

1(1)Imagine, if you can, a school where students do not have specific teachers assigned to them, nor do teachers have specific students on their roster.

Imagine a school where students come each day with a list of standards to work on and accomplish–right when they walk in the door. They can go to the teacher of their choice in order to accomplish the completion of these standards. Or, they can do them on their own in any setting they wish, as long as they maintain accomplishing the minimum amount of standards in a minimum amount of time. Some students, for example, may work individually in the media center not having to go to any classroom.

And last but not least, imagine a district at large where the dropout rate is at zero percent.

In this type of environment, students would come and go as they please, but would be required to prove the successful completion of work and pass assessments to demonstrate understanding.

Sound crazy? Not to educators in the Taylor County School District in Campbellsville, Kentucky. In fact, that is our district’s ten-year plan. (more…)

A Conversation with Adams 50

March 12, 2014 by
Oliver Grenham

Oliver Grenham

Last week I had the opportunity to meet with part of the Adams 50 leadership team: Oliver Grenham, Chief Education Officer; Jeni Gotto, Director of Assessment and Instructional Technology, and Steve Saunders, Communications Director. Our conversation, summarized below, touched on the results they are seeing, the big implementation issues they have faced, and the new ones popping up. Check out their incredibly great wiki to understand their design and implementation, as well as the new video describing their competency-based system.

1. On An Uphill Trajectory, or Getting Out of the Red

Grenham was adamant: “Is our competency-based system making a difference in achievement? Absolutely.”

The graduation rate within Adams 50 continues to increase (the high school is now 74% for the traditional four-year rate, while the most recent districtwide five year rate is 75.4%, which is expected to be higher next August). This in a district with 81% FRL, 45% ELL, and about 39% student turnover per year (18% by Colorado’s newly implemented school-year based calculations). It’s great news.

In terms of school performance, out of Colorado’s four-category accountability system, Adams 50 moved all their schools out of turnaround status (they are marked red on the state reports), with only four schools (two middle and two elementary) in priority improvement. Of the remaining schools, half are in improvement and the other half in performance. (more…)

Voices from the Field: Owning the LEARNING!

February 17, 2014 by
Heather Bross

Heather Bross

This article was originally published in the Reinventing Schools Coalition January newsletter. The RISC newsletter is designed to give you practices and opportunities to move students from compliance into engagement, an essential element for building a personal mastery system.

As with each New Year, new hope for success and happiness formulates in all of us. Which makes this an ideal time to begin goal setting and the practice of self-monitoring with students.

As a coach and an avid Detroit Lions fan, I had many mixed feelings over the weekend. My beloved Detroit Lions were out of the playoffs, so my family watched as the Packers lost to a team led by someone who, I must admit, struck a chord deep in my educator heart. You may have already heard the tale of 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s letter to himself at age 9 predicting that he would someday play pro football. Funny thing, he was very detailed in writing that he would play for either the 49er’s or the Pack-ers…. The irony of that brings a smile to any sports fan’s face.

In the letter, Colin prophesizes the future: “I’m 5 ft. 2 inches 91 pounds. Good athlete. I think in 7 years I will be between 6 ft — to 6 ft 4 inches 140 pounds. I hope I go to a good college in football Then go to the pros and play on the niners or the packers even if they aren’t good in seven years. My friend are Jason, Kyler, Leo, Spencer, Mark and Jacob.

Sincerely, Colin (more…)

Progress and Proficiency: Redesigning Grading for Competency Education

January 15, 2014 by

CompetencyWorks - Progress and Proficiency: Redesigning Grading for Competency Education - January 2014iNACOL and CompetencyWorks are releasing Progress and Proficiency: Redesigning Grading for Competency Education today. Every school at some point will find that they are stumbling over traditional grading systems. This paper is designed to help you as your district or school prepares to create grading practices that reinforce the culture of learning.

If you want to get the big picture – Carve out an hour and dive into the full paper with sections on why today’s grading is undermining learning and school performance, the major elements of how districts and schools are designing new grading systems, insights into implementation as well as emerging issues.

If you want to cut to the chase and learn about the major elements of designing grading for competency-based schools read the Executive Summary.

If you want to see examples of how districts and schools are designing their grading policies, check out the wiki.

And, if you want to hear from principals and teachers about their experiences in grading, check out some blog posts and video resources:

We welcome your comments — especially if it differs from the ideas presented in the paper. We need to continue to push each other to find even better ways to support our students. We are also looking for folks who want to help us respond to other questions as they emerge, share their stories and insights of implementing new grading practices, and help us address many of the misconceptions and fears about competency education and its grading practices. This includes students — we’d love to hear about their experiences in moving from A-F grading to practices used in competency-based schools.

Practitioner Implications in Competency Education: An Interview with Rose Colby

January 8, 2014 by

Rose Colby

This interview originally appeared in the CSSR October 2014 Newsletter.

Rose Colby is a career educator who has worked for the last eight years as a competency-based learning and assessment specialist. She works extensively in New Hampshire schools, as well as more broadly in schools across the country as the competency education movement expands. Colby recently began working with a number of CSSR schools on the development of competencies and the review of grading and assessment practices. We sat down with her recently to discuss the practitioner implications of competency education.

For Colby, competency education (CE) boils down to honoring “wherever and whenever kids do learning based on their personal learning plan.” Through the use of high quality assessment methods, i.e. performance tasks, kids move forward based on demonstrated mastery of course competencies. She is quick to cite the abundance of research: CE is aligned with what cognitive science tells us about how we learn-not the current silo-ing of standards. The following are three areas of focus that Colby suggests for practitioners moving towards these transformational practices: core beliefs; writing competencies; and grading & scheduling. She also shared tips on how to get started exploring this work.

Core Beliefs

For Colby, the traditional instructional model includes: curriculum, instruction, assessment, and grading. A transformational instructional model includes: high quality competencies, performance assessment, personalized learning pathways and dynamic grading. In the traditional model educators approach the educational setting as “here’s what you need to know, and how I’m going to teach it.” In CE, educators consider the experience and mastery that individual students bring to the learning environment to determine a personalized learning progression. Colby believes that what’s best for all kids are practices that are offered to all kids and not particular groups. She worries that too often schools offer these highly differentiated, personalized pathways for kids who are in danger of not graduating, when in fact they better engage all students in their own education. (more…)

Ingenium Schools: A Big City Competency-Based School

June 13, 2013 by
Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.59.23 PM

Ingenium Schools website

Is competency education a reform better suited for rural and outer ring suburbs than urban districts? That’s one of the questions I get asked a lot in the back of the room at meetings. No one ever asks that question during the regular sessions, leading me to think that the question goes beyond the size of the districts, and that the question is actually asking will competency education work in areas of concentrated poverty? Or perhaps, in our racially segregated country, people are using the code word “urban” to mean will it work for African-American students?

It is true that many of the district-wide reforms, supported by the work of the Reinventing Schools Coalition, started in rural districts and have taken hold in rural and suburban districts.  However, we now have a proof point that the very same model is taking root in south Los Angeles at Barack Obama Charter School (BOCS). And they are getting results – last year they had a 150 point gain in one year based on the California Standards Tests.   (more…)

The Power of Principals

June 10, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 11.35.25 AMMaine’s Center for Best Practices has released a new case study The Power of Principals — I consider it a must-read for anyone starting down the path of proficiency-based education.  It’s the story of how Regional School Unit 20 has advanced toward personalized, proficiency-based learning over the past three years. Here are my three big takeaways:

1) Three important questions to guide design.  The case study starts with the story of Searsport District High School. After losing its accreditation and getting a federal Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration grant, they began transitioning to standards-based reforms. In redesigning their school, Searsport District High had focused on two questions:

  • What should kids who graduate from Searsport District High School know and be able to do when they graduate, and
  • How shall we design curriculum, assessment, instruction, and reporting to ensure that they do know?

The case study explains: There was a third question, though, that they hadn’t yet addressed: What will we do if a student does not know what they need to know?

In response to this question, Searsport devised its system of academic interventions… The intervention system developed two branches:  skill-based interventions, for when the student was not getting a standard or learning target, and behavior-based interventions, for when the student was choosing not to complete assignments.  In both cases, it was seen as essential that the intervention occur as soon as possible after the need was recognized, certainly during the same day.  Check out the flow chart on page 5. (more…)

Meet-Up at iNACOL Symposium

June 5, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 5.10.25 PMiNACOL is putting the final touches on the iNACOL’s Symposium competency education strand of workshops and sessions.  An incredible group of practitioners (some emphasizing online/blended learning and others not) are going to be leading sessions. In addition to the formal sessions there will be a CompetencyWorks lounge area near the exhibitor hall that you can use for informal discussions and meet-ups.  In fact, we’ll be meeting there Sunday evening during the opening reception just so we can introduce ourselves (thanks to Tom Willis Cornerstone Charter Schools who called me and said we needed this to happen.) The iNACOL Symposium is a big, exciting meeting,  so knowing each other’s faces early on will make a huge difference.

Although we know things always change, here is how the competency education strand looks now:

Sunday Pre-Conference

Design Choices for Competency Education will be for experienced innovators and newbies alike. We’ll walk through all the different choices districts and schools make, sharing what worked, what you learned, and what you might do differently.

Session 1

Overview of Competency Education – What is it, what are the models, and who is doing it? – Susan Patrick, iNACOL and Chris Sturgis, MetisNet

Session 2

The Building Blocks of CompetencyBased Learning: Competencies, Assessment, Learning, and Grading – Rose Colby, Education Consultant

Session 1 and 2 (Workshop)

Transparency = Ownership: A Model for Student-Centered Learning – Alison Hramiec, Boston Day and Evening Academy (more…)

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