Tag: grading and transcripts

What is the Difference between Standards-Based Grading (or Reporting) and Competency-Based Education?

November 11, 2014 by
Matt Townsley

Matt Townsley

Here in Iowa, competency-based education is gaining traction at the state and grassroots level. In fact, the Iowa Department of Education has launched a multi-year CBE collaborative. Needless to say, it’s an exciting time to be an educator in the Hawkeye State!

Meanwhile, a core group of Iowa schools have started to implement a standards-based grading philosophy in middle and high schools. Because of these two movements in our state, standards-based grading and competency-based education are often times incorrectly presented as synonymous practices. As a member of Iowa’s CBE task force and through my work as a district administrator in a system that has embraced standards-based grading K-12, I’ve been in a position to think about and discuss these two topics extensively. When area schools hear about our grading and reporting practices, we are often asked how our system relates to those working towards competency-based educational models. While many of the ideas overlap, I felt compelled to tease out these two education terms in order to honor their similarities and differences.

What is standards-based grading? 

Standards-based grading ”involves measuring students’ proficiency on well-defined course objectives.” (Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006). (Note: Standards-based reporting involves reporting these course objectives rather than letter grades at the end of each grading/reporting period.)

The visual below compares traditional grading with standards-based grading practices. (more…)

The Role of Assessment Instruments in a Competency-Based System

November 5, 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 7.01.11 AMNo matter how you approach it, you cannot mitigate the massive change agent that is competency-based education. It does not leave much room for “old school” notions of teaching and learning. It does not tolerate anything less than a committed belief that all students can achieve at high levels.

It certainly demands a philosophical and ideological shift in thinking about “best practice” in education.

When I had first embarked on this journey, I had prepared myself for these shifts as they pertained to my practice. How can I become more student-centered? What does that look like? How will I know if my students are ready?

The question I never asked: How will I assess it and grade it? (more…)

Competency Education: Frequently Asked Parent Questions

October 28, 2014 by

FAQI worked for a school district and high school that made the transition from a traditional to a competency-based grading and reporting system about five years ago. As one of the early adopters of what has now become a national educational reform movement, my fellow administrators and I often get inquiries from colleagues around the nation who are looking for advice as they make a similar transition in their own school or district. One of the biggest categories of questions we field from other administrators is on communication with parents about the competency education model. In this article, I will share with you some of the most frequently asked questions that we get from our parents and how we typically respond.

How is a competency education model different from a traditional one?

Competency education is based on the principle that the grades a student receives measure what the student knows and is able to do. Courses are organized into competencies that measure a student’s ability to transfer content and skills in and across content areas. Students are assessed on these competencies through performance assessments—multistep assignments with clear criteria, expectations, and processes that measure how well a student transfers knowledge and applies complex skills to create or refine an original product. Teachers use rubrics to measure student learning on these assessments and report that learning on report cards and transcripts by skill or competency.

Competency education diverges powerfully from the traditional “one size fits all” approach. In the best examples, students are given many opportunities and many pathways to demonstrate that they have reached competency. They are able to progress at their own pace. Their teachers provide individualized instruction and coach them through their learning progression. Teachers collaboratively develop the assessments that will measure how well students have performed. The result is a more rigorous education that identifies exactly what students know, are able to do, and to what degree.

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Shifting to Mastery-Based Approaches in New York City Public Schools

August 27, 2014 by
Revell, student at FDA VII.

Revelle, student at FDA VII. From FDA VII video.

“I want to achieve, I want to get high grades; [mastery-based learning] is a great way to map out exactly how to get there.”

         – Revelle, student at Frederick Douglass Academy VII, Brooklyn NY

A small but growing number of New York City schools are making assessments more meaningful for teachers and students through mastery-based approaches to learning. There are early and encouraging signs that mastery can motivate and engage students who have experienced previous academic failure by providing a clear outline for what they need to learn. The video below demonstrates these powerful effects at Frederick Douglass Academy VII High School (FDA VII) in Brooklyn:

Mastery-Based Learning – Featuring Frederick Douglass Academy VII High School from Digital Ready on Vimeo.

Starting Out Small

While school-wide implementation models have been a source of inspiration, more often than not, a shift toward mastery starts on a much more compact level. Last year, teachers at FDA VII “took the leap” by transforming their curriculum and grading policies to reflect student learning more transparently. This year, school leadership hopes to take it school-wide. At Brooklyn International High School and Hudson High School for Learning Technologies, teachers have worked alone or in small groups to pilot new ways to deliver content broken down by skill, and provide more granular feedback in distinct areas of learning. (more…)

100%

June 5, 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 8.52.23 PMOne hundred percent of the public institutions of higher education in five states have endorsed proficiency-based education. That’s right — 100%.

The New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) announced that all the public colleges and universities as well as three private colleges in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have endorsed proficiency-based education. That’s 55 colleges and universities.

I recently talked with Cory Curl from ACHIEVE about their meeting last week with higher education representatives and competency education leaders. She reported that there was general agreement that proficiency-based transcripts should not be a problem as colleges are used to receiving and making sense of all kinds of transcripts.  She also said there were several higher education associations at the meeting that are considering raising competency education at their meetings to get further support and acceptance for proficiency-based transcripts.

The conversation with Cory touched on what it is going to take to get elite colleges to endorse proficiency-based education. She suggested that a specific ask, such as a statement on their admissions websites that clearly states that they accept proficiency-based transcripts, might be considered rather than trying to get endorsements. Elite colleges, being elite. tend to avoid engaging in and advancing specific education reforms or participating in state-level efforts.

So I think it is safe to say we are making steady progress at addressing a fear, some considered a barrier to be overcome, about competency education. We are continuing to get confirmation that competency-based transcripts are not going to impact college admissions. We just have to keep working to get more colleges and universities in other parts of the country to sign on, or at a minimum say they’ll accept proficiency-based transcripts. One of the very easy things all of us can do is start to lay the groundwork by sending a letter to the president and trustees of our alma mater encouraging them to clarify on their admissions web page that they accept competency-based transcripts. Hopefully other intermediary organizations will take on the leadership role that NESCC has shown in engage higher education in other states and regions.  I’m sure NESSC would be glad to share their process and road bumps. (And bravo to all of you that facilitated the conversations and coordinated the endorsements).

FYI: The press release from NESSC was full of great quotes that others might find handy in their work:

Tim Donovan, Chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges:  “The Vermont State Colleges signed the endorsement for a simple reason: it’s the right thing to do for our students and for our colleges. Today’s complex world demands more from the education of our young people—in K–12 schools and in colleges and universities. We have to work together to equip our students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in every area of life. At the Vermont State Colleges, we want the educators in our state—and throughout New England and the country—to know that we fully support their innovative efforts to better prepare our young people for the future. No hoops, no hurdles.” (more…)

Three Steps for Personalizing Assessment

May 26, 2014 by

Why do we always assess students at the same time and let that be the governing factor for student achievement?timing

Andrew Miller, a faculty member at Buck Institute and ASCD, explores this issue in  Personalizing Assessment with Time in Mind:

 We know that students each learn at their own pace. Some take longer; some take a shorter amount of time. We have the same high expectations for our students, but we also know students take different amounts of time to get to those high expectations. One critical element of personalization is that time is no longer the driving factor. Instead of relying on the Carnegie unit, students show mastery and are assessed when they are ready. Granted, so many outside forces are demanding our time, but how might we move past them to meet students were they are in the assessment process?

Here are Andrew’s three steps for how you can start to create systems of assessments that enable you to further personalize the learning experience for students: (more…)

The Advantage of Separating Behaviors and Academics Through a Competency-Based Grading System

May 5, 2014 by

If we were to return to giving grades that are a combination of academics, behaviors, and anything else a teacher decides to include, we, as educators would be remiss in our responsibilities.

As I watched one of our teacher’s training sessions this past Wednesday, I considered how far we had come in grading practices in a fairly short period of time.  Our school made the transition to competency-based grading four years ago, and despite some of “bumps in the road”, we really have never looked back.

Terry Bolduc, a fifth grade teacher at our school, is also one of our training team members for our staff.  Terry was sharing with other classroom teachers at our Wednesday afternoon training session how her grading practices have continued to evolve.  This particular session was related to how Terry continuously assesses students on their behaviors or dispositions, both through daily assignments, and weekly formative assessments.  Terry was explaining that by doing this, there are a number of points of data that can support where a student is in each particular area.

These dispositions, or 21st Century Learning Skills, we assess our students on are based off of the Responsive Classroom’s CARES (Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-regulation).  Each of these has indicators that teachers use to assess student growth.  What has typically happened over the past few years is that teachers have had minimal data in their gradebook related to CARES behaviors.  Academic areas had multiple assignments attached to standards, but the data related to our CARES was somewhat limited.  Most teachers were continuing to input a CARES assessment grade just prior to the distribution of progress reports and trimester report cards.  We have worked very hard to get away from “subjective” grading in academic areas, so why should work habits be any different? (more…)

The Oregon Shuffle

May 1, 2014 by

oregon-danceThe Oregon legislature is doing only what I can call a policy shuffle – a few steps forward, a few steps back. The recently passed House Bill 4150 has a number of fascinating pieces that are weaving together Oregon’s proficiency-based system.  Let’s start with the its step back:

Revisiting Grading: One of the big lessons learned for districts and schools in competency education is do not lead with grading. It may be also be a lesson learned for states, as well.

Oregon had taken a giant step forward last year with HB 2220, which required a form of standards-based grading report cards. Districts and schools were required to tell parents exactly how their children were progressing, based on standards and separating behavior from academic progress.

It seems to be a case of too much, too soon. Now they’ve taken a baby step backwards with this year’s  HB 4150, modifying HB 2220 to allow for but not require standards-based grading.  The Oregon Department of Education’s guidance states: (more…)

Don’t Miss These Webinars

April 10, 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 9.16.23 AMThere are more and more webinars coming up on proficiency-based or competency-based learning. We list them on Upcoming Events to the right of our web page — but just in case you missed them here they are:

How Competency-Based Education is Transforming Assessment and Accountability Systems in Schools Thursday, April 10, 2014, 3:00-4:00 PM ET

The final webinar in iNACOL’s  CCSSO Innovation Lab Network Webinar Series will feature Carmen Coleman, Danville School District, Kentucky  and Erica Stofanak (one of our contributing authors) Curriculum Instruction & Assessment Coach, Rochester School District, New Hampshire who will discuss measures for tracking student progress and growth, the various formative and summative assessments systems that are now in place, measuring teacher effectiveness, and the variety of reports utilized by administrators and teachers to indicate progress towards common goals. Various assessment tools will be shared that can be modified and utilized in other schools and districts with a similar vision.

Understanding Grading in Competency-based Schools Thursday, April 24, 2014, 2:00-3:00 PM ET

In this CompetencyWorks webinar Abbie Forbus and Brett Grimm from Lindsay Unified School District in California, will share Lindsay’s grading practices.  Lindsay Unified, a Race to the Top winner, has a strong personalized, performance-based system and well-developed grading system that emphasizes providing feedback to learners. Forbus and Grimm will provide an overview of the values and educational philosophy that guides Lindsay’s grading policy.  Then going into more depth, they will present the structure, practices, and reporting mechanisms. During this webinar you will learn how their information management system enables teachers, students and families to monitor student learning and progress along their learning progression. The final segment of the webinar will offer a discussion on implementation challenges and emerging issues.

Proficiency- & Competency-based Learning: Emerging Research on Implementation and Outcomes. May 5 12:30 – 2 ET.

Sponsored by REL-NEI, this webinar will explore emerging research on proficiency-based learning and its implications for practice in states, districts, and schools.  Jennifer Steele at RAND Corporation and Erika Stump at the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation will present findings from their newly published studies.

Proficiency-Based Learning Simplified: Supporting Students with Disabilities May 21  3-4 ET

In this Great Schools Partnership webinar Angela Hardy, Senior Associate, Great Schools Partnership
Jon Ingram , Senior Associate, Great Schools Partnership, Shannon Shanning, Special Education Teacher, and Bruce M. Whittier Middle School, Poland, ME will  address the role of Individual Educations Plans in a proficiency-based system, including the development of appropriate modifications to ensure that students with disabilities achieve proficiency.

Learning My Lesson

April 3, 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 10.28.14 AMI had asked my ninth grade students to write a “last” chapter to the novel Seedfolks by Paul Fleischmann we had finished reading as a class. I knew they had read the entire novel and even annotated it because we did all of our reading in this room. Sometimes we did it in a literature circle. Sometimes we did it by ourselves. Sometimes we used a form of Socratic Seminar to ask questions of each other and dig deeper into the author’s intended meaning.

But I knew all my students had read the novel and understood its metaphors, allusions and themes because we did the work together. And because of that, I knew they would be able to creatively adapt what they knew and believed.

I knew they’d be able to do it because I would be there to help them, guide them and monitor their progress because their work would be completed in class and during after school workshop sessions.

I knew their levels of competency because I assessed it every single day.

The pattern here isn’t new. Rick Wormeli suggests rethinking how we assign work to students and how we penalize them for not doing it. Both Wormeli and Doug Reeves make powerful arguments against “the zero” in the teacher grade book. (more…)

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