Boston Day and Evening Academy: March 11 and 25. Contact Andrea Kunst 617 635-6789 x 201 or andreakunst (at) comcast (dot) net.
Lindsay Unified School District: Friday, April 4. Contact Lana Brown, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at (559) 562-5111 x 5711 or lbrown (at ) lindsay.k12.ca.us.
Proficiency-Based Learning Simplified: Supporting Students with Disabilities. March 5, 2014. 3:00 – 4:00 PM EST. In this webinar, the presenters 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. Register here.
Journey to School Improvement: The Personalized Mastery Approach, WestEd Webinar featuring Roberta Selleck, Superintendent Freeport School District, IL and formerly Superintendent of Adams 50, Colorado. March 19, 2 pm ET Register Here
Proficiency- & Competency-based Learning: Emerging Research on Implementation and Outcomes. May 5 12:30 – 2 ET. Sponsored by REL-NEI featuring research on Maine and a research study by Rand.
The Northwest Proficiency Conference, Portland, Oregon March 6-7. Sponsored by Business Education Compact and Confederation of Oregon School Administrators will feature Beatrice McGarvey.
I was watching a cooking competition on the Food Network the other day. The contestants were asked to create the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich for a panel of judges to sample. The judges then assessed the sandwiches on a variety of characteristics including overall taste, texture, presentation, and what they called a “wow factor” that included the use of unique ingredients.
This competition really got me thinking. Brady and Cameron, my 8- and 6-year-old sons, and I make grilled cheese sandwiches all the time. Through trial and error, we have learned what works and what doesn’t. Some of our discoveries have included what kinds of cheeses melt best, how much butter to use to get a crispy crust, what kinds of breads produce the best flavors, and how hot to make our pan to get the right sandwich. We’ve made plenty of mediocre sandwiches along the way – overcooked or undercooked, not enough cheese, not enough butter, soggy, or just too dry. Still, even the mediocre sandwiches satisfied our hunger at that moment. (more…)
Launched nearly 35 years ago, Our Piece of the Pie® (OPP®) is dedicated to helping Connecticut youth become economically independent adults. All of OPP’s strategies and services are structured to lead at-risk or disadvantaged youth, ages 14-24, toward the goals of achieving a college degree or vocational credentials and obtaining rewarding employment. This posting will focus on OPP’s journey in building its signature competency-based high school model.
OPP’s Competency-Based High Schools at a Glance
Founded in 2009, Opportunity High School in Hartford is a unique partnership between Hartford Public Schools and OPP serving over 100 over-aged and under-credited students
Founded in 2012, Learning Academy of Bloomfield is a co-operated high school between the Bloomfield Public Schools and OPP. During 2012-2013 the school served over 20 students with all seniors receiving diplomas
In August 2013, OPP began its work with Norwalk Public Schools under an agreement with the state to turn around Briggs HS in Norwalk, a “failing” school serving up to 100 high-risk students
With the June 5, 2013 vote of approval by the CT State Board of Education, OPP will open Path Academy, its first charter school, in Windham in August 2014 serving a maximum of 200 high school students who are off-track; in doing so, OPP becomes a charter management organization (CMO)
Eight Core Philosophies
The Path Academy model is the prototype for all of OPP’s Competency-Based High Schools. OPP builds the model around eight core philosophies that guide the innovative school model: (more…)
Susie Orsborn principal at West Albany High School
I just had the opportunity to listen to Susie Orsborn, principal at West Albany High School in Oregon, describe the school’s journey toward proficiency-based education at the Business Education Compact’s training, Implementing Proficiency at the Secondary Level. Below are of my big take-aways from her story:
With Voluntary Comes Variation: Like much of the efforts in Oregon, participation in proficiency-based education starts with volunteers. At West Albany, a handful of teachers volunteered, approximately one in each department, to use proficiency-based approaches in their classroom. She explained that a veteran social studies teacher said that it was “the first time he actually knew what students know, or didn’t know.” The voluntary, teacher-led approach to transforming the education system from the classroom also means that there is a lot of variation. Instructional, assessment and grading practices vary across and within departments. (more…)
The authors of Making Mastery Work open a fascinating door into the dynamics of competency education in Chapter 5: How Students Experience Competency Education. In talking with students and teachers across the ten schools with a high degree of diversity – rural/urban; district/charter; 4 year high school/alternative high school serving over-age, undercredited students – a number of important issues emerge.
Traveling a Longer Road: The driving force behind competency education in the K-12 system is equity. We know we need to find a better way than the time-based, A-F system that reproduces inequity. However, the way we think about equity in the traditional system doesn’t really make sense in a competency education system. Making Mastery Work starts to unpack equity in discussing how students in the same classroom may have different ways to show evidence of their learning based on their learning progression. “Equity comes in the fact that both students are stretching themselves as they work towards the same learning target.” What’s interesting in many of the conversations about personalized learning is that students understand the variation in their work if, and only if, the competencies and assessments are perceived as fairly implemented.
Trust: In a post-visit to Maine blog, I wrote about the power of the “growth mindset.” I think that it is this shared belief that we can all learn and that we are all supporting each other in learning that brings to life the trust and sense of all being in it together that is described in Making Mastery Work: MSAD15 students talk about working with their teachers to make competency education work, expressing appreciation for teachers who are open to their suggestions and invite them to make decisions. Four middle school students explained that “We unpack the standards” and then determine the best way to group themselves for a particular activity or recommend particular structures to organize learning more effectively. Teachers emphasized how they trust their students “to help us figure out what works best for them.” “My students usually come up with some great ideas,” said one, “so I trust them.” (more…)
Last week there was a great piece Why Students Who Underperform Drop Out on the PBS Newshour. Ray Suarez interviewed Stephanie Krauss, Shearwater Education Foundation, Victor Rios, Professor, UC Santa Barbara and Adam Steltzner, NASA Curiosity Mission. It was an interesting group with Krauss and Rios being former dropouts and Steltzner almost not graduating. The conversation was primarily on how to re-engage students who have gone “into the wilderness”. In the midst of this conversation Krauss raised the issue of seat-time and competency education. Watch the show or you can check out Krauss’s discussion on seat-time below.
“I’m not going to tell you. I know what a lexile means, but I’m not going to tell you mine.” And in the next breath: “I blew the test. I tested at third grade. I’m good at reading. I’m actually supposed to be in 10th grade. But I blew it and I tested at third grade.”
This was my first conversation with a student at Schools for the Future in Detroit (SFF is a Next Generation Learning Challenges winner). It was in response to a question about the different tests that the students had been taking during the first two weeks of schools. The students did know what a lexile was and what their individual lexile was. They understood that the set of assessments they had just finished were being used to set their educational path. As we were talking, some students were beaming as they were going to move to Core 2. Others were frustrated that they would be assigned to Core 1 but were very determined to do better. This tension is part of being transparent. It’s a step in engaging students that have been lost in our education system. No more lying to them that they are doing okay because they got a C and passed on to the next class. This is a competency-based environment. (more…)
My school, Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, NH, made the shift to a competency-based grading and reporting system about three years ago. For those of you who have recently made the switch, as well as those of you who are planning one in the near future, I can tell you that once you go down the “competency road” it creates a chain reaction of other proposed changes – some you would anticipate, some you would not.For us, we weren’t too far down the path before the question came up of what we should do about class rank. Like most traditional high schools, we have always used a weighted grade point average (G.P.A.) to compute our class rank. We also have always engaged in traditions such as holding a banquet for students who were ranked in the top ten percent of the graduating class and naming a Valedictorian, Salutatorian, and a Class Essayist to the students who were ranked 1, 2, and 3 respectively in their graduating class. With the shift to a competency-based system, we hoped to remove the tradition of class rank. We found that this would prove harder to do than we originally thought.
Some of our friends across our northern border are experimenting with seat-time flexibility as well. Jonathan Oglesby from iNACOL just sent an article about Mother Margaret Mary Catholic High School’s experimentation with flexible time. It’s an interesting pilot as it works around the margins of seat-time providing students with weekly opportunities to design their own schedules.
It’s part of Alberta’s High School Flexibility Project aimed at increasing high school completion. They did a nice piece of work in their planning phase where they started to name and describe the different techniques related to credit flexibility. This is just the beginning list of the infinite design choices we have in front of us. Looking at this list, it’s probably time for us to make an easy to use tool to help us think strategically about these design choices as they are bound to grow as the boundaries of the traditional school system loosen up. (Please add others in the comments section so we can get a good list going in order to save time having to start from scratch every time).
Courses and Credits
Self-Directed Learning Modules: Portions of, or entire courses, that are made available to students to work through at their own pace.
Condensed Classes/Compacting Curriculum: Providing less than 25 hours per credit for classes. Such a practice requires a review of the traditional delivery of courses in order to “compact” the program outcomes into less time.
Expanded Classes: Providing more than 25 hours per credit for classes.
Credit Recovery: Making allowances for students who have not successfully completed a course to continue their coursework beyond the time scheduled. (more…)
In the article, Kristine Kirkaldy of VUNHS said, “It’s about learning how to learn. The better you are at it, the better you are able to acquire the skills such as critical thinking, reasoning, problem-solving.”
Even though it’s not in the news article, I think it’s worth mentioning VUHS’ mission. It’s a powerful one, and for all the districts and schools re-thinking their mission and purpose, I thought it was worth sharing.
The transition to ninth grade is challenging for many students. For Sanborn Regional High School students, their transition struggles pointed to several issues in the district. In 2008, the district convened a summit to consider research on the needs of these students and to review the best practices in teaming. The ninth grade teachers decided to focus on a Professional Learning Community model framed by teachers from English, Social Studies, Wellness, and Science. Over the next three years, the team worked to develop team norms, goals, common grading practices for class work and homework, grading policies, integrated units, performance-based assessments, and communication to parents. Their work spurred a movement in the Sanborn Regional School District to become a competency-based grading and reporting school district, which the district became officially for the 2010-2011 school year.
In the fall of 2011 under the direction of Assistant Principal Ann Hadwen, the team that had come to be known as the Freshman Learning Community (FLC) took their next big step in development. Working within the master schedule, the FLC created a school-within-a-school model (more…)