Tag: high school

High Schools May Be Competency-Based Without Knowing It?

April 25, 2015 by

StudentsDoes your high school offer Advanced Placement or IB tests? If so, you may be participating in a form of competency-based education in the higher education sector.

In his The Landscape of Competency-Based Education: Enrollments, Demographics and Affordability, Robert Kelchen includes AP and IB as a form of Prior Learning Assessment. Kelchen breaks down higher education competency-based education into two forms:

  1. Well-established prior learning assessments (PLA), which grant credits for content a student has previously mastered; and
  2. Newer competency-based coursework, where students progress toward a degree as they demonstrate mastery of new academic content.

I want to emphasize that these two forms apply to higher education. In K12, we are seeing the phrase competency education apply to everything from self-paced online curriculum to the full structural changes as advanced here at CompetencyWorks, which are designed to correct the low achievement and inequity of the traditional time-based system. We don’t think about giving credits to kindergartners who already know how to count to fifty when they enter school, instead focusing on where they are on a very long progression and making sure they are learning in their “zone” (as in, the zone of proximal development). (more…)

Breaking Ranks Showcase Schools: Nashua High School North and South

April 13, 2015 by

NSDThis spotlight originally appeared in the CCSR Newsletter.

While they may be rivals on the athletic fields, the learning communities at both Nashua (NH) High School North and Nashua (NH) High School South are very purposeful about staying together as partners in education. It’s been over a decade since the district replaced the single high school with two campuses, but they have recognized from the beginning the power of synergy and collaboration. Both campuses are committed to moving forward together through collaboration and a focus on student outcomes. As Director of Curriculum Peggy Reynolds puts it, “they’re all Nashua kids, and we really feel that.”

The Nashua School District (NSD) has fostered this strong collaborative spirit through focusing on what unites them – the curriculum. Regardless of whether you work at North or South “the curriculum is the curriculum is the curriculum” says Reynolds. Teachers meet regularly both within their school, and across the two campuses to discuss the curriculum. Teachers are committed to developing the curriculum, and corresponding performance tasks, that they themselves wrote. They meet regularly to examine student work and calibrate those performance tasks to ensure they engage students in opportunities to explore greater depths of knowledge within the content. (more…)

It’s Definitely Warming Up in New England

April 8, 2015 by

NESCCThere is still snow on the ground, but people were on fire at the New England Secondary Schools Coalition High Schools in Action annual gathering. The sessions were relatively quiet, but the hallways were buzzing:

  • It is really hard to put down the red pen and stay focused on the few standards that are the goal of the learning.
  • We were told we were preparing, preparing, preparing…and then suddenly we were there. We were performance-based.
  • We learned that trying to mix grading styles was making students crazy. They were always trying to figure out the algorithms used in the computerized grading system. I could barely get them to talk about the quality of their work and accept that applied learning isn’t something you can always do quickly.
  • One of the hardest things for some of my students to accept is that they are expected to actually work hard in a proficiency-based system. For some, the traditional system was really easy – especially if they excel in short-term memorization. It is a shocker that they are expected to actually show they can use all the information they have memorized. They realize they have gaps, and that is scary.
  • Some teachers are still having difficulty with organizing their classrooms in a proficiency-based structure. It’s not based on age or length of time teaching – there is something about the mindset, the ability to move beyond what you experienced growing up and what you were taught to do as a teacher, that allows teachers to make the adjustment more quickly or need more time. (more…)

It Starts with Pedagogy: How Lindsay Unified is Integrating Blended Learning

March 30, 2015 by
Elements of a Blended Learning Environment

Click to Enlarge

This is the fifth post in a series on Lindsay Unified High School. See the firstsecondthird, and fourth posts. 

The first thing you need to know about blended learning at Lindsay Unified School District is that they never use the term blended learning.

Joe Vagt, Director of 21st Century Learning and Technology, explains:

In our process of developing a personalized, performance-based system, we have had rich conversations about pedagogy, instruction, and assessment. We didn’t see blended learning as something new or different – it’s just a way for us to use technology in a way that provides even more opportunities for our learners.

When I went to the pre-conference workshop with Heather Staker at the iNACOL Symposium, it confirmed for me that we had the pedagogical pieces in place. We also already had a strong orientation to learner ownership, offering students choice in how they convey their learning. Essentially, the philosophy of performance-based learning was the same as that of blended learning.

The question we have to ask ourselves now is how to leverage technology to make our philosophy even more viable throughout the district. Technology is another tool to make PBS (performance-based system) a reality.

How is LUSD thinking about using technology to support learning and teaching?  (more…)

An Interview with Brett Grimm: How Lindsay Unified Serves ELL Students

March 25, 2015 by
LUSD

From the LUSD website

This is the fourth post in a series on Lindsay Unified High School. See the first, second, and third posts. 

Tom Rooney, Superintendent of Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD), tells the story of how a father came to the high school after his son had graduated, demanding to know how it happened that his son couldn’t read. It was one of the turning points for Lindsay Unified School District, sparking the transformation to a performance-based system that wouldn’t allow the situation to develop ever again.

I had the opportunity to interview Brett Grimm, Assistant Principal of Curriculum & Instruction at Lindsay High School, on how the district approaches English language learners. His candidness and willingness to share insights is greatly appreciated. Over 30 percent of students at LHS are English language learners. Of the six K8 schools in LUSD, two are dual language.

What does your ELL program look like in a performance-based district? (more…)

Colorado Takes Another Step Forward with a New School in Denver

March 19, 2015 by
Happy Haynes

Happy Haynes, DPS Board President

Colorado is an interesting state to watch as it takes steps – both big and little – toward competency education. Home to Adams 50, the courageous district that moved forward because they knew that there had to be something better for their students, it’s one of the only states to have established a policy for a proficiency-based diploma – by the start of the 2015 school year, every district in the state must pass guidelines so that by 2021 students will meet or exceed minimum thresholds for college and career readiness. These guidelines will “signal proof of competency … rather than merely completion of seat‐time requirements.” (Read more about the graduation guidelines here.) To support this ambitious work, the CO Department of Education has a study group on competency education, including a site visit to Lindsay Unified.

Now Denver Public Schools is taking a step forward with a new competency-based high school. (more…)

An Interview with Principal Jaime Robles, Lindsay High School

March 18, 2015 by
Jaime Robles

Jaime Robles

This is the third post in a series on Lindsay Unified High School. See the first and second posts. 

“I could have used the personalized, performance-based system growing up.”

Jaime Robles, Principal of Lindsay High School, understands why we need to transform our schools. He grew up just a bit south of Lindsay in an agricultural community, a first-generation resident and the first in his family to go to college. He saw many of his high school friends disengage from school.

Here are a few of the highlights of our conversation. You can also hear from Robles directly on this video.

What does it mean to be a principal in a performance-based system?

As an instructional leader, I focus my job on three goals. First, my job is to keep the compelling purpose of supporting our learners alive. It’s easy to slip back into doing things just because that’s the way we’ve always done them. Second, my job is to empower our staff. They need to have the freedom to do their jobs in supporting our learners. Third, I operate from a position of service and collaboration. This is very important because if I used top-down leadership, I wouldn’t be able to empower staff. These three elements go hand in hand.  (more…)

Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning

March 17, 2015 by

Insights from Experts Paper

Today, CompetencyWorks released a new paper, Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning: Insights from Experts. The paper is based on a two-day conversation with twenty-three incredibly insightful people who work in competency education, personalized learning, and blended learning – and the paper only captures a small portion of the rich conversation. (See A Mountain of Knowledge to Climb for more background) There are several parts to the paper, including:

  1. an exploration of the relationship between personalized learning, competency education, and blended learning and the concerns about equity that arise in each;
  2. issues that district leadership will want to consider in managing change, such as providing greater autonomy to schools;
  3. guidance for competency-based schools to enhance their instruction through blended learning; and
  4. how districts that have integrated blended learning can take the next step towards becoming competency-based.

Blended learning can help in competency-based schools in so many ways – sometimes with a tidbit of risk we need to guard against. We all know that high quality adaptive software can be helpful for students to develop their foundational skills.  Blended learning can also help to offer  students the opportunity to take what they are learning and go deeper, or begin to use what they are learning in knowledge creation. These aren’t discrete activities such as extra credit or helping peers. This is the opportunity for students to be highly challenged. Blended learning can be used to offer additional challenging projects that students can take on (call them honor projects, if need be) to strengthen their learning by asking them to further apply their skills to new situations (Level 4 Depth of Knowledge). Students will be able to access the challenges or problem-based learning independently so teachers can stay focused on supporting students who are still struggling to reach proficiency. The risk here is that schools only offer deeper learning to the high-achieving students, which is totally unacceptable. So we need to create both/and – embedding Level 4 work for all students into the school design at some point in the schedule and curriculum, and offering Level 4 work for students who have advanced to proficiency in the unit or course.

Another way blended learning can be helpful is to allow students to advance to the next level of learning once they have reached proficiency on a unit or course.  This requires us to strip the ceiling off the education system by offering units online so students can advance. The risk is that that this will turn into a dynamic that so-called faster students are considered the better students. I’ve already visited schools where students talk about faster and slower students – it was done respectfully but was definitely a way for some students to differentiate themselves from their peers.

There are also challenges in using certain types of online learning in competency-based schools. These are raised in the paper and hopefully vendors will take these into consideration as they further develop their products.

We’d like to hear from you — How is your district/school using blended learning? What are the lessons learned and insights? What would your advise be to districts/schools about how to best implement blended learning to support students build and apply their skills?

 

 

Preparing Students for Life….Not Just College and Careers

March 10, 2015 by

LUSDThis is the second post in a series on Lindsay Unified High School. Click here for the first post.

Lindsay Unified School District has moved beyond preparing students for college and careers – they want to prepare their students for life. Chugach School District also thinks more broadly than the next step to college or careers. Focusing on the skills students will need for life is a good example of personalizing education, as the college/career goal is easily flipped to emphasize what our businesses and economy need for the future: the dynamic, ever-developing, wonderfully imperfect human beings who will shape the next generation of consumers.

Here are a few of the ways Lindsay is creating the capacity to prepare students for life: lifelong learning competencies, plans, projects, and transitional support.

Lifelong Learning Competencies

One of the big – perhaps I should say HUGE – advancements at Lindsay Unified School District is the effort they’ve put into clarifying the lifelong learning competencies they want students to develop before they graduate.

First, they’ve thought about the competencies developmentally with six phases: (more…)

Where to Meet Up with Competency Educators

February 5, 2015 by

AirplaneFor those of you ready to network with your colleagues, there are a few meetings that include competency education in the strands of sessions and speakers.

New England: Coming up soon is the New England Secondary Schools Consortium High School Redesign in Action conference on March 26-27 in Massachusetts. (Note: there are only about 100 spots left.)

Oregon: The Oregon Annual Proficiency Conference co-sponsored by BEC and COSA is scheduled for April 10, 2015. Jaime Robles, Principal at Lindsay High School, is a keynote speaker.

National: The 2015 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium will take place on November 8-11 in Orlando, Florida at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. A request for breakout sessions and workshop proposals opened on February 4th if you would like to share your knowledge and lessons learned. Registration for the Symposium will open in March.   (more…)

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