Tag: higher education

Colleges commit to accepting proficiency-based diploma

November 15, 2013 by

270px-Maine_in_United_States.svgThe Maine Department of Education posted the following update on how colleges are responding to a proficiency-based diploma.  The Great Schools Partnership with a cadre of high schools and colleges is also making substantial progress on designing a proficiency-based diploma. Stay tuned for more! 

A frequently asked question relating to Maine’s move to a proficiency-based diploma by 2018 is “Will colleges and universities accept proficiency-based transcripts?”

When initially considering the proficiency-based diploma bill, the Legislature’s Education Committee specifically heard testimony from representatives of higher education on this question and were satisfied enough that they voted unanimously to recommend passage.

Since then, many districts have also done their own research to satisfy themselves that colleges and universities will indeed accept such transcripts.

Additionally, the New England Secondary Schools Consortium (of which Maine is a partner) recently asked colleges and universities in member states to sign a pledge endorsing proficiency-based practices and assuring that no applicant is disadvantaged by coming from a school that uses standards-based reporting and transcripts. To date, 48 colleges and universities have signed the pledge, and that number continues to grow.

Recent Maine high school graduates are proof positive of that commitment from higher education. For example, the high schools of RSU 2 graduated their second class of seniors with a proficiency-based diploma last year and reports that they now have students attending many of Maine’s leading schools including the University of Maine, Bowdoin, Bates, UMaine at Farmington, Husson University and all of the community colleges. Additionally, their graduates are also attending colleges and universities throughout the country, including Hofstra University (NY), Boston College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Columbia College of Chicago, Keene State University (NJ), Rochester Institute of Technology, Eastern University (PA), Portland State University (OR), Arizona State University, University of Rochester, Emerson College (MA), Wheaton College (MA), Wentworth Institute of Technology (MA), Roanoke College (VA), Mt. Holyoke College (MA) and others.

For more information about Maine’s efforts to graduate every student prepared and the transition to a proficiency-based diploma, visit www.maine.gov/doe/proficiency.


Congressional Hearings on Competency Ed in Higher Ed

July 10, 2013 by
Chairman Kline

Chairman Kline

Just in case you want to listen in to the House Education and the Workforce Committee hearings “Keeping College Within Reach: Improving Higher Education through Innovation starring Scott Jenkins, WGU; Pam Tate, CAEL; and, Burck Smith, StraighterLine — click her for the archived video.

Higher education is more constrained by federal policy than is K-12 in terms of the credit hour and allowing students to accelerate their learning. Even though the time-based system doesn’t ensure quality, the federal government is nervous about moving beyond the credit hour without other quality assurance measures in place.  Thus, there is some talk of demonstration projects to allow for deeper understanding of how competency-based college might work.

A big issue for higher education is creating the capacity for students to be credentialed based on prior learning assessments — essentially to get credit for what they know. For K-12 the bigger issue is gaps in learning assessment to make sure that students get the chance to build strong foundational skills that will prepare them for more advanced studies.





Time’s Up: US Department of Education Approves First College to Ditch the Credit Hour

April 22, 2013 by


For more than 100 years, the time-based credit hour has been the currency of higher education. Originally created to calculate eligibility for Andrew Carnegie’s free faculty pension system, the credit hour evolved to become much more. Entire systems have been built around and upon the time-based credit hour, including the economic lifeblood of many colleges and universities—federal financial aid. But today, the U.S. Department of Education approved Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) College for America (CfA) to be the first program in the country to receive federal financial aid based on “direct assessment” of student learning, rather than the credit hour. This move from the federal government could signal a new era for higher education—one in which we value and pay for learning rather than time. (more…)

Collegiate Endorsement of Proficiency-Based Education and Graduation

March 22, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 1.56.25 PMWe all know higher education plays a big role in designing and institutionalizing competency education, including alignment of admissions policies, increased access to competency-based dual credit courses, and teacher preparation, as well as building competency-based systems within their own organizations.

We are starting to see higher education formally take on this responsibility.  Here are two examples (and let us know what is going on in your state):

1) Today, March 22 at the High School Redesign in Action Conference, 25 institutions of higher education in New England have formally endorsed proficiency-based education. These institutions include: (more…)

What Happens Once a Student Reaches Proficiency?

January 2, 2013 by
from Making Mastery Work

from Making Mastery Work

During my travels in Maine last fall to three districts in the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning that are well on their way to fully implementing competency education, an interesting question popped up during conversations with students:  What happens once a student reaches proficiency? As I talked to students, they all had different responses to how they used the time that is built into the school day (reading The Learning Edge for more information about how districts are embedding support time):

Faster:  Amidst a gaggle of 7th grade boys, one student clearly liked to power ahead in math.  He emphasized it was only in math (his father was a math teacher) and that he was at “teacher-pace” in his other courses. If he had extra time in the class or in the day he would work on his math. Once he reached proficiency (usually described as a 3 or above), he would move on to the next unit as the learning targets, curriculum modules, and resources were available online.

Better:  In a conversation at a high school, two young women, self-described best friends, discussed how they have a competition among themselves.  They aim to get “4’s” on all assessments, in all classes, all the times.  If they have extra time in the day they work on whatever topics they needed to in order to demonstrate the application of their learning beyond what was taught in the classroom to their teacher.

Passion:  One young man, showing the slumped body language of disengagement, simply said that he does the minimum as he isn’t interested in school. He aims for a 3 at teacher-pace. With his art notebook always at his side, he uses an extra time to do the one thing he really likes – drawing.

Fun: A quiet young woman told me that it was doing the work to get a 4 that was the fun part of school. She felt that she could be creative, explore something new, apply the learning in a way that was meaningful to her.  From what I can tell, the option of a 4 was a door to the joy of learning.  (Check out the video The Box to see what this can mean for students).


Cracking the Credit Hour

September 6, 2012 by

Cracking the Credit Hour from the New American Foundation is a fascinating read.  It outlines exactly why higher education needs to make the leap to competency education. It points out the standard unit is in fact not standard at all. It explains why competency education has become such a hot issue in higher education policy circles.  It’s a must read.

The Birth of the Credit Hour: The report explains the emergence of the Carnegie unit, “American secondary schools expanded dramatically around the turn of the 20th century, swelling the ranks of high school graduates. That meant a commensurate rise in the number of students applying to college, which created a dilemma for college admissions officers. It was hard to know what level of preparation, knowledge, and skill was really represented by all the new high school diplomas. In the late 1800s, the National Education Association endorsed the concept of a “standard unit” of time that students spent on a subject as an easy-to-compare measure.” This later became the Carnegie unit as higher education adopted the time-based framework for itself spurred on by Andrew Carnegie’s efforts to establish pensions for college faculty.

By 1938, the Carnegie Foundation had already realized the mistake that had been made. And here we are 74 years later still locked in by an education response to an increase in demand over 100 years ago. (more…)

Assessment of Learning with Competency-Based Grading

August 13, 2012 by

From SRHS website

This past spring, two members of my administrative team at Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, New Hampshire had the opportunity to present our school’s competency-based grading and reporting system to admissions representatives from each of the New Hampshire Colleges and Universities. A very interesting conversation unfolded when the team passed out two competency-based report cards from two students at our school. Both students had earned a final grade of an “80” in their Forensic Science class, but both had very different grades in each of their competencies for that particular course. One had an “exceeding” grade of 95 for the crime scene management competency (students will demonstrate the ability to use and understand how observation is used in order to collect and gather evidence in scene investigation). The other student had an “inconsistent progress” grade of a 75 for the same skill. This evidence suggests that one student perhaps had a more complete understanding of the scientific inquiry process that goes into a forensics investigation, while the other still had work to do to bring that skill to competency.

The ability to be able to “dig deeper” into what a final grade represents and how it can be used to report learning not only intrigued the admissions officers, but it generated an entire discussion around what else a competency-based grading and reporting system could do for students. Indeed, this model should be the way of the future for all high schools. Our school made the leap from a traditional to a competency-based model over a period of about three years, and I challenge you to explore how you might make the same leap at your school. (more…)

Competency Education in Higher Education: Taking the First Steps

June 14, 2012 by

Last week I attended a Center for American Progress event on competency-based education from the perspective of postsecondary education. I was interested to hear that the US Department of Education is paying close attention to developments in this burgeoning field. Eduardo Ochoa, the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, pointed out three models currently being pursued by higher education institutions:

  1. Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) using competency-based systems to structure courses and assessments within the traditional credit-based model by mapping competencies back to the credit hour. (more…)

WGU paves the way with competency-oriented system architecture

May 31, 2012 by

A decade ago states might have struggled to imagine the data system they would need to support the transition from a seat-time to competency-based education structure for K-12 students. But over the past several years, an unconventional post-secondary institution has invented just such a system from scratch. Its pioneering work offers a powerful design template for K-12 technology leaders at the state level to follow.

Western Governors University (WGU) enrolled its first 30 students in 1999. Today it has over 30,000 students and an annual growth rate of roughly 30 percent for the past 5 years. Its model is unique; students learn completely online and graduate as soon as they have mastered the required competencies in their degree plans. No lecture halls, no attendance records, no homework—just a series of assessments to verify specific competencies.

A few years after its launch, WGU began implementing a complex information system to manage the enormous amount of data required to test and track competencies among thousands of students. (more…)

DC Panel on Competency Education in Higher Education

May 29, 2012 by

The interest for competency education is growing in higher education as well as K-12.  For those of you in the DC area you might want to check out the Center for American Progress discussion June 7, 2012, 10:30am – 12:30pm (you’ll need to rsvp – admission free – and get there early ). If anyone attends, we’d love to hear the highlights of the conversation.

Here is the info from CAP. (more…)

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