Tag: iowa

The Right Work To Do

February 25, 2014 by
the boxes-jason ellingson

Jason Ellingson

The boxes arrived last week. Those boxes stacked high, full of Iowa Assessment test booklets, answer sheets, and directions for administration. They arrived and are sitting against the far wall of my office – not physically, but philosophically in the way. In two weeks, our students will take those tests. They will spend multiple hours over a course of a week filling in bubbles to demonstrate to the federal and state governments that they have grown academically in content areas like reading, math, science, and social studies. There will be no test on grit or perseverance – except their ability to complete the test without creating a pattern on the answer sheet. There will be no test on creativity – unless they do create a pattern on the answer sheet.

All of this will happen in the midst of a year where my district has truly pushed itself to know the learner better to grow the learner better. We have pushed hard to mold ourselves into what our students need, not mold the students into what we need. We have more teachers that ever using data to revise instruction, using standards-based learning, and thinking about competency-based education. We work toward a new goal of personalized learning in our district – and it is exciting, invigorating, daunting, and … the right work.

So, those boxes sit in my office while I have the pleasure of attending a convening hosted by the Nellie Mae Foundation and KnowledgeWork on the federal accountability framework in light of competency-based education. The convening was a great two days focused on assessment, core CBE principles, the role of the federal government in education, and the unintended consequences of building a new framework that is easy to understand (and which may do more harm to CBE than the current one).

The discussion on accountability traveled far and wide. Some of the main points and questions raised included:

  1. We do not want to see competency education mandated from the federal government. We want to have federal accountability policy be structured to enable competency education and its core principles. (more…)

Getting Started and Scaling Competency-based Education

January 3, 2014 by
Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 8.40.55 AM

Andrea Stewart

Iowa is a state no longer content with the status quo perpetuated by an antiquated educational system. Recent legislation and the work of an appointed state task force comprised of diverse stakeholders have unlocked the potential in proficiency-based learning for Iowa’s students. Inspired by the opportunity to change the nature of learning, ten school districts have joined the Iowa Department of Education and representatives from higher education and Area Education Agencies (AEAs) to engage in collaborative learning, to implement competency-based education (CBE) pathways in their districts, and to develop a state framework for CBE implementation.

As we build capacity in understanding CBE in our district and throughout the state, I am often approached with questions about how to get started or how to scale and sustain the work. I usually respond by asking how many days or hours the person has to engage in that conversation. We laugh, but nothing is further from the truth. The atomistic behaviorism that compels Westernized thinking is a limit to understanding CBE as a transformative systems change. Russ Ackoff believed that if we optimize the performance of parts of a system, we suboptimize the system as a whole. Peter Senge agrees that the leverage is in optimizing the interdependencies of a system. With CBE, the limits to growth are microcosmic and macrocosmic, which make them particularly difficult to recognize, map, and mitigate. As such, it is necessary to both take a balcony view and to roll up our sleeves for work in the trenches as Iowa embraces competency-based pathways.

Question 1: What do people who are new to competency-based education need to know or do?

  1. Start with the “why”—a compelling reason for change—and move out from there to the “how” and the “what”. In Muscatine, we talked about the following: need to disrupt the antiquated system so that it can adapt to 21st century demands; understanding that date of manufacture should not determine a student’s path through her or his education experiences; belief that our students need to be adaptable, entrepreneurial, and resilient, which demands a system that supports those demands and that growth. Spend time on the vision and create a theory of action.
  2. Create a common language through an extensive literature review. This includes definitions of terminology related to CBE as well as defining what CBE is not—deconstructing how this work is not just new terms for what our system has tried before (outcomes-based education from the 70s/80s, for example). This philosophy and methodology are qualitatively different from past paradigms—this needs to be explicated. (more…)

Iowa Competency-based Task Force Release Report

December 13, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 8.26.48 AMIowa has released the final report of the Competency-based Task Force. To remind you, in 2012 Iowa’s state legislature passed legislation (Senate File 2284 and House File 215) to study competency-based instruction and develop a strategic plan. It’s an easy report to review and provides insights into how a state can move forward in competency education. (For those of you who haven’t read it, Necessary for Success provides an overview of how states are advancing policy to catalyze, incubate and support competency education as well).

Below are some of the highlights of the 13 recommendations from the Task Force for the legislature, Department of Education, and other institutions.  It’s helpful to know in reading the recommendations that Iowa has established 4 principles for competency-based education (CBE): (1) Students advance based on proficiency;  (2) Competencies include explicit, measurable, and transferable learning objectives that empower students;(3) Students receive rapid, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs; and (4) Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge along with development of important skills and dispositions. (See Department of Education’s Guidelines for PK-12 Competency-based Pathways.)

  • Expand competency-based credits: Allow students younger than ninth grade to earn credit in any curricular area toward graduation if they complete the requirements for the credit. Current code specifies that such credit can be earned before ninth grade, but only in the curricular areas of English or Language Arts, mathematics, science, or social studies.
  • Model competencies: The Department of Education, the Iowa CBE Collaborative, and other state and national experts should write model competencies that align with the Iowa Core and the universal constructs. In the preliminary report, the Task Force developed a Competency Validation Rubric to help districts develop competency frameworks. (more…)

Lingering Questions #1: Pacing and Supports

July 17, 2013 by

This was originally published on the College & Career Readiness & Success blog.

On June 24th, the American Youth Policy Forum and the College and Career Readiness and Success Center at tlingeringhe American Institutes for Research co-hosted a webinar on “State Implications for Competency-based Education Systems.” Presenters included Kate Nielson, Policy Analyst, National Governors Association; Diane Smith, Director, Teaching and Learning Initiative, Oregon Business Education Compact; Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills, Iowa Department of Education; Carissa Miller, Deputy Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Following the webinar, we collected a series of lingering questions from participants on a range of topics. Their responses to the first of three important questions are below:

In a competency-based system, students have the ability to complete work at their own pace. How have states thought about how to support students who need more time to demonstrate competency? Alternatively, what do states do when students finish early? How can states think about adjusting resources and funding to allow for such a shift?

Jennifer Davis, Director, Innovation Lab Network, CCSSO (responding in place of Carissa Miller) – For students who need more time, most states and districts implementing CBE have outlined mechanisms for knowing when students are struggling and providing them with a variety of supports.  Schools in Maine, for example, keep track of students’ pace against “teacher pace.” When students fall behind teacher pace, additional resources and supports are given.  In Lindsay Unified School District in CA, falling behind pace triggers the co-creation of an individualized learning plan (ILP) outlining the steps and supports the child will pursue to accelerate.  Other states, like Kentucky, mandate an ILP for all students, which helps students, parents, and teachers monitor the child’s progress.  Most states and districts implementing CBE are developing rich banks of digital resources for students to access on-demand.  This, coupled with human guidance through mentors or advisors, provides students with multiple and/or targeted methods for reaching mastery. (more…)

State Paths To A Competency-Based Education Approach

July 16, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 2.07.26 PMThis post was originally published on the College & Career Readiness & Success blog on July 10, 2013.

The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) and the College and Career Readiness and Success (CCRS) Center recently hosted a webinar on implications for state policy in competency-based education systems. The discussion brought together national and state leaders to share what progress has been made in states, what has been learned in doing such work at the state level, and guidance on where other states might begin. The session covered topics ranging from setting a vision, capacity building, policy changes, and assessment and accountability, but what may have been most interesting were the contrasting narratives of scaling approaches across states. There is no standard approach that researchers can yet point to—implementation methods have varied dramatically across contexts, though certain common themes have emerged.

Common Vision

Presenters highlighted a common starting point when moving toward competency-based systems – developing a common vision. As states rationalized the move to a competency-based system, they first needed to come to consensus on what they wanted for all students. In order to achieve  buy-in across a very diverse set of stakeholders, including everyone from teachers to governors and legislators, states have  worked across a wide range of stakeholders in K-12, higher education, and elsewhere to develop a collective vision for what their students should know and be able to do. (more…)

Do You Feel It? Iowans Are Gathering Around CBE

June 24, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 12.56.02 PMIowans are gathering later this week to share their knowledge and ideas for advancing competency education at the CBE Conference:  Define!  Design!  Deliver! sponsored by the Iowa ASCD. As you probably know, the legislature set up a task force to look at the issue, including looking at pilot projects in Muscatine and Spirit Lake.  A final report is due this November with recommendations about how to proceed.

If you are interested, here are some of the highlights of the agenda. Iowans love twitter, so if you are interested you can follow along with the conference on the 26th and 27th.

Dream! Define! Design! Deliver!”
Rose Colby, Competency-Based Learning Specialist

Every teacher’s dream is to have students ready to learn, engaged in their learning, and competent in the demonstration of their learning. Yet, in today’s classrooms, the very nature of the learning environment, the varied levels of student readiness, and the shackles of standardized testing prevent us from realizing this dream. Welcome to competency based learning! In defining the core beliefs of competency based learning, we will look at the macro scale design of learning systems and the micro scale design of curriculum and instruction that supports students who will learn anytime, anywhere, and at their own pace.

“Getting Learning Right the First Time: Building Learner Capacity and Competence”
Jim Rickabaugh, Executive Director of CESA 1, Wisconsin

This session will provide participants with an overview of work underway in Southeastern Wisconsin to build learning capacity and success for all students by personalizing their learning. Participants will be exposed to an empowering way to think about and meet our national achievement challenge. The logic underlying the model will be examined and a powerful change strategy will be shared. Participants will hear examples of amazing results achieved by real students in real schools. This session also will introduce a continuum of skills and strategies to engage and empower learners in ways that build learning ownership and independence.

“Riding the STEM Wave with CBE”
Kari Webb, NW Iowa STEM Regional Manager, Iowa
Lakes Community CollegeThe latest Buzz Word in economic development tied to education reform is STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. Competency Based Education advocates would do well to ride this wave as it gathers momentum (and funding) across the state and nation. Participants will explore the intersection of STEM with CBE, including active learning, upside down pedagogies, outside-of-school learning partnerships.

“Tips, Tools & Schools: Competency-Based Learning”
Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart

The shift from cohorts to competency-based learning is happening in schools across the country. This session will explore how competency education has the potential to connect learning to students’ passions and interests, drawing them toward higher order thinking and, therefore, deeper learning. Suggested Reading: The Shift from Cohorts to Competency (more…)

Gifted and Struggling Alike

February 5, 2013 by
From MCSD website

From MCSD website

The following is the testimony from Andrea Stewart, Gifted and Talented Coordinator for Muscatine Community Schools and member of the State’s Competency-based Education Task Force at the Iowa State Legislature last month.  It is a powerful statement as it demonstrates that competency education can be valuable for students in  gifted/talented programs as well as those who are struggling to catch up.


We are here, not because we have perfected a system of learning for our students, but because we have with us student voices to share how their learning is changing in our pilot CBE classrooms this year. Muscatine is an innovative district supported by bold leaders who recognize that our students’ needs can no longer be met by our antiquated system and that the time for an educational paradigm shift is now. Through deliberate and ongoing engineering, our district is piloting competency-based education in 14 classrooms because it removes the barriers of time and place from our students’ educational experiences—two of the most intractable elements in our schools today. By focusing on the core competencies of each course instead of on the Carnegie unit, our educators have combined fidelity to the Iowa Core with enduring concepts and depths of knowledge that allow students to demonstrate their learning in refreshing, personalized ways. CBE benefits struggling learners who need additional time to master concepts, content, or skills, learners who have graduation requirement deficits, students who are ready to learn anytime, anywhere, gifted and talented learners who progress at ages younger or rates faster than their chronological peers, teachers who are looking for ways to more effectively differentiate the learning taking place both in and out of their classrooms, and administrators who are looking for real-time data and school-wide patterns. (more…)

“CBE allows me to be teacher that I always knew that I could be”

January 29, 2013 by

m“CBE allows me to be teacher that I always knew that I could be and that I should be. It’s allowed me to be a facilitator. Students are now coming to me as a resource rather than as the source of information.” That is what Muscatine High School language arts teacher Chanda Hassett told Iowa’s State Legislative panel about competency-based education.

As reported in an article Competency based education draws rave reviews in Iowa House hearing by Jason Noble in the Des Moines Register website, both teachers and students were enthusiastic about their competency-based pilot. (If you haven’t read it, here Elizabeth Sturm’s student at Muscatine’s reflection on competency education)

I hear the students were incredibly powerful speakers with great insight into competency education.

Halie Osborn, a junior at Muscatine High School testified, “I have a lot of friends in college at this point and they’ve all told me that freshman year is the worst because they don’t know how to study. CBE has taught me how to study.”

It’s reported that Chanda Hasset said she “can’t go back” to teaching the old way. Does this mean that competency education is going to take hold and never let go?


Momentum for Competency Education in Iowa

January 15, 2013 by
Sandra Dop, Iowa Dept of Education

Sandra Dop, Iowa Dept of Education

Iowa’s Competency-based Instruction Task Force has released its preliminary report.  State leadership in Iowa has been calling for competency education for over three years.  This engaging report  provides recommendations for how the state should move forward.  With a meeting being organized in June, momentum is building in Iowa.

One of the questions that comes over and over again are what are the ways we should be thinking about the metrics that could be helpful in guiding implementation and benchmarking districts and schools.  It’s a tough question and needs a thoughtful approach.  The Iowa report starts to give a glimpse at some of these process and outputs as it reviews the findings from researchers that visited the two districts charging forth on competency education, Spirit Lake and Muscatine (see Elizabeth Sturm’s post, a senior at Muscatine High).

In Muscatine researchers looked at grades, the distribution of students based on where they were on learning progressions (remediation, intensive interventions, and acceleration) and opinions of teachers.

The district and community were increasingly concerned about a graduation rate that fluctuated below the state average. Following implementation of the pilot projects, zero percent of students earned Ds or Fs in competency-based education classrooms, compared to 38 percent of all students in the 2011-12 school year. Additional data points expand the positive impact of competency-based education:

  • Six percent of the students engaged in learning contracts or short-term remediation to reach proficiency prior to the end of a term;
  • Four percent of the students needed intensive remediation, which required additional time beyond the term;
  • Three percent of the students were able to accelerate their learning through content or a course;
  • Teacher support for the methodology was rated at 85 percent, as evidenced through a district-wide survey following building presentations in the fall of 2012. (more…)

A Student Reflection on Competency Education

Screen Shot 2013-01-10 at 1.42.53 PM

Elizabeth Sturms

The following was originally posted on The Iowa Forum on Competency-Based Education. Elizabeth Strum, a senior at Muscatine High School, reflects on competency based education in response to a question in the application for the Presidential Scholarship at University of Iowa: Tell us about an idea or an experience you have had that you found intellectually engaging. Describe specifically how the idea or experience engaged and affected you, as well as its significance.

Imagine you are given the opportunity to redesign education with no limitations. You can eliminate what no longer works to create a new education system from scratch. This may sound far-fetched, but I was blessed with this amazing opportunity toward the end of last school year when I was invited by district members as one of six students to be a part of the design team for a new methodology called competency-based education (CBE). CBE is an innovative way of educating where the primary focus is not seat time, but rather demonstration of understanding of the Iowa Core standards. My role on the design team included attending meetings during the school year and summer to voice my opinions on what was being discussed in the process of designing a plan for CBE. At the first meeting I felt reserved about CBE. I grew up in a traditional classroom so my mind was stuck there. I was stubborn about changing what I was comfortable with, but as I attended more meetings I realized the many benefits that CBE would provide, and that change in our education system was long overdue. Everything from trends to technology have evolved from my grandparents’ time to my time—even from my parents’ time to my time—but education has remained the same, which is a disservice to my generation. We are receiving an old-world education to prepare us for new-world times; however CBE is the solution to this gap in education. I am honored to be a part of this team that is enhancing and shaping my education as well as the future education of all students who attend Muscatine High School. (more…)

WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera