February 5, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
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…)
January 29, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
“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?
January 15, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
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…)
by 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…)
October 25, 2012 by Shawn Cornally
The following is reposted from Shawn Cornally from Febuary 2012.
Angel Wilford talks about the frustrations of a class without competency education in the video available below.
This Friday my classroom was visited by a few Iowa-state legislators. Our school is receiving attention for its work on assessment reform, which is by no means limited to what’s happening in my classroom. Even the most entrenched traditional teachers are experimenting with how they assess, and that means students are engaged with the meta-work of how education is done.
The legislators talked to a panel of teachers and students for about 90 minutes. The students were convincing, the teachers were passionate, and I think everyone left with the impression that schools everywhere should benefit form the successes and failures we’ve had here at Solon:
Failure:Reassessment frenzy. This needs to be controlled and philosophically sound. The students can’t still be addicted to points when you introduce student-initiated reassessments (this took 2 years to hash out)
Success: Students are reporting more retention and enjoyment of school in general. They’re saying things like, “I know what I know.” This is a positive change from how it used to be.
Failure: Students try not to do any practice or studying because it’s not worth credit. It can take up to two months for them to mature, depending on their age. That’s a lot of time.
Success: Students eventually learn that studying and homework are just what normal people call “learning.” (more…)
September 28, 2012 by Chris Sturgis
One of the most dynamic public discourse underway in competency education right now is the research and reflection occurring in Iowa. In May, Iowa state policymakers opened up the door to competency education innovation while also offering a mechanism to build vision and strategic direction with its Task Force.
With the use of blogs and a public Forum on Competency-based Education, Iowa educators are openly reflecting and discussing what it means to commit to all students’ learning by focusing on competencies and flexible resources (including time).
- There is a principal in Nodaway Valley, asking What If?
- There is constant reflection and sharing of resources at the Forum on Competency-Based Education.
- There are bloggers on CompetencyWorks sharing their questions and reflections as they move forward including Justin Ballou, Mandi Bozarth, Shawn Cornally, Jason Ellingson, Josh Griffith and Kari Webb. (more…)
September 26, 2012 by Chris Sturgis
From Adams 50 website
Over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations with district and state leadership about introducing competency education through different entry points and roll-out strategies. There are certainly many strategies – looking for natural leadership, as in Muscatine, Iowa; transforming credits from time-based to competency-based, like in New Hampshire; or opening the door to credit flexibility, like in Ohio. And many opportunities—improving graduation rates, educating over-age and under-credited students, and online learning.
What’s missing from these conversations is the opportunity for communities, educators, and parents to learn about competency education and decide for themselves whether it is the way they want to go. It’s hard to balance district and state leadership with an empowered process in which communities are part of the decision-making. Usually we depend on getting “buy-in,” which is essentially a marketing strategy rather than an engagement strategy.
That’s not the case in the districts described in the case studies available at the Center for Best Practices at the Maine Department of Education. These districts invested heavily in engaging educators, parents, and the broader community. Educators even had the chance to vote whether or not their schools would embrace competency education. According to the case studies, this unleashed the full creativity and determination of school personnel to shape very dynamic processes in which students were much more empowered.
Adams 50 also invested heavily in community engagement. They were able to sustain a leadership transition because community leaders, parents, and educators understood the value of the competency education reform, even when they weren’t yet seeing results. (Check out the Adams 50 website that describes their Competency-based System.)
So I’m left wondering: Is engaging educators and community the first step that we need to take in every community to build the environment for effective and sustained competency education?
August 28, 2012 by Chris Sturgis
I don’t think there is a word for it…probably time to make one up. I just love the feeling of “a-ha!” – when I get an itsy-bitsy glimpse of understanding about our world and our work. I had two “a-ha!s” when I caught a glimpse into the Muscatine Community School District’s (Iowa) efforts in competency education.
The Muscatine Journal covered a school board meeting where a competency education pilot was described.
It starts in the classroom: Muscatine has 26 volunteer teachers that are going to pilot competency education in their classrooms. They are from elementary, middle and high school as well as their alternative school. They are doing their own research and figuring out how to integrate standards-based grading into their classrooms. (more…)
July 11, 2012 by Josh Griffith
If you could build a student information system for a Competency Based Learning System what would it be able to do? I have been thinking a lot about this lately and have been wondering if there is something out there that will do everything we need. Or does something new need to be built? Below I outline everything that I would like to see in a student information system.
1) Log progress and mastery of standards, benchmarks, and competencies.
I say progress because it would be great to see what standards, benchmarks, and competencies a learner is currently working on as well as how long they have been working on them. It would be nice to see a percentage bar notifying what percentage of the standards or benchmarks have been completed for a competency or course. With the inclusion of a percentage bar it would make it much easier to see when a student is struggling because they have stopped making progress. It would also be nice to have a time stamp indicating when they started working on those specific standards, benchmarks, and/or competencies. (more…)