May 22, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
As you may know, ACHIEVE has established a Competency-Based Pathways Work Group to examine how competency education may impact assessment, accountability, graduation requirements, and other state policies. Working with leaders from ten states, Cory Curl and Anne Bowles are providing tools, research, and analysis so that state policymakers can assess opportunities to support competency education.
Cory and Anne have just completed site visits to Maine, Kentucky, Illinois, and Colorado, and shared their findings during a webinar (inspiring me to think about sharing insights that way rather than the blog….Hmm, what do you think?) Given that others had visited as well, we shared our insights. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Danville, Kentucky has been getting attention for their project-based learning (See the show on PBS.) They see the ACT as a meaningful metric for determining college and career readiness and are moving toward improving ACT scores based on the college ready benchmarks. Their website explains, “Students are considered to be college-ready by meeting specific benchmark scores for each content-area tested by the ACT. EXPLORE and PLAN also provide benchmark scores that tell us whether or not students are on track to meet those important ACT readiness scores. Scores from these assessments are also included in a school and district’s overall score.” They are now in the process of beginning to weave competency education into their work, keeping a strong focus on equity. (more…)
April 25, 2013 by Gary Chapin
Systems consultant Judith Enright, in the Maine Center for Best Practice video on the Western Maine Education Collaborative, reminds us, “change happens one conversation at a time.” It’s a truism, of course, but in our work promoting competency-based learning, it has met its moment. Again and again – in the case study work I’ve done, or in my own experience talking to teachers, parents and education leaders – I find that the real work of cultural transformation occurs when one person talks to another honestly, and a relationship is forged. One conversation at a time.
Which means a lot of conversations. (more…)
March 22, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
We 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…)
March 13, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Gary Chapin just forwarded me the announcement that the Maine Department of Education’s Center for Best Practice has compiled a Glossary of Proficiency-Based Education in Maine to help educators navigate the shift toward proficiency-based/learner-centered education. The lack of consistency in language is one of the major problems that educators face when implementing such a system. One district’s “standards-based” may be another district’s “proficiency-based” or “competency-based” or “standards-referenced.” One district’s “standard” may be another district’s “performance indicator” or “learning target.”
This glossary was designed specifically for inclusion in the Technical Assistance Plan required by LD 1422. It is not intended to be exhaustive or comprehensive. It is intended to be useful to districts working to implement the proficiency-based diploma.
If your state is creating common language or glossary could you let us know at CompetencyWorks!
March 8, 2013 by Bill Zima
Those who have had the experience of living or working in a large city know the rush of seeing your subway train in the station and believing you can make the dash to the door before they close. Moving and dodging past passengers, you begin to feel great. “I am going to make it,” you think. The crowd begins to cheer. You can already feel the celebration. Will you spike your briefcase or simply do a quick shuffle dance. Then out of nowhere, you smash into something. Your nose is throbbing. After a moment you realize the doors have closed. You can see the driver looking at you with a smile on her face. Not in a mocking way but in an apologetic, “Sorry, the trains must stay on schedule” way. As the passengers glance up, you can sense the sympathy in their eyes. They know that feeling of being on the outside looking in.
The same crushing defeat in our Superbowl of ordinary, time-based challenges could be said for air travel, elevators and rides at Disney World. But it should not be felt by our students in our schools.
February 15, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
I’ve never seen anything like this in all my days of visiting schools and districts — whole district reform designed around a shared vision, similar practices, and such a high degree of transparency. Of course we have a growing number of competency-based schools generating innovative practices, but my visits to Maine and Lindsay California have convinced me that the power of competency education is through aligning all the schools!
You’ll have a chance to hear about how a district is making this shift at our next webinar on February 26th at 3:30 – 4:30. Register here.
Bruce Beasley, Superintendent and Karen Caprio, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development from MSAD 15 or Gray-New Gloucester, Maine will be joining us to take us through their journey.
· Why did MSAD15 decided to embrace a proficiency-based model?
· What was the pre-implementation process?
· What is the overall structure or approach you use in proficiency-based education?
· What were the major issues that developed when you first began to implement proficiency-based education?
· How does your approach vary across elementary, middle and high school?
· What were the major issues that developed in implementation in high school?
If you want to do some background reading before the webinar, MSAD 15 is highlighted in Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education .
January 19, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
from Making Mastery Work
There is something a bit magical about the transformation from time-based/A-F structures to competency-based education. Over and over again students, teachers, parents and administrators discover and rediscover the magic of learning.
All of it starts with creating powerful questions. We all know that our learning is shaped by how we construct questions. In fact QED Foundation includes “Question Making” within their Curiosity and Wonder rubric, one of their essential habits of learning.
Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education helps us understand the questions behind competency-based schools. The authors capture the questions the ten schools use to drive their decision-making as well as the variety of design decisions that each school makes. For example, the questions below guide the overall design of schools, focusing on the mastery and assessment system.
- What are the learning targets or competencies that best represent the skills and knowledge students are expected to master?
- What is the relationship between the program or school’s learning targets, the Common Core State Standards, and other relevant standards? (more…)
December 12, 2012 by Courtney Belolan
In order to get the full experience of this post, please print out and assemble your own teaching and learning Möbius strip as explained in this video, and in the instructions in the box:
1. Make a double sided copy
2. Cut out the strips
3. Tape the two strips together into one long strip
4. Hold an end in each hand, twist, then tape together
5. Draw a line on one side of the paper.
What happened? The line never crossed an edge, but met up with its starting point! A Möbius strip is an object with only one side and no beginning or end.
I see it as a direct analogy for teaching and learning. Practice, instruction, assessment, and application are. These elements cannot be arranged into a definite pattern with a definite beginning or a definite end. Nor can they be teased out from one another without losing their effectiveness. Teaching and learning is a continuous loop with each aspect supporting and strengthening the other.
Keep picturing teaching and learning as a continuous loop. Now, consider how formative assessment is defined. Dylan Wiliam describes formative assessment as “the bridge between teaching and learning.” Marzano states, in the book Formative Assessment & Standards-Based Grading, that formative assessments are “used while instruction is occurring” and refers to Brookhart’s explanation that “formative assessment means information gathered and reported for use in the development of knowledge and skills[…]” The CCSSO defines formative assessment as “a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning.”
December 10, 2012 by Chris Sturgis
from Making Mastery Work
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…)
December 3, 2012 by Bill Zima
Oh the lure of the quick fix. Humans are fascinated with them. Without this attraction, con artists and snake oil salesmen would not be viable professions. We see the desire to solve something quickly in the hero who simply needs to make a single correct decision, and the world is saved.
I recently watched a special commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception by Franco Harris. The host suggested the amazing play led to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dominance in the 1970s. I am pretty sure, however, that the catch did not cause a giant shift in the cosmos allowing for the Steelers to win four Superbowls. In fact, it was a team effort. After all, they did have a defensive line referred to collectively as the Iron Curtain.
It does make for a good story though.
In education, we too are susceptible to the hunt for the one right answer. “This program will raise test scores; all you need to do is have students write more; we need Singapore math; STEM is the key.” While all of these are legitimate arguments for how we can improve instruction, they are only a piece in how we improve learning. Educators need to stop seeking the “Silver Bullet.” It does not exist.
Instead, we need to do the slow and sometimes painful work of developing and effectively executing a strategy. Competency-based education, or Customized Learning, is not an “it” that comes in an easy to install program packet. It requires a shift away from the status quo. What worked for us in my school and district was this:
A process of facilitated conversations amongst all stakeholders that led to the establishment of a philosophical lens through which all decisions pass.
Those that pass are implemented; those that do not are dismissed or adjusted. I will break the statement down into sections to better clarify:
- Process: The strategy should include well scripted actions that help to move your school or district closer to your vision.
- Facilitated Conversations: It is important– almost critical– to use individuals from outside the district who have expertise in leading change. My district has been partnering with the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (RISC) for the past four years.
- All Stakeholders: All people who have an investment in the school need to have their voices heard and offer input into the direction of the system. The decisions should not be driven by people who lack expertise to make the informed choices, but they all should have an input into the bigger picture.
- Philosophical Lens: By gathering the input from the stakeholders, a shared vision of what the perfect school or system looks and sounds like should be created.
- Decisions are passed: When we make a decision for how we will proceed to overcome an identified challenge, we must pass the decision through our lens. If it does not make it through, we seek another solution. Only those things that line with our beliefs are implemented. (more…)