<a href="http://real.bacademy.org/" target="_blank">Responsive Education Alternatives Lab</a> (REAL) Summer Institute July 8-11. Boston Day & Evening Academy staff share their work with competency-based education and assessment to broaden the discussion about personalized learning.
Quality Performa<a href="http://www.qualityperformanceassessment.org/professional-development/summer-institute/" target="_blank">nce Assessment (QPA) Summer Institute</a> July 15-18. Center for Collaborative Education walks participants through the effective use of performance assessments to implement Common Core State Standards and other important frameworks.
<strong>Register Now!</strong> iNACOL Symposium, Orlando, FL 10/27 -30. Competency Education Strand with Pre-conference Workshop 10/27 and CompetencyWorks Community of Practice breakout session track 10/27-10/30,. Meet-up with peers from across the country Sunday evening 10/27 in Competency Education Lounge during President's Reception.
Check out the <a href="https://sites.google.com/site/competencybasedpathways/" target="_blank">Wiki</a> for previous webinars:
<a href="https://sites.google.com/site/competencybasedpathways/home/resources/aligning-competencies-with-the-common-core" target="_blank"><em>Aligning Competencies with the Common Core for Off-Track Youth, </em></a>
<em><a href="https://sites.google.com/site/competencybasedpathways/home/resources/creating-a-transparent-mastery-and-assessment-system-creating-systems-of-assessments" target="_blank">Creating Systems of Assessments</a></em>
<em><a href="https://sites.google.com/site/competencybasedpathways/home/resources/student-experience-pacing-and-personalization" target="_blank">Student Experience: Pacing and Personalization</a></em>
<em><a href="https://sites.google.com/site/competencybasedpathways/home/resources/spanning-the-grades–a-look-at-elementary-middle-school-and-high-school-competency-based-models" target="_blank">Spanning the Grades: A Look At Elementary, Middle School And High School Competency-Based Models</a></em>
<em><a href="https://sites.google.com/site/competencybasedpathways/home/resources/re-engineering-for-competency-education-information-technology-design-consideration" target="_blank"> Re-Engineering Information Technology: Design Considerations for Competency Education</a></em>
<em><a href="https://sites.google.com/site/competencybasedpathways/home/resources/the-learning-edge-supporting-student-success-in-a-competency-based-learning-environment" target="_blank">The Learning Edge: Supporting Student Success in a Competency-Based Learning Environment </a></em>
<em>How State Educational Leaders are Advancing Competency Education b</em>
<strong>New! </strong><a href="http://www.knowledgeworks.org/competency-education-series-policy-brief-one" target="_blank">An Emerging Federal Role for Competency Education</a> by KnowledgeWorks
<strong>New! </strong><a href="http://www.competencyworks.org/resources/briefing-papers/">Necessary for Success: Building Mastery of World-Class Skills – A State Policymakers Guide to Competency Education</a>, a CompetencyWorks Issue Brief
<a href="http://www.competencyworks.org/resources/briefing-papers/">Re-Engineering Information Technology: Design Considerations for Competency Education</a>, a CompetencyWorks Issue Brief
<a href="http://www.digitallearningnow.com/dln-smart-series/" target="_blank">The Shift from Cohorts to Competency</a> by Digital Learning Now!
<a href="http://www.all4ed.org/" target="_blank">Strengthening High School Teaching and Learning in New Hampshire’s Competency-Based System</a> by Alliance for Excellence Education
<a href="http://www.competencyworks.org/resources/briefing-papers/">The Learning Edge: Supporting Student Success in a Competency-Based Learning Environment</a>, a CompetencyWorks Issue Brief
<a href="http://www.competencyworks.org/resources/making-mastery-work/">Making Mastery Work</a> published by Nellie Mae Education Foundation
This week, I had the pleasure of meeting with the folks at the Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA) in Roxbury, MA. I always enjoy visiting with practitioners and students, as they offer great insights into what’s working and what isn’t, something I don’t always get in my own day-to-day activities.
Two things struck me about my visit and I want to write about both of them. The first thing that became very obvious early in the visit is how wonderfully simplistic their model is. They begin with the standards — once the Massachusetts state standards, and now the Common Core State Standards — and unpack the set of standards into more accessible competencies that are easily understood by students, parents, and teachers. From those competencies, they create course-specific benchmarks that students must meet in order to earn the distinction of being competent or highly competent in a given course. Students are assessed upon enrollment in BDEA to determine “where they are,” an individual education plan is created for each student, and each student is given the time, resources, and support they need to become competent in the material. I don’t mean to suggest that the work of unpacking standards and creating competencies is simple…to be sure, it isn’t. But the model itself is simple and completely logical; something I think we can all agree is sometimes missing from our education system today. (more…)
We often think of innovation as an urban phenomena, a natural outgrowth of concentration of an industry, strong peer networks, and competition driving toward excellence. However, Lindsay, California shows us that innovation can take place anywhere, even in a town of 12,000, beribboned by orange groves at the edge of California’s Central Valley.
The Lindsay Unified School District is well on their way to transforming their entire system to a personalized, performance-based system. The conversations among district management teams vibrate with how they can fully implement a system in which all students are able to achieve. Students are part of the process – taking advantage of the new possibilities and helping to solve problems as they pop up. The high school began implementation in 2009 and they are now beginning to roll it out to middle and elementary schools.
This case study will be in two parts. This initial post will be on the design elements and the second part will be on the big take-aways from my site visit.
Lindsay is partnering with the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC), so many of the design elements will be familiar to those who have visited Maine or Adams 50.
Overarching Design: LUSD describes their system as performance-based: “In a performance-based system, students work at their performance level and advance through the curriculum when they have demonstrated proficiency of the required knowledge or skills.” LUSD identifies the following benefits of a performance-based system. Note they use the phrase “learner” instead of student and “facilitator” instead of teacher. (more…)
Based on school visits across the country, I have come to believe that competency education needs a large dose of personalization to bring it to life. In Maine where personalization is the leading policy concept, proficiency-based education and student voice and choice are being integrated as standard operating practices. However, in district-run high schools I visited in other states that don’t lead with personalization, competency education classrooms often lack that pride of learning that comes when students own their education. We need to build on the combination of what personalization and competency education together can offer if we are going to truly transform our education system into a place where everyone can succeed.
However, it’s hard to untangle the relationship between competency education and personalization, as the “field” of personalization hasn’t created a common understanding of what personalization is, and the variety of ways we can personalize education. I’ve often resorted to a basic Venn diagram where I’ve come to the conclusion that competency-based education is inherently personalized in terms of differentiated responses to students when they get stuck or fall behind, as well as offering flexibility in time. And it enables personalization by offering explicit competencies and rubrics. Looking at it through the lens of personalization, one can have many forms of personalization without competency-based practices. Some argue that personalization requires competency education in order to ensure equity. (more…)
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).
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…)
Time is one of the most precious commodities in a school, and students should know how to spend their time wisely. Students frequently expect their teachers to direct all of their time, and they assume that they are free to hang out or socialize if they don’t perceive that they have been specifically directed. This underlying assumption is so pervasive in many school cultures that it isn’t even recognized as a problem. It is, however, a key competency—and independent time management is almost a requirement in a competency-based classrooms.
Teachers universally agree that there is not enough time in the day to do all of the things that are expected. Part of that time crunch stems from the fact that whole class instruction is still a prevalent mode of delivery, and this method inherently wastes a lot of time. Teachers gravitate to whole class instruction because it offers a sense of control and it is easier to manage. Our experience has told us that kids who aren’t being managed are likely to be off task. This doesn’t have to be the case, but it does require some explicit changes in the way that adults talk to students about time.
Teachers have to understand that kids passively wait to be directed because that’s what they have been taught to do. In order to have kids understand that they are responsible for active learning at all times, they have to be taught this expectation and they have to be taught how to manage their time. In my own classroom, I see students in grade 5-8 for a quarter every year. The first time that they come to my room, they sit down and wait for something to happen. That is probably what they do everywhere, but I want them to learn to get their work out as soon as they arrive. That means that I have to devote time to creating an activity that young students, who possess limited executive skills, can initiate independently, and I have to prompt them repeatedly at each arrival. Eventually, they start to get it, and I no longer have to tell them to get started without me. Of course, they are only in my class for a quarter of the year, so they need a little reminder when they come to class the next year, but, in the end, they know that they are expected to get to work as soon as they arrive in my room. Students who are in other classes where this is the expectation find it easier to become self-directed, primarily because the expectation is reinforced by multiple adults in various situations. Those students come to expect that it is their responsibility to get to work. (more…)
Students who are caught up in what they are doing don’t need to be managed, and students who succeed become self-propelling. If you can find a way to make your students’ work personal and meaningful, they will offer extraordinary efforts in the classroom. They willingly pursue challenges that personally matter to them.
I once had a student, Average Joe, who put in no more effort than was necessary for him to ensure that he was eligible to play sports. He was a nice kid, but he didn’t find art exciting. Then I decided to see if I could get my students more engaged by letting them make all of the decisions about their projects. I still identified the concept that they needed to demonstrate, but I let the students design the work that they wanted to do in order to show that they understood the skills and concepts.
The result was that most of the students did better quality work than they had ever done. Average Joe’s engagement was the most startling because he had to publicly defend his change of attitude to his peers. Some of his classmates were perplexed by his sudden dedication to art, but he told them plainly that what he was doing was “his” and because it was his, he wanted it to be “right.” That day, I saw the real power of engagement. I saw Average Joe intrinsically motivated. (more…)
At a recent meeting sponsored by iNACOL to think deeply about competency and assessment, we talked about what impact the last few decades of learning science should have on doing the best job planning and using competencies for learning.
The good news is the learning science lines up with the idea of personalizing instruction, and the pace of instruction, for individual learners: they’re likely to be more motivated, and more successful, if they can work and master at different rates, doing different things, to get to the same competencies.
However, not every way you could conceive of making learning personalized is likely to match how learning and expertise actually work. Let’s look at a few examples of how learning science can guide us: (more…)
The following was written by Brian M. Stack, Principal; Michael Turmelle, Assistant Principal / Curriculum; Ann Hadwen, Assistant Principal / Freshman Learning Community; Michelle Catena, Guidance Director; and Vicki Parady-Guay, Athletic Director
Sanborn Regional High School had a very successful 2011-2012 school year in which it was recognized at local, state, and national levels for its work in school redesign for the twenty-first century. The school strives to become one of the premiere high schools in the State of New Hampshire and beyond. Using a competency-based grading and reporting system is one way the school personalizes learning for all students, but it is only part of a bigger picture. To move forward, the school has developed a master plan for redesign that is based on three pillars for success.
Pillar #1 – Learning Communities: Our learning communities work interdependently to achieve successful student performance for which we are collectively responsible and mutually accountable.
The term “learning community” describes a collegial group of administrators and/or school staff who are united in their commitment to student learning. They share a vision, work and learn collaboratively, visit and review other classrooms, and participate in decision-making. At our school, all staff belong to one or more learning communities that are based on a shared content and/or grade-level. Teams use student learning, specifically the mastery of school and course-level competencies, as a foundation for their work. (more…)