Tag: resource

Getting Started

January 8, 2013 by
From Maine Ctr for Best Practices

From Maine Ctr for Best Practices

I’ve been getting increased requests from districts and schools looking for consultants or resources to help them get started in the transformation from a time-based to competency-based system.  So I’ve put together a short list of some of the resources that are available to help folks get started (and I’ll keep adding to the wiki as more resources become available). One thing to pay attention to — all the districts that I know about that are getting results were participating with the Reinventing Schools Coalition at some point.

Strategic and Action Plans

Testing Myths

November 30, 2012 by

The word “test” has a negative connotation.  It conjures up images of students sitting in rows, number two pencils, and bubbles.  It feels like long amounts of time, tricky questions, and essays. The test is a difficult task in which one must prove oneself.  The students are the Odysseus, Perseus, and King Arthur, suffering through test after test on a long arduous journey. Teachers are the archetypal meddling Gods, monsters, and dragons of mythology providing one test after another for students to show what they really know. Teachers’ main goal seems to be creating elaborate tasks for students to conquer on their own in order to prove that they are good enough to be marked as having performed satisfactorily.

Assessment can, and, in a successful proficiency-based learning model does, have a much more positive connotation.  Assessing is judging or appraising.  In the case of proficiency-based learning, an assessment is a tool used to judge or appraise a performance against a particular learning target, or standard.  It is about finding evidence that a student knows or is able to do something, then documenting it. Assessments are ways to see if students are “getting it” or not. Students are still our mythic heroes, moving ahead on their journeys, breezing through at times and struggling at others. Teachers are now the archetypal wise man, or guiding sage: Athena supporting Odysseus, Hermes helping Perseus, Merlin guiding King Arthur.  Instead of constantly testing the students they work with, these teachers are constantly judging where students are in their progress toward a learning target, and providing them the support, help, or guidance they need to continue making progress.

Yes, constantly. But remember, it is more like the Arthur-Merlin dynamic.  Assessments must happen constantly in order for teachers to know how students are progressing in their learning and if anything needs to change in the instructional plan.  This is true for one particular student, small groups of students, and even the whole class. When combined with effective feedback and progress tracking tools, constant assessment allows students to take on much more ownership of their learning by making it clear to them where they are in relation to a target, and what they have to do in order to meet that target.

Constant assessment sounds like a huge drain on a teacher’s time, but it doesn’t have to be.  Again, think Athena, not the meddling Greek Gods.  There are ways to craft assessments so that students barely know they are being assessed.  The best assessment, much like the best sage guidance, feels like it is just part of the regular flow of things. It is important for students to apply their skills and knowledge in longer, more complicated tasks, just not all the time.  If we want to be like the mythical wise men and sage guides we have to be ready to give just-in-time support so that we know our heroes will be successful when put to the test; if we wait for the test, it is often too late to provide any meaningful guidance. (more…)


November 26, 2012 by

Thomas Rooney, Superintendent of Lindsay Unified School District

I have received three requests over the past week asking for evidence of success from competency education models.  The truth of the matter is that we are not swimming in proof points. And it is very, very important for our continued work to advance competency education that we generate them. They do have to be more than anecdotal. They don’t have to be a third party random assignment evaluation.

A further complicating matter is that our current approaches to accountability are not designed to easily pick up the fact that students may be getting the help they need to fill academic gaps. Thus an “11th” grade student working to strengthen elementary school level math skills may be “ not proficient” in state tests even if they moved up three grade levels over the year. Perhaps a growth model will pick that up, but what we are finding is that the horrendous gaps generated by passing students along unprepared often challenge the limits of our accountability and assessment systems.

I have collected the few examples of evidence of competency education adding value below. There are a few more that I’m following up on. Please send me any and all that you might have…That way we can keep pulling together a solid argument for competency education.

Chugach (From Delivering on the Promise)

In 1994, the Chugach School District, serving 214 students over 20,000 square miles in impoverished communities, began a fundamental redesign of how they would educate their students. With the courage to confront the fact that 90 percent of their students could not read at grade level and only one student in 26 years had graduated from college, Chugach focused their mission on ensuring that all students learn to high standards. (more…)

Making Mastery Work

November 13, 2012 by

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF) is releasing Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education today. You can find the report here. The report, authored by Nora PriestAntonia Rudenstine, and Ephraim Weisstein, examines several issues through the collected experiences of the ten schools that participated in the Proficiency-based Pathways Project (PBP)  with co-funding from NMEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The PBP grantees are Big Picture Learning, Boston Day and Evening Academy, Diploma Plus, Expeditionary Learning, MSAD #15 otherwise known as Gray -New Gloucester District in Maine, National Center for the Education and the Economy, and Vergennes School District.

Making Mastery Work provides insights into how the schools, all of which have different approaches and are at different stages of development as a competency-based model, are aligning their schools around learning. Topics include the creation of a transparent mastery and assessment system, time flexibility, curriculum and instruction, leadership for competency education development, and the role of data and information technology in a competency-based education model. We’ll be offering webinars in January – March 2013 on these topics so you can hear from the innovators directly. Or check out the wiki to see examples of the tools they use. Stay tuned!

In Making Mastery Work, the authors provide the key characteristics of competency education.  This is an important addition to our understanding as it helps us to better comprehend the nature of competency education and guide us in implementation.

Key Characteristics of Competency Education

1) Students progress at own pace

  • Transparent system for tracking and reporting progress;
  • Flexible, learner-centric use of time, often beyond standard school day and year; and
  • Explicit methods for providing additional support or opportunities for learning

2) Graduation upon demonstration of mastery of a comprehensive list of competencies

  • Courses designed around set of competencies aligned with Common Core State Standards;
  • “Credit” awarded upon mastery of competencies associated with course or smaller module, based on summative assessments; and
  • Transparent system for tracking and reporting progress

3) Teachers skilled at facilitating differentiated learning environments

  • Frequent formative assessments provide real-time feedback to students and teachers on progress toward competencies and help guide instruction; and
  • Development of robust approaches to supporting students as they move through competencies, especially those who progress slowly

What do you think?  Are these the key characteristics that you think about? Are there others you think should be included?


Getting Butts Out of Seats and Kids Out of Ruts

October 30, 2012 by

Take a minute to see the Colorado Legacy Foundation‘s incredible video.  It is a vibey, upbeat, inspiring video that sets the direction for next gen learning.

This video says it all. Thanks to CLF for getting it so-right.

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