June 10, 2014 by Anthony Kim
In working with over 100 schools across the country on new approaches to integrating instruction and technology in order to personalize learning, we’ve learned a lot about school models.
For decades, many schools have looked to digital content and online instruction primarily as a way to move students on one axis, below grade level to at grade level or at grade level to above grade level. This is demonstrated by the proliferation of credit recovery programs as well as the massive use of programs like Khan Academy. Often, the use of these programs for individual students is geared towards having students start at one point and complete tasks at a level of proficiency to get to another point (Figure 1, click on images for larger view).
The blended learning approach and subsequent new school models start to look at two axes, with x-axis being the one we already discussed, levels of learning (and acceleration of learning content), and the y-axis being the depth of learning (Figure 2). For example, we often show a three group rotational model and associate the potential of these rotations to focus on different levels of Bloom’s (Figure 3). You can also apply Webb’s Depth of Knowledge here, but in this example, we will use Bloom’s for consistency. The independent station is great for students to learn at their own pace to be introduced to or practice new skills using adaptive digital content, which emphasizes the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy – remembering and understanding. At the small group instruction station, students receive instruction from the teacher to learn to apply and analyze skills. The project/collaboration station is great for students to work together on projects and develop mastery (evaluating and creating). [As a note, we can describe other models using the same approach, but I’m using the rotational model since it’s the easiest to describe.]
June 4, 2014 by Julia Freeland
From USC Hybrid High School web site
Originally posted June 3, 2014 at Christensen Institute.
Last week I had the privilege of visiting the USC Hybrid High School (HHS), a new charter school in Los Angeles and winner of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenges grant. HHS is pursuing a blended and competency-based model—that is, the school is leveraging technology to deliver some academic content online and building opportunities for students to advance upon mastery, rather than according to hours of instruction. HHS has seen numerous iterations over its past two years in existence (EdSurge’s Mary Jo Madda did a great write-up of these changes earlier this year).
For example, last year the school used Apex Learning almost exclusively to drive a flex blended-learning model (wherein online learning is the backbone, and teachers work with students one-on-one and in groups on projects and tutorials). Now, in its second year, the school has shifted away from a single-provider model to instead making teachers the primary designers of the blended-learning models in their individual classrooms by using a wider range of tools. The school is also putting its money where its mouth is in this design: each teacher receives a stipend to purchase his own software products according to his particular course(s) and tastes. (more…)
April 2, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
This is the second of a two-part series on Making Community Connections Charter School. Click here for Part 1.
In our traditional system, students progress in age-based cohorts, with most students progressing regardless of what they know and some being retained to repeat a year. Competency education expects students to get the support they need so that they are proficient, offering flexibility as needed, such as allowing students to continue to focus on gaps or areas where they are not yet proficient (i.e. competency recovery) in the summer or the coming school year. The challenge for the school is to keep students on track AND provide flexibility to ensure they become proficient, which means rapid response when students struggle and more intensive interventions as needed.
Making Community Connections Charter School (MC2) has a different understanding of what it means to be on track. It’s not just an arrow, angling up at 45 degrees. It’s the J curve, which predicts that as students become more mature, with the habits to be successful learners, they will take off and learn on a much steeper trajectory. Under this theory of learning, how does MC2 make sure students are on track and progressing? (more…)
April 1, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
This is the first of a two-part series about Making Community Connections Charter School. Click here for Part 2.
“As a learner, I grew in the way a fire would if you sprayed gasoline on it.” – From a student’s graduation portfolio
That’s what Making Community Connections Charter School (MC2) is all about –creating dynamic learners. At MC2, serving grades 7-12 in Manchester, New Hampshire, it feels like they wiped the slate clean of all the traditional ideas of what makes a school and started to design the school from scratch. It’s deeply student-centered in its design and operations. Its theory of change is built upon a deep understanding and appreciation of adolescent development, motivation, and learning sciences. MC2 is a model that will work for any student. At its center, it is designed around the kids who are educationally challenged (about 35% of MC2 students are classified as having special education needs), have already had a tough time in life by age 14, who have felt betrayed by the adults in their lives, and are drawing from their own reservoirs of stubborn hope that things can get better.
This case study on MC2 is broken into two parts. The first is on the design principles and the theory of action driving the school. The second is on how students progress and the implications for teachers. (more…)
March 13, 2014 by Chris Sturgis
A Denver Public Schools staffer asked me the other day, “Why aren’t schools innovating more, even when they have waivers that come with innovation status?”
A number of elements of our system seem intransigent – annual calendars, bell schedules, sequencing of courses, to name a few. We are probably going to have to find examples of innovating around each one to free up our minds for what is possible.
For example, we’ve highlighted PASE Prep, which is experimenting with eliminating the bell schedule. Anyone know of another example of schools that are freeing themselves from bells and the idea of students moving from one course to another at the same time for the next dose of instruction?
(An aside on the use of language: According to Ed Week, kids moving from one class to another is called platooning, which is a bit disconcerting. There are so many collective nouns we could have built upon to describe children moving onto the next learning task. How about fleeting, herding, quivering, swarming or flocking? Language that captures that incredible energy of children learning might inspire us – think of a chattering of starlings, or a murmuration of starlings, filling up the skies with their dance?)
In a new report, Cost-Effective Strategies for Extending Learning Time and Expanding Opportunity in K-12 Education, Generation Schools describes how they reconstructed the daily and annual schedule to provide 30% more learning time while keeping annual working time for teachers the same as the traditional model. And they are getting results. (more…)
December 30, 2013 by Rose Colby
Recently a group of teachers was working on performance tasks and assessments. They were aligning their units of study to competencies based on the Common Core State Standards. An interesting conversation erupted in the group. It was clear that the performance indicators they were designing within their performance tasks represented a more rigorous approach than in the past. One teacher wondered what will happen to students who, by the end of the school year, do not demonstrate mastery of the literacy competencies. When I asked what happened in the past when students failed at the end of the school year, the teacher answered: “ Well, we retain them.”
As a former middle school principal, I know that decisions about retention are difficult. In spite of knowing the adverse effects of retention on future success, educators and parents generally spend many hours considering interventions and social emotional issues before arriving at the decision to retain a child.
As we turn the corner in designing new learning systems, the notion of considering retention can now be safely set aside. In a competency based learning system, no child is retained. It is as simple as that. Why? Because with the design of learning progressions, mastery is also progressive. Our students will move through our learning systems with forward progress at all times. Some students will need more support, customization, and time to do so. Educational leaders will have the ability to use resources within their organizations very differently. (more…)
December 16, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit with Alfonzo Paz, Assistant Principal at Academic Performance Excellence Academy, better known as APEX Academy.
APEX is co-located in a large high school in East Hollywood with 330 students from a mostly Latino community with pockets of Armenian, African-American and Asian families. APEX is a Diploma Plus (DP) school, a model developed over 15 years ago. Interestingly, APEX, a charter school, started as a district-run school, but budget cuts began to impact the quality of their school — not so much because of reduced resources but because they ended up with teachers that didn’t share the vision of competency education. The underlying issue was with union policy that gave teachers the right to teach the way they want. How could they have a competency-based school if teachers refused to be competency-based in their instruction, assessment and grading?
I first learned about competency education when I was a program officer at the Mott Foundation during a site visit to one of the earlier DP schools (you can read more about Diploma Plus in Making Mastery Work). So I was thrilled to learn about how Diploma Plus had advanced during my visit to APEX. DP is designed to work in a variety of educational settings depending on the focus, mission and need of the school or program. I’ve seen it mostly in alternative schools serving over-age and undercredit students. However, APEX is what I call an “inclusive” high school – it is set up as a regular four-year high school but enrolls students no matter what their educational experience, including re-enrolling after dropping out. Here are a few of the highlights of my visit:
Structure: The DP model doesn’t have age-based grades. Instead it has three phases - Foundation, Presentation, and, Plus. The Foundation phase is focused on getting students skills up to 10th grade level as many start with gaps in skills as far back as 4th or 5th grade. Paz explained that APEX had split Presentation Phase into two sections as students were coming from so far behind and needed a sense of progress. Presentation is focused on helping students build up a portfolio of the work emphasizing performance tasks and assessments. Students in the Plus Phase participate in internships, college courses, and community action projects in order to support their successful transition to life after high school. (more…)
October 30, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
In the northwest corner of Detroit, Cornerstone Charter Schools opened Health High School in response to the beliefs, challenges, and dreams of the community. HHS is a new school in its second year of implementation and a good example of blended learning. The elements of the school that are personalized or competency-based, reside in its rapid response to help students stay on track and complete their courses. Below are several of the design elements:
Character Education: In the halls and classrooms you see reference to the traits that HHS expects the adults and students to demonstrate. Citizenship, patience, kindness, self-control, gentleness, goodness, faith, peace, and love. The school is rooted in these values, weaving them and life skills across all content areas.
Designed Around Relationships, Relevance and Rigor: Teachers are called Rigor Managers using the face-to-face (F2F) time to supplement and expand on learning. Relationship Managers stay connected to what is happening with students in school and out, providing coaching and advocacy as needed. Students have a daily class called Relevance that is inquiry-based, interdisciplinary, and connected to the real world. The ninth grade this year is looking at how to address vacant land in Detroit, drawing on science, government, and writing. Another way HHS builds relevance is through a broad career theme offering low-income students access to powerful career development opportunities. HHS was developed in partnership with Detroit Medical Center and Beaumont Hospitals.
September 11, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
American Radio Works has released a great piece on digital learning One Child at a Time: Custom Learning in the Digital Age including case studies of the Carpe Diem school in Indianapolis and Mooresville Public Schools in North Carolina. For schools trying to think about how to integrate digital learning into a competency-based framework the chapter on Carpe Diem will give you lots of ideas. My guess is it could make a pretty good discussion tool.
The Carpe Diem case study raises lots of design issues:
- Students operating at a variety of levels: ” Some students are way ahead. One girl, a seventh-grader, started the year testing at a ninth-grade level in math. She ended the year at an 11th-grade level. The same student came in at a second-grade level in science. By the end of the year, she was testing at a sixth-grade level.
- Mix of Traditional Classrooms and Online Learning: “When you ask students what grade they’re in, some of them will look at you funny. One student said: “Do you mean upstairs or downstairs?” Upstairs is the learning center where students work at their own pace on computers. There they don’t really think of themselves as being in a particular grade. Downstairs is different. That’s where students go for their classes, which are called workshops. There they are grouped together by the grade they would be in at a conventional school.”
- Student Agency: “Kristina, who is shy and soft-spoken and wears a huge flower in her hair, says the difference between Carpe Diem and the school she attended last year is this: she feels in control at Carpe Diem. Every day she knows exactly how she’s doing; it says so right on her computer screen. At her previous school she would take tests and hand in assignments and sometimes wait weeks to get grades back. By the time she knew she was failing, it felt like it was too late to do anything about it.”
FYI — If you are really interested in learning more about digital learning so you can better integrate it into your competency-based school, check out MOOC-Ed. They are offering a course Digital Learning Transition to help you understand the potential of digital learning in K-12 schools, assess progress and set future goals for your school or district, and plan to achieve those goals. (They also have a course on Mathematic Learning Trajectories that looks really interesting!)
June 17, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
from LUSD website
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…)