Jumping into the deep end of competency education
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.
The second best time is now.”
This ancient Chinese proverb sums up my view on why, just three years ago, it was time for my school, Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, NH, to stop “talking” about making the change to a competency-based grading and reporting model, and why it was time to start “doing it.” With a leap of faith in support of the latest educational research from authors Colby, Marzano, O’Connor, Reeves, Stiggins, and Wormeli, our school community “jumped into the deep end of the pool” of high school redesign. Looking back on this now, I firmly believe it was the best thing we could have done. While we haven’t solved all of our issues yet, I think we are well on our way toward realizing our vision of “learning for all, whatever it takes.”
As you might expect, our leap of faith into the deep end of the pool didn’t happen without some advanced strategic planning and groundwork. In the years leading up to our jump, teachers in my school spent a great deal of time developing common course-based competencies and making sure they were aligned to the New Hampshire Grade Span Expectations (GSEs) and ultimately the common core. They worked in teams to develop common assessments and common rubrics to measure student learning. As a school, we talked about the importance of focusing our professional work on student learning and mastery of competencies. Still, we were only scratching the surface of our potential. We knew that if we truly wanted to impact student learning on a large-scale in our school, we were going to have to operate differently.
Last year, we developed a blueprint to help us become a premiere high school in New Hampshire. We identified three “pillars” of success, and we recognized that if we could do these three things well, then everything else would fall into place:
Pillar One: Our LEARNING COMMUNITIES work interdependently to advance student learning and academic performance for which we are collectively responsible and mutually accountable.
Pillar Two: Our STUDENTS ARE ENGAGED in learning tasks and performance assessments that accurately measure learning and mastery of competency.
Pillar Three: Our community fosters a POSITIVE SCHOOL CULTURE AND CLIMATE for each of our stakeholders that promotes respect, responsibility, ambition, and pride.
Since the adoption of our pillar model, we have made some great strides toward becoming a premiere school. Here are five ways our school has changed since we went to a competency-based model: (more…)