Tag: state policy

3 Smart State Approaches to Competency-Based Education

February 10, 2016 by

SuppliesThis post originally appeared on the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Ed Fly Blog on December 30, 2015.

There is a growing chorus of excitement and interest in competency-based education (CBE). One of the biggest draws is the potential for competency-based education to better meet individual student needs and eliminate learning gaps that traditional time-based systems have not been able to close.
In a competency-based system, each individual student progresses as learning expectations are met, rather than moving through a predetermined curriculum schedule dictated by fixed, age-based grade levels or seat-time requirements (sometimes expressed as Carnegie Units or credit hours).

Although the idea of time becoming the variable and learning the constant is attractive, making that a reality sometimes leaves the strongest of advocates scratching their heads. Many policymakers are committed to next generation reforms and have a sense of urgency, yet at the same time they have seen enough failed reform efforts to know that fidelity in implementation is paramount.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways states can create the conditions in which CBE can thrive and the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) is committed to supporting states in these efforts.

Our principal recommendation is for states to authorize the creation of innovation districts or schools to pilot a competency-based system and identify the pathway for statewide policy adoption. (For more, see our model policy.) This strategy paves the road for innovative leaders to request flexibility from the rules or regulations that hinder innovation while committing to transition to competency-based education. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

February 2, 2016 by

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AMBelow is the latest news from across the field in K-12 competency education.

Student Agency

  • A new Harvard study exploring the influence of teaching on emotions, motivations, mindsets and behaviors suggests the development of agency may be as important an outcome of schooling as the skills we measure with standardized testing.
  • Teacher Angela Watson highlights six ways to support kids who don’t take ownership of their learning.
  • Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey created a continuum of voice and what it means for the learner, including three stages of personalized learning environments.

School Models

  • The Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS), an online charter school in New Hampshire, introduced a set of five pathways to guide students through multiple routes for demonstrating mastery of competencies: courses, projects, experience, college and teams.
  • RSU2 moves beyond grade-driven learning to teach students where they are in their zone of proximal development by designing for deep holes in learning.
  • Tom Rooney, Superintendent of California’s Lindsay Unified School District, presented on competency education and shared Lindsay’s story at FEE’s 2015 National Summit on Education Reform.

State Education Policy

  • The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents unveiled its policy goals for 2016 and called for a shift to personalized, competency-based education.
  • A Florida bill, if enacted, would establish a competency-based pilot program which would allow students in certain counties to advance to higher levels of learning after demonstrating mastery of a concept, instead of advancing based on seat time.

Thought Leadership

  • Founding editor of Education Week Ron Wolk wrote a piece arguing for the transformation toward personalized, competency-based education.
  • Bob Crumley, the 2016 Alaska Superintendent of the Year, wrote this leadership piece on advice for superintendents and leading a district.

Resources

  • A new study sought to understand how individual learning plans (ILPs) are operationalized in high schools, how ILPs are implemented and assessed, and the extent to which ILPs contribute to students’ college and career readiness.
  • The Center for Collaborative Education is launching the Massachusetts Personalized Learning Network, where CCE will partner with schools and districts throughout the state to place students at the center of their own education, creating personalized and engaging learning experiences for all students.
  • This resource highlights 10 expectations all students should have of their schools.
  • The Nellie Mae Education Foundation released a new report on understanding the landscape of technology for student-centered learning.
  • The Foundation for Excellence in Education created a new web resource on competency education.

Follow us on twitter (@CompetencyWorks) and sign up for our monthly newsletter for more information and updates in K-12 competency education.

Wells High School: The Timeline to Transformation

January 19, 2016 by

WellsThis post is part of the Maine Road Trip series.

The sign that greets you as you drive into Wells, Maine labels the town the friendliest in Maine. Certainly the young women working at Aroma Joe’s, where I stopped to get my caffeine fix on a brilliant fall day, were over-the-top friendly.

Wells High School is situated along the Maine coast, serving a student population of 440 students running at about 18 percent FRL. This means the school has to mitigate a huge gap in terms of social and educational capital available to students outside of school. They are doing very well with a 98.4 percent four-year graduation rate, the highest in Maine. (more…)

What is it Going to Mean to Have a Proficiency-Based Diploma?

January 13, 2016 by

GraduationWhat is a high school diploma and what does it mean? It certainly isn’t something written in stone – it can be whatever we want it to be. What we need it to be is meaningful to students, parents, colleges, educators, and employers. As we shift to competency education, we have the opportunity and often an urgency to revisit artifacts of the traditional system, either imbuing them with new meaning or redesigning them to better support students and their learning.

One of the strategies states are using to move toward competency education are proficiency-based diplomas. It’s an interesting strategy. It’s a strategy that demands the diploma mean something rather than an ever-increasing set of required courses and credits. It doesn’t actually say a school has to be competency-based. If they think they can get all their students to the level of proficiency required to earn a diploma in the traditional system, they wouldn’t really have to make any changes, would they? However, districts do start to change immediately to a competency-based or proficiency-based system under this strategy, as they know there is no way they can do it in the traditional system. (more…)

RSU2: Moving Beyond Grade-Driven Learning

January 11, 2016 by

Learning ChildThis post is part of the Maine Road Trip series. This is the third post on my conversations at RSU2 in Maine. The first post is on lessons learned and the second is a look at Richmond Middle and High School

One of the topics that came up over and over again during my conversation with the RSU2 team is how to address the needs of students who aren’t at grade level. It’s a huge topic wherever I go because the majority of districts converting to competency education are still trying to teach students grade-level standards even when they know the students don’t have prerequisite knowledge. Yes, there is much more effort to provide additional support, there is lots of scaffolding, and they are working hard to create elective courses in high schools to build foundational knowledge. But the problem seems to be that we can’t shake off the idea that we should be teaching students the standards at their grade level rather than personalizing education so they have the opportunity to build the foundational skills (and fluency) they will need to be successful.

Meeting Students Where They Are

In our conversations, RSU2 leaders described how converting to measurement topics and learning targets has been very effective in helping students who have the prerequisite knowledge to learn the skills. However, in hindsight, they found that it would have been wiser to build the capacity to use the system of topics and targets to support students where they were in their own learning progression. Steve Lavoie, Principal of Richmond Middle and High School, explained, “Ideally, we would have shifted our perspectives to look at the continuum of learning rather than continue to have measurable learning objectives structured within grade bands. Everyone has some holes in their learning, even the valedictorian, but when students do not have prerequisite skills or have significant gaps in their learning, it creates tremendous pressure on the teachers and the students. We need to know where are the kids on our continuum of learning.”

One person used the example of the “fraction chasm” where more than 50 percent of the fourth and fifth grade math standards are about fractions. In sixth grade, working with fractions continues as students learn to apply them. When students start to tackle algebra, they will once again be drawing on their understanding of fractions. If students aren’t fluent in fractions, it is going to impact their learning into secondary school. Yet, the traditional practice of teaching a grade-level curriculum prevails.

This is super important – if we always teach at grade level standards, how do we find out where students really are on their learning progression? If we don’t know what they know and don’t know, how do we help them learn it? Most of the standards-based grading information systems don’t help us with this – they tell us how students are progressing in the standards at the grade level or in the course but not where students are, inform us about what skills they have (and don’t have), and help schools plan how to make sure students have the prerequisite skills. So a question for all districts converting to proficiency-based learning is, “How will you know what skills students have and how will you track their progress?”

John Armentrout, Director of Information Technology, explained, “There are many implications to consider in how a school creates the architecture of the measurement topics and learning targets. One of the things to think about is how it will support students who do not have the foundational knowledge for the age-based curriculum.”

So the question now becomes, What would this look like? (more…)

Georgia’s Education Reform Commission Recommends Moving to Competency Education

January 8, 2016 by

GA Education Reform CommissionAt the end of the 2015, the Georgia Education Reform Commission released its recommendations for Governor Deal. The Commission established five committees to look at a number of issues, including competency-based education, early childhood education, expanding educational opportunities, teacher recruitment and retention, and funding formulas.

The report on Move on When Ready is worth looking at. Although I’ve included all their recommendations, take a peek at recommendations 1, 2, and 4. The Commission calls for the state to “develop a pilot program of competency-based education prior to statewide implementation, incorporate the model as a priority in Georgia’s existing Innovation Fund, and explore possibilities of integration into various school governance models.” They also call for much more flexibility in Georgia’s Milestone testing so that it is available every nine weeks instead of once a year, moving toward a “just in time assessment” philosophy.

Coming up soon on CompetencyWorks is an in-depth look at the efforts of Georgia’s Henry County Schools to introduce a comprehensive system of personalized learning with competency education as the cornerstone. In the meantime, here are links to posts on Fulton County’s efforts and their back room infrastructure.

MOVE ON WHEN READY SUBCOMMITTEE

As each year passes, more and more jobs in Georgia require credentials beyond a high school diploma. To be college and career ready, a student must obtain the skills necessary to survive and thrive in a 21st century workforce. For many, traditional models of instruction simply are not enough to maximize their potential academic achievement. To educate a generation that faces an increasingly globalized world with new challenges appearing daily, Georgia must be innovative and forward-thinking.

The phrase “Move On When Ready” is more than a dual enrollment opportunity for students; it represents an entirely new way of thinking about education. Why hold a child back when he is ready to tackle the next subject? Why push a child forward when additional time and instruction could help prevent future struggles? Why restrict a teacher when she knows how best to motivate and accelerate her students’ learning? These questions, among others, were discussed by the commission during its deliberations. Opportunities such as blended learning, middle/high school partnerships, competency-based learning, computer-based learning, flipped classrooms, new pathways for graduation, project-based learning and test-out options, in addition to traditional modes of instruction, were considered in terms of not “Can Georgia do this?” but rather, “How Georgia can do this?” The recommendations below, listed in priority order, represent feasible and necessary actions for the state of Georgia in order to fully cultivate a student population ready for life beyond the classroom.

Recommendation 1: Develop and implement multiple formative assessments in literacy and numeracy for students in grades K-3, which would serve the function of Student Learning Objectives in those grades, and extend these assessments to grades 4 and 5 numerical fluency once K-3 is in place.

(more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

January 1, 2016 by

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AMThe Next State of Learning project, newly launched by the Innovation Lab Network (ILN) at CCSSO, aims to capture the stories of states who are scaling and sharing innovations within their districts. The project will capture the stories of how states in the ILN are scaling and sharing innovation within their districts.

Thought Leadership

  • Why do we continue to teach students grade-level standards based on their age when their skills are actually two, three, or more academic levels lower (or higher)? Chris Sturgis tackles this issue about reframing education and teaching students where they are in their learning (not where they “should” be).
  • Andrew Miller wrote an article providing teaching strategies to avoid “learned helplessness” in students and empowering students to be self-directed learners. These strategies include making learning resources available, asking questions “for” (not “about”) learning, not giving students’ answers and allowing for failure.
  • KnowledgeWorks outlines the essentials of competency-based education, including transparent learning outcomes, mastery rather than seat time, real and relevant assignments, and a community-based strategic design plan.
  • This story on Coyote Springs Elementary in Arizona describes the implications when schools make other important skills and competencies such as the 4 C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) a core part of the design of the school.

(more…)

Deer Island-Stonington High School: Breathing Life into the Standards

December 9, 2015 by
DISHS2

Image from the DISHS Website

This post is part of the series Road Trip to Maine. This is the second of a three-part look at Deer Isle-Stonington High School. Start with the first post on Turning Around the Culture.

West led the high school in a process that began to reorganize the school around four themes: multiple pathways, personalization, proficiency-based learning, and community-based education. He explained, “We didn’t want to be a diploma factory to just pass out diplomas. We wanted kids to be prepared. The biggest obstacle was lack of student engagement. Kids often go through the motion of doing what is expected but they aren’t invested in their own learning. If we could engage students, they would be more open to meeting the higher academic expectations.” (more…)

Noble High School: Creating Timely, Differentiated Supports

December 2, 2015 by

NobleThis post is part of the series Road Trip to Maine. You can also learn about Biddeford School District and Casco Bay High School.

If we gave out awards at CompetencyWorks, I’d give Noble High School an award for the fourth element of the CompetencyWorks definition of competency education: Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

October 8, 2015 by

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AMOhio department of education released its application to participate in the state’s new Competency-based education pilot program. It also created self-assessment tools for school districts to determine their readiness to participate in the program.

More Movement in the States

News

  • Arne Duncan supports Purdue University’s competency-based education program, and he is quoted as supporting competency education and shifting away from time-based systems.
  • An interview with Jennifer Deenik, Living Systems Science Teacher at Souhegan High School, by Jennifer Poon, Innovation Lab Network Director at CCSSO, takes a peek inside New Hampshire’s performance assessment pilot program.
  • Diploma Plus operates small alternative programs for students who have repeatedly failed a grade or are on the verge of dropping out. This interview with William Diehl, chair of the Diploma Plus board, discusses the key components of the schools’ efforts to prepare students who are coming from behind.
  • The Woodrow Wilson Foundation, in partnership with MIT, are creating the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning Sciences, which provides graduate programs in teacher education and school leadership. The Academy will be competency-based with a blended curriculum, and the first class will enroll in 2017.
  • In Giving Students Charge of How They Learn, John McCarthy discusses student-developed products based on learning targets, student-developed rubrics, student-developed conferences, and setting students free to learn with you.

Videos and Films

  • Beyond Measure is a film that challenges the assumptions of our current education system, and paints a positive picture of what’s possible in American education when communities decide they are ready for change. Watch the trailer here.
  • The Illuminating Standards Video Series explore the relationship between meeting demanding state standards and designing powerful learning experiences for all students. The video series are listed by grade level.

(more…)

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