Tag: system of supports

The Shift to Competencies: A Practical Approach

September 18, 2012 by

Welcome Back! I hope you all thoroughly enjoyed the time that you had during the summer months. It is always good to have reflection, as they say. I hope that you, as the probable influencers in your buildings, districts, and states, have been able to focus a bit on the work that we have ahead of us!

As I read through this blog, as well as some of the great literature floating around, I thought that it may be a good idea to provide a bit of experiential hindsight for those of us transitioning from the philosophy of seat time to show-and-prove academics. Many questions emerge when I speak with students, parents, and policy makers, so I thought you might appreciate a “been-there-done-that” point of view. Hopefully it can assist you in your movement toward competency.


Student Learning Objectives: Insights into Using Competencies as a Growth Model

September 4, 2012 by

I’m a TQM-freak. I admit it. I think Total Quality Management and continuous improvement is just the best management practice ever developed. So I distinctly remember the moment ten years ago when I realized the power of competency education when the great team at the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School walked me through their management reports.

By tracking the progress of students mastering learning objectives in their management information systems, YWLCS could generate two powerful sets of reports. In addition to individual learning progression for each student, YWLCS would generate:

Exception Reports: By knowing which students haven’t yet mastered specific competencies, YWCLS can organize groups of students to work with specialists in the classroom or afterschool or Saturday programs for extra help. This allows teachers and the school to organize supports and opportunities during the semester rather delaying interventions. (more…)

Re-Learning and Reassessment

July 31, 2012 by

While that last planning year was filled with excitement and adventure, we hadn’t anticipated the journey that was to come. (See previous post and related resources on the wiki)

Spaulding High School has just completed year one of its implementation phase and has leaned so many valuable lessons ranging from just-in-time learning to re-learning to reassessment, just to name a few.  While we don’t necessarily have all of the answers yet, we certainly have generated a few solid questions that we are actively responding to.

Among those questions falls perhaps the biggest: How do you manage re-learning and reassessment within the constraints of school?!  We are implementing a progressive way of assessing and promoting students within a very traditional setting which presents constraints.  Some of these constraints include: bells, scheduling, teacher contracts, and access to technology.  (more…)

A Key Support For Students: Supporting Adult Learning for The Sake of Learning

July 18, 2012 by

There is a fairly settled body of research that links the quality of the teacher to the success of the student.  As we move into a more personalized, competency based and increasingly decentralized learning environment how do we build the competencies of adults to better support the learning of students?

For the past year, I have been a student in Harvard University’s new doctoral program in Educational Leadership (Ed.L.D).   The first year involves an intense focus on one’s own “adult development” which I skeptically approached with somewhat of a “been there done that” attitude.  As a leader of a fairly large non-profit, I had my share of 360 evaluations, professional development seminars, executive coaching etc.  I was secure, almost cocky, in my understanding of my strengths and weaknesses and how they did or didn’t support the outcomes that I was hoping for in my own organization and more importantly for the almost 22,000 youth under our watch each year.  As a leader in the sector, I had grown fatigued from all of the efforts that I made to tie the “professional development” that I was being given to the goals that I was striving to achieve.  It felt like work and I had to WORK to feel personally or professionally “developed.”

But low and behold this time the journey was different and something funny happened on the way to “adult development.”  For the first time in years, I reconnected with myself as an adult learner.  Not the kind of adult learner who was trying to learn something to either be in compliance or to improve the various metrics on which I was being evaluated, but as an adult learner who had my own interests and passions, anxieties and questions.  I was asked to actually be curious, to better understand myself, and to pursue new ways of learning that often stretched me beyond my comfort zone and towards my learning edge.


Help or Hinder: The Impact of CBE for Students with Special Needs

July 2, 2012 by

As I continue to think about competency-based education and the structural changes that go along with fully supporting it, I am concerned about its impact on students with disabilities and  the current special educational system.  Theoretically, a competency education system should benefit students with special education needs as it enables greater customization for all students. However, the way the current special education system is designed and implemented may throw up some bureaucratic obstacles in our way.

For example, for students to receive special education services, they must have a disability – medical or learning.  If a student is to be designated as having a learning disability, then the student (more…)

Spaulding High: Creating a Comprehensive System of Supports

June 25, 2012 by
Paul Newell

Paul Newell

CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network includes a Comprehensive System of Supports as one of the six attributes of a next generation education system. In the working definition of competency education, the fourth element refers to “timely and differentiated support.” Spaulding High School provides a window into what this really means for schools and districts as they build a competency education system.

As Spaulding High moved forward in implementing competency education, they knew  that students would need time for extra help. In addition to teachers providing extra help, they created E-Block to provide after-school tutoring, and expanded the “Plato room” to provide-credit recovery programming.

What they didn’t plan for is how many students  didn’t complete all the competencies needed to transition to tenth grade (more…)

Boston Day and Evening Academy: A Learning Organization

June 22, 2012 by

This final post on Boston Day and Evening Academy(BDEA) offers some of the big takeaways and lessons learned from my site visit.

Beatriz Zapater & BDEA student

Process for Designing Competencies: Beatriz Zapater, Head of BDEA, explained that “We always start with the curriculum frameworks. In Massachusetts, the standards feel like a telephone book with long lists of what we expect students to know. We can’t teach a phone book—we don’t have time. So we go in search of the most important ones. Common Core offers anchor standards so that makes it easier.” Alison Hramiec, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, continued by saying, “We ask ourselves three questions: 1) What is essential for all students to know and be able to do in each section of the Common Core?  2) What are the essential components of those skills and knowledge we are asking students to demonstrate?, and, 3) How can we scaffold this learning through the scope and sequence?

Zapater further suggested that “Schools develop a framework of common language around the language used in rubrics (BDEA uses not yet competent, competent, and highly competent), scope and sequence, and extra support. Otherwise it becomes a Tower of Babel, and you risk focusing on things other than student learning.” (See definitions used at BDEA on the wiki.)


Five Ideas for Building a System of Support

June 18, 2012 by

Over the last few weeks, I have been conducting interviews with national experts who are working to implement competency-based learning in districts across the country.  We have focused in particular on the topic of supportive services in a competency-based environment.  A few common themes have begun to emerge:

  1. Personalized learning requires a deep understanding of each individual learner.  By definition, this will require an assessment of learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, etc.  Every learner’s plan therefore builds in the support that is needed. (more…)
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