Tag: teachers and teaching

Setting the PACE: Teacher Assessment Practices in a Competency-Based Education System

May 18, 2015 by
Wordle

Wordle created by Ellen Hume-Howard

I continue to be amazed and impressed by our staff’s progress over the past five years related to our implementation of a competency-based education system. Our grading, assessment, and instructional practices have changed significantly during this time, as our teachers have continued to push forward in their quest to impact student learning.

Over the past two years, our focus has been on assessment. Our staff’s knowledge and growth related specifically to the assessment of students’ competency has grown significantly. Memorial School, an elementary school in Newton, NH, is part of the Sanborn Regional School District. Sanborn was one of four districts (Sanborn, Epping, Rochester, and Souhegan) to participate in a first-in-the-nation accountability strategy called PACE (Performance Assessment for Competency Education), which was recently approved by the US DOE. This joint venture between the NH DOE, the Center for Collaborative Education, the Center for Assessment, and the four participating school districts entails a reduced level of standardized testing (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium in NH) and involves the creation of locally developed, rigorous, comprehensive performance assessments by teams of teachers. These high quality performance assessments are designed to support deeper learning, and will be integrated within the units of study that students are currently engaged in, thereby creating no disruption to the learning process.

The benefits of this work are numerous. First and foremost, this effort is reflective of educators at literally every level within the State of New Hampshire working in unison to better educational experiences for our students—from teachers in the classroom to Commissioner Virginia Barry and Deputy Commissioner Paul Leather. Everyone involved truly felt that a single standardized assessment should not be the only factor determining a school’s and its students’ success. In the PACE model, the standardized assessment for reading and mathematics would be taken once at each level (elementary, middle, and high school), with complex, multi-part performance assessments administered to allow students to demonstrate and apply their knowledge in quite sophisticated ways. The performance assessments were created by teams of teachers, and were developed as part of the units of study that students would be engaged in during the mid-March to May timeframe, thereby allowing the assessments to be integrated within the daily activities that students and teachers were engaged in. Additionally, the assessments have been vetted by local, state, and national assessment experts and have provided teachers with the opportunity to look at their assessments through a critical lens of their own, something they are doing now on a consistent basis. (more…)

Choosing and Organizing Content in the SBSC Environment

May 12, 2015 by

CalendarIn a traditional classroom, the calendar and the teacher’s planbook are essential tools. They drive the pace, the resources, the instruction, and the assessment in a classroom on a day to day basis.

With small adjustments for snow days, these planbooks become archives of the curriculum and pace of instruction within a particular classroom. They can be used year in and year out. For some, this means that instruction doesn’t change unless the curriculum does.

In the SBSC (Standards Based, Student Centered) environment, students aren’t held hostage to the planbook. They can move ahead when content comes easily or take the time necessary to master more difficult tasks. This means teachers have to have larger amounts of content and resources available from the beginning.

At first glance, this seems like it requires more work from teachers. Truthfully, it does. The payoff comes in that it provides a way for teachers to better see the big picture of the connections between standards in their class and what they need to provide for each student. It also showcases the necessity to provide sound foundational skills in order to help students reach proficiency on more complex goals.

The process of designing proficiency-based learning begins with a focus on a broad learning goal. This goal, the standard, needs to be “unpacked” in order to determine two things: (more…)

European Insights into Competency

May 6, 2015 by

European ConferenceI stumbled across a very helpful article Competency-based education: learning at a time of change in Proceedings of “European/national initiatives to foster competency-based teaching and learning” European Conference 2014. Although there are issues to be considered in translating our competencies to the European competences, this article summarizes a number of ideas that I think will be helpful. (See International Study in Competency Education: Postcards from Abroad for more background info.)

I’ve plucked a number of the sections below for you to look at:

  1. Attributes of competency-based learning (for the learner themselves)
  2. Attributes of competency-based teaching
  3. Considerations for writing competency-based objectives

Just keep in mind as you read this that the structure has everything linking back to the outcome — and we know that it in fact we need to keep students at the core.

1. What are the key attributes of competency-based learning?

  • Understand how one learns best (style)
  • Understand exactly what is expected outcome(s) of learning
  • Take responsibility for one’s learning
  • Motivated to learn – goal oriented
  • Ethical person and practitioner
  • Critical thinker
  • Self-assess learning and performance
  • Commitment to ongoing learning

(more…)

Out on a Limb: Holding Ourselves Accountable

March 5, 2015 by
Lydia Leimbach

Lydia Leimbach

This post originally appeared at Teacher Tech on November 30, 2014.

I had a conversation with a colleague on one of the last days of school that has stuck with me ever since. We were discussing classroom management (I had just posted my “Distracted by Tech” article). My colleague said, “I get so tired of listening to complaints from some of our staff. All I hear is what the students haven’t done or won’t do and what they (the teacher) isn’t going to do. I’d love to hear how teachers hold themselves accountable for student success.”

I write often about strategies for holding students accountable when using technology but rarely have I thought about my own accountability when teaching.

This post isn’t really about tech integration and may offend some people. It’s not my intent. My intention is to spur thinking for those who are stuck and frustrated and perhaps are thinking laptops and phones are the cause of the learning blockage.

Teacher accountability isn’t easy. It’s not about how detailed my lesson plans are or how clear my directions for projects are. It’s not about how much kids like me. It’s about how effective I am in my teaching practices. In a nutshell, teacher accountability means that I take a regular look at my teaching practices, my classroom management, and my personal pedagogy and see how well it is meshing with student achievement.

For me this falls into four segments: (more…)

Performance-Based Home Schooling

February 10, 2015 by

7 alaskaThis is the seventh post in the Chugach School District series. Read the firstsecondthirdfourthfifth, and sixth posts here.

Why do parents choose the Chugach homeschool program? Parents want a clear roadmap of what their children need to accomplish, ways to determine if they are learning, and indicators that help them understand how they are doing. Parents want to make sure their kids are learning everything they need to without any gaps or holes in their learning.  – Annie Dougherty, head homeschool teacher

One of the eye-openers for me during my visit to Chugach School District was the conversation with CSD’s FOCUS homeschool teachers. It had never crossed my mind that homeschooling programs could be performance-based, or that they play a powerful role in education throughout Alaska and for families with high mobility (parents of course enrolling students for a whole host of reasons). CSD serves 230 students all across the state, from both rural and urban areas. The teachers, living all over the state, work with between forty to sixty students at a time. I could try to summarize our discussion, but I think you’ll appreciate hearing it directly from them.

The Benefits of Taking Time Out of the Equation

Janet Reed started off the conversation with, “The performance-based system takes time out of the equation. Parents really like it that kids can spend more time where they need it. They also really appreciate knowing their kids aren’t just being shuffled forward.” (more…)

Two Sides of the Same Coin: Competency-Based Education and Student Learning Objectives

February 2, 2015 by

This paper is also available in PDF form here

Introduction

Coins

We are in the midst of two major reform initiatives occupying the attention of school district leaders throughout the country. Teacher evaluation has been the most prominent educational policy issue of the past five years, and evaluating teachers in the so-called “non-tested subjects and grades” has been one of the thorniest challenges in the design of these new educator evaluation approaches. Student learning objectives have emerged as the most common approach for documenting teacher contributions to student learning (Hall, Gagnon, Thompson, Schneider, & Marion, 2014). Competency-based education has taken hold to help ensure that students have mastered critical knowledge and skills before becoming eligible for graduation or moving on to the next learning target rather than simply occupying a seat for a certain amount of time. Unfortunately, many school leaders do not see the strong relationship between these two initiatives and feel like they have to do “double-duty” to meet both sets of policy goals. I describe each of these initiatives below and then illustrate how the close connection between the two can create coherence and efficiencies.

Competency-Based Education

While there are potentially many definitions of competencies and competency-based education, I rely on the following from Patrick and Sturgis (2013):

Competency education is an approach to teaching and learning in which: (more…)

In Search of the Goldilocks Scale

January 15, 2015 by
Porridge

Too hot? Too cold? Just right!

We have learned a lot over the past five years as our district has implemented a competency-based model of grading and assessing. Competency-based grading and assessment requires a significant shift in the way we think about assessment—its purpose and its meaning. Our school, Memorial School in Newton, NH and our district, the Sanborn Regional School District, moved to this model five years ago. We continue to learn more about what assessment of students truly means as our overall understanding of assessment practices (our assessment literacy) increases.

When we moved to this model of grading and assessment, our elementary teachers made a wholesale change to grading with a four-point rubric. There would be no number scale (100 point scale) and there would be consistency across grade levels horizontally and vertically. The grade scale rubrics we used would identify the expectations around each level. Our learning curve was steep as we created the rubrics, but we found that our learning was not going to stop there. It continues to this day.

Our first year, we identified our rubric indicators as E (Exceeding), M (Meeting), IP (Inconsistent Progress), and LP (Limited Progress). The chart below reflects this first attempt at our rubric scale. The first roadblock came after the first progress report was distributed. As an educational staff, we looked at IP as what the descriptor outlined—inconsistent progress. A student was able to demonstrate competency, but it was on an inconsistent basis. Many parents provided feedback that it just “felt negative” (the word inconsistent). We decided that “In Progress” was also an accurate indicator, and parents agreed. We made the change immediately within the “Level” while keeping the performance descriptor the same. (more…)

Chugach Teachers Talk about Teaching

January 13, 2015 by
3flying to tatitlek

Flying to Tatitlek

This is the third post in the Chugach School District series. Read the first and second posts here.

Chugach School District is a teacher’s district. Bob Crumley, Superintendent, started as a teacher in Whittier Community School (WCS). (There is a story about his coming face to face with a bear that had wandered into the school in search of sausage.) Debbie Treece, Director of Special Education, signed up to teach at Whittier before realizing that the only way to get there at the time was to travel through a tunnel sitting in absolute darkness…and this after driving one’s car onto the back of a railway flat. Doug Penn, District Principal, has worked in the communities of Chenega Bay and Whittier.

It’s also a learner’s district, because everyone at CSD is willing to learn in order to do better by their students and their families.

Not every person is cut out to teach at CSD. You’ve got to want a bit of adventure. You’ve got to have a love for the incredible mountain-meets-sea landscape. You’ve got to be willing to live in small communities that have limited access. And you’ve got to love kids.

There were incredibly rich conversations with teachers throughout my three days at CSD. Here are a few of the highlights:

On Being a Generalist or Not-Yet-Specialists (more…)

North Carolina: Optimizing Best Practices through a Convening of Thought Leaders

January 9, 2015 by

North Carolina“In education, what is not focused on pedagogy is politics.” This is how Tony Habit, President of North Carolina New Schools, opened a convening in Raleigh, NC on December 18th. He emphasized that our focus in competency education must begin and end with the work of teachers in order to transform education; all conversations must be grounded in a deep understanding of the work they do everyday, and we must focus our efforts on how best to support their work.

This summit, titled Preparing Educators for the Competency Learning Revolution, was a convening of innovators, researchers, practitioners, and thought leaders in the competency education field, designed to share ideas, resources, and best practices to remain on the cutting edge of innovation. Presenters discussed the national policy landscape for competency-based learning, identified potential barriers and enablers to implementation, conferred over the role of technology in competency-based systems, and began developing a concept paper exploring statewide competency-based implementation.

The group of thought leaders operated as a “think tank” to identify enablers, barriers, and readiness factors regarding a state’s transition to competency education. Glenn Kleiman, Executive Director at the Friday Institute, and Tony Habit, President of NC New Schools, opened the summit, welcomed the attendees, and opened the floor for invigorating, honest, and wide-ranging conversations around all aspects of competency education. (more…)

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