Tag: teachers and teaching

When the Stars Align in Support of Learning . . .

December 22, 2014 by
Karla Phillips

Karla Phillips

This post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education on December 8, 2014.

There is one key area where K-12 and higher education policy intersect—teacher preparation. Higher education needs college and career ready graduates while K-12 turns around and asks for better equipped teachers.

I think it’s safe to say that there is broad agreement on the importance and impact a great teacher can make—a point confirmed by evidence and reiterated in Joel Klein’s new book. However, the debate continues over fundamental policies such as who should teach, how they should be trained, and how to ensure that graduates have the skills they need for the classroom. This debate is sure to be resurrected now that the U.S. Department of Education has released new proposed regulations on teacher preparation programs.

Maybe there is a common K-12 and higher education reform effort where the stars can align? I think it’s competency-based learning. (more…)

What’s New in Competency Education

December 15, 2014 by

Gatherings and Site VisitsiNCL_CW_logo_K12iNCL_CW_logo_K12

  • Registration is open for the High School Redesign in Action is the New England Secondary School Consortium’s sixth annual conference for educators to share success stories, exchange best practices, and continue to build momentum for innovations that will prepare all students for success in the colleges, careers, and communities of the 21st century.  This is a great place to learn about competency education in action. Thursday + Friday, March 26-27, 2015 in Norwood, MA.
  • ACHIEVE held their annual meeting for state leaders has competency education last week. On the agenda:
  • From Seat-time to Mastery: Competency-based Pathways to Colleges and Careers  discusses approaches to moving away from measuring student knowledge as a function of time toward one that uses content mastery as the primary criterion. The unique role the postsecondary sector can play to signal support is also stressed. Speakers include: Ellen Hume-Howard, Curriculum Director, Sanborn Regional School District, New Hampshire; Dan Mielke, Executive Director, Eastern Promise, Eastern Oregon University; Rachelle Tome, Chief Academic Officer, Maine Department of Education and Cory Curl, Senior Fellow, Assessment and Accountability, Achieve.
  • Communicating the Potential of Competency-based Learning highlights effective advocacy and communications practices to promote competency-based education across interest groups.Speakers include: Theresa Bennett, Education Associate, ELA, Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development, Delaware Department of Education; Pete Janhunen, The Fratelli Group; and Lindsay Jones, Director, Public Policy and Advocacy, National Center for Learning Disabilities.

New Reports and Resources

Tackling Work Study Practices in a Competency-Based Educational System

December 9, 2014 by
Sun

Responsive Classroom

Last year, teams of teachers within our district, the Sanborn Regional School District in New Hampshire, became deeply involved in building Quality Performance Assessments. These assessments are designed to truly assess a student’s competency, or transfer of learning. Our teachers have worked incredibly hard at building high-quality, engaging assessments. Their overall assessment literacy, and the learning that has occurred throughout these processes, has been significant. However, it has also raised additional questions.

The most recent questions have had to do with Work Study Practices (also referred to as work study habits or dispositions/behaviors). The State of New Hampshire defines the four work study practices in New Hampshire as Communication, Creativity, Collaboration, and Self-Direction. For the past six years, our district elementary schools have identified the Responsive Classroom CARES (Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-regulation) as the behaviors we will assess in each student. These fit in well with the work study practices the State has identified. Within each performance assessment, teachers have been identifying a specific behavior as the one that will be assessed within the performance assessment itself. For example, a performance assessment may lend itself to having cooperation/collaboration of students assessed, so teachers are including this to be assessed, complete with its own indicators within a rubric as part of the scoring within the assessment (separate from the assessment of academic competencies). (more…)

ReInventing Schools at the District Level

November 10, 2014 by
Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 9.00.58 AM

Bill Zima

In 2012, Maine established policy for schools to award proficiency-based diplomas starting in 2018. As the years passed, it became clear that some districts, including mine, needed more time to get all the pieces in place. In April of 2014, The Maine Department of Education agreed to allow extensions for districts as long as they met specific criteria demonstrating the district was moving forward. There were six options ranging from no extension to taking a full three years.

My district chose option five, which required us to partner with a coach to help with the transition to a learner-centered, proficiency-based system. We decided to partner with the ReInventing Schools Coalition. This decision was made based on their affiliation with Marzano Research Labs and their proven record of supporting schools through the transition. Also, the middle school, of which I am the principal, already had a working relationship with them. We have found them to be tireless in their commitment to support us through the process of meeting our vision.

With our limited funds, the decision was made to begin the district work with leadership teams from each of the schools in the district. The groups met for a single day over the summer to talk about the ReInventing Schools framework. While it was nice to only spend a single day on this topic, I would not recommend it as the norm for the introduction. Since the ReInventing Schools Coalition is well-known in Maine, having worked with many school districts in the past six years, their framework is familiar to many educators. Add to this the catalyst of the proficiency-based diploma law, and it gave our coach the ability to move quickly, leaving only a few of the school leaders needing support in the days that followed. (more…)

The Role of Assessment Instruments in a Competency-Based System

November 5, 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 7.01.11 AMNo matter how you approach it, you cannot mitigate the massive change agent that is competency-based education. It does not leave much room for “old school” notions of teaching and learning. It does not tolerate anything less than a committed belief that all students can achieve at high levels.

It certainly demands a philosophical and ideological shift in thinking about “best practice” in education.

When I had first embarked on this journey, I had prepared myself for these shifts as they pertained to my practice. How can I become more student-centered? What does that look like? How will I know if my students are ready?

The question I never asked: How will I assess it and grade it? (more…)

Social Learning & CBE – Competency Education is a Team Sport

October 27, 2014 by

This blog was written with the help of Michelle Allman, Andrew Skarzynski, Kristine Kirkaldy, Matt DeBlois, Sung-Joon Pai, Kippy Smith, Allison Hramiec, and Leslie Appelbaum.

Looking back, my whole school experience feels like a big group adventure. I know I did things alone – strong memories of this at home for sure – but learning was mostly one big, interactive social scene. And I was on the shy end of the human personality spectrum.

I say this because I think competency-based education with its emphasis on personalization, viewed from the outside, is often seen as an individual pursuit that surely must compromise the social aspects of learning that we know are important for – and to – students (especially teens!). Off I go, following my own personalized path, which is different from your path; my solo quest to master what I must master… which must look like this in practice:

Loneliness of the long distance competency-based ed student?

Loneliness of the long distance competency-based ed student?

(more…)

Reflections after Two Years of Performance Assessment Cohorts in New Hampshire

October 22, 2014 by

Originally posted on September 22, 2014 for the Center for Assessment’s Reidy Interactive Lecture Series.

Let’s now return to the question posed in an earlier post: what have we learned about the possibility of sparking systemic implementation of performance assessment? These reflections come from the NH Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) districts, as well as recent check-ins with team leads who participated in 2012 and 2013 Performance Assessment Network Cohorts. Half of these team leads reported that the work has been brought back to the rest of the school, and teachers outside of the group that attended the institutes are using performance assessments, while in other schools, QPA implementation has been more limited to the teachers who attended the institutes.

A strong, coherent vision helps people see the big picture

Administrators need to understand the big picture first and then set up the enabling conditions for the implementation to happen and the work to be sustainable. Participating in the 5-day training helps administrators develop their own instructional leadership and understanding of performance assessment. As one team leader noted, “[we] need administration to attend sessions, to show the seriousness and importance of this work, and get a solid team of committed individuals.” A recent post by a PACE district elementary principal illustrates how one district has integrated the training into their vision.

It takes time and effective structures to create a collaborative professional culture

A collaborative culture enables educators to use QPA protocols to engage in quality design, analysis, and instructional decision-making. PACE districts and 11 of the other administrators reported having Common Planning Time (CPT) built into their schedules. About half of those administrators said that the CPT was being used to specifically develop the QPA work. Two other schools that didn’t have CPT had time for the QPA group to meet to advance the work on their own. Structures provide the space, but the CPT must be used effectively. As one teacher at a PACE district school noted, “If we hadn’t done all work in the past becoming PLCs [professional learning communities], setting goals for our teams and norms, having expectations of our teammates then we wouldn’t be where we are. We couldn’t sit at a table and talk about what happens here.”

(more…)

The Power of Deep Discussions around Student Work

October 21, 2014 by
Laurie Gagnon

Laurie Gagnon

Originally posted on September 15, 2014 for the Center for Assessment’s Reidy Interactive Lecture Series.

During the first week of August, thirteen educators from five states gathered for a three-day scoring institute as part of the Innovation Lab Network’s Performance Assessment project. The goals of the institute included attaining reliable scoring on the performance assessment the teachers had field tested in spring 2014 and informing the design of the emerging national task bank and accompanying resources to support implementation of tasks.

I had the privilege of co-facilitating the English Language Arts group. As we discussed the rubric and the annotated anchor work samples, and practiced scoring student work, the group gained a common understanding of the elements of the rubric and a level of confidence about how to apply them to student work. In the course of the three days several themes emerged that underscore some guiding principles for implementing performance assessment.

(more…)

Building a Body of Learning Evidence: English Language Development in Adams County School District 50

October 20, 2014 by
Alice Collins

Alice Collins

The following is based on an interview with Alice Collins, Director of English Language Development at Adams County School District 50, with a focus on their structures, approach, and insights for other schools, including a look at the challenges and opportunities.

Background

Building up a body of evidence of learning about your students is at the heart of Adams 50’s approach to English language development. Director of English Language Development Alice Collins explained, “Teachers have to understand where learners are in their language acquisition, their content skill development, and what they need. The only way to do this is draw together as much data as possible.”

As their schools underwent rapid and massive diversification, Adams 50 turned to competency education as they realized that the traditional approach to education wasn’t going to work. The district is now 18 percent White, with Hispanic, African American, and Native American students making up 82 percent of the student body. It has the second highest percentage of English Learners in the state, with 45 percent of learners in the ELD program (and they aren’t a very big district, with 10,000 students). Spanish is the dominant other language with an additional thirty-one other languages represented in the district.

Adams 50 is an English immersion district with one elementary school offering a transitional Spanish-English bilingual track. Collins explained, “In competency education, teachers are constantly building their skills. Given the higher percentage of our learners in the ELD program, teachers are building their skills to provide quality instruction to students as they acquire English and master content standards. It doesn’t happen overnight – its part of our constant attention to building our capacity to meet the needs of our learners.” It’s starting to pay off – ELD elementary school learners are improving their reading skills, as shown on the TCAP assessments.

(more…)

When Teachers Can Implement At Their Own Pace

October 15, 2014 by

bull dog for van meterI recently had the opportunity to visit Van Meter School in Van Meter, Iowa with Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills at the Iowa Department of Education and facilitator of the Iowa Competency-based Education (CBE) Collaborative. Two faculty members accompanied us from Drake University’s School of Education, Dr. Randy Peters and Dr. Laura Kieran. They are members of the CBE Collaborative, bringing vision, curiosity and dedication to scoping out the future of competency education in Iowa.

Van Meter Community School District is a small district located 15 miles outside of Des Moines. It has one school building comprising K-12. Total attendance is 677 students, of whom 158 chose to open enroll into the district (students in Iowa can enroll in another district of their choice). The Mission of Van Meter Community School District is “to personalize learning for each student’s success, today and tomorrow.”

Van Meter is transitioning to full-school competency education, but has been doing standards-based grading school-wide in K-12 for three years. Elementary Principal and Director of Teaching and Learning Jen Sigrist explained the evolution: “We had a few teachers trying it before (five and six years ago), which led to each secondary teacher trying it for at least one class four years ago. After that, we made the move district wide. The last team to come on board was 5th grade mostly because they were not included in the secondary conversations and were preparing kids for the secondary by giving traditional letter grades in the past. They were happy to jump on board with the entire district three years ago.” (more…)

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