CompetencyWorks is an online resource dedicated to providing information and knowledge about competency education in the K-12 education system. Drawing on lessons learned by innovators and early adopters, CompetencyWorks shares original research, knowledge and a variety of perspectives through an informative blog with practitioner knowledge, policy advancements, papers on emerging issues and a wiki with resources curated from across the field. CompetencyWorks also offers a blog on competency education in higher education so that the sectors can learn from each other and begin to align systems across K-12, higher education and the workplace.

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In Real Life: How do we know if competency-based education is working?

February 22, 2019 by

This article is the eighth in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Competency-based education (CBE) systems across the country share one ambitious goal: to have every child master the knowledge and skills essential for success in college and career. It is a bold North Star because it means every child and every essential competency.

To succeed, CBE schools and districts must be able to determine how well their systems’ practices and structures are contributing toward this goal. Through the use of quality frameworks such as CompetencyWorks’ Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education and processes for ongoing continuous improvement and organizational learning, leaders of CBE systems can track progress and make adjustments to their systems in real time. After all, success doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it looks more like the famed napkin drawing (above) attributed to comedian Demetri Martin: convoluted and full of setbacks and redirection. CBE systems must be able to determine when and how to make adjustments.

What can we learn from “real life” CBE leaders about monitoring the success of their systems and making adjustments when necessary? Three related pieces of advice emerged across the stories shared by the practitioners interviewed for this series:

  1. Collect and analyze multiple types of data throughout the year;
  2. Ensure reliability and consistency across the system; and
  3. Prioritize educator collaboration.

(more…)

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In Real Life: How do CBE systems support all students to reach mastery?

February 20, 2019 by

Alison Kearney, Assistant Principal, Noble High School, ME

This article is the seventh in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Since learners are met where they are in CBE systems and are supported to reach mastery at their own pace, what supports are needed to ensure everyone succeeds?

To better understand this question, I sat down with Alison Kearney, Assistant Principal at Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine.

A rural school, Noble High School serves roughly 1,100 students across three towns up to an hour bus ride away. Its students often come from rural poor backgrounds, influencing how the school has structured its student support system. Noble High’s proficiency-based system was profiled in a CompetencyWorks blog post in 2015.

(more…)

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ACTIONS – Ideas and Strategies for District Leaders

February 18, 2019 by

This is the ninth post in a series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

I spent years in a district leadership role trying to help schools navigate the shift toward personalized, competency-based education. One of the the many things I learned during this time was that in order to help schools innovate, I also had to help central office innovate. Specifically, I had to think differently—first for myself, and then for others—about the roles of central office in navigating and sustaining innovation.

In my experience, being called “someone from the district” by someone in a school could carry any number of connotations: someone who made rules, someone who added to teachers’ plates, someone who didn’t get what things were really like in a classroom. Now, this wasn’t one hundred percent true for me, and it’s certainly not one hundred percent true in every district. Still, I share this experience because I think it reflects a concern we have all seen, felt, or experienced at some point: that central office and schools are not always on the same page about how to approach innovation, or how to help teachers help kids.

However—and this is a BIG however—there are lots and lots of examples that prove this perception wrong. More specifically, there are lots and lots of examples of district leaders who play very different roles in orienting, enabling, and supporting learning and teaching on the ground. This is one of  big ideas I want to get across in Moving Toward Mastery: that district leaders can play powerful roles in creating the conditions where teachers can learn and grow so that students can learn and grow. Toward the end of the report I describe the leverage that district leaders have in their roles (page 68). But, I stop short of describing specific actions they can take. This post picks up where the paper left off, offering three big ideas and ten action ideas for district leaders who are trying to grow, develop, and sustain educators for competency-based education. (more…)

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VOICES – Jennifer Kabaker on Changing the Narrative and Recruiting Lifelong Educators

February 15, 2019 by

This is the eighth post in a ten-part series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in the Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education report accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

How can we recruit and retain lifelong educators who will learn, improve, and lead over the course of their careers? This of course is a question for the entire field of education, not just for competency-based education. But I think it is a particularly important question for competency-based districts and schools to grapple with because becoming a competency-based educator is a continuous process of personal mastery. You don’t become masterful overnight; it takes time.

Moving Toward Mastery touches on this question in two sections: diversifying pathways into the profession and diversifying pathways through the profession. Essentially, the paper says that states, districts, and schools share responsibility for (1) creating recruitment, preparation, and placement pathways that meet teacher workforce needs and ensure diversity; (2) connecting these early stages of a teacher’s professional pathway to their ongoing learning, development, and advancement; and (3) creating opportunities for teachers to grow and lead in their careers so that they stay in the teaching profession.

These ideas can seem far away and unreachable. To bring them closer into view, I thought it would be useful to highlight a leader and organization working to create pathways into teaching, and crafting a narrative about teaching as a lifelong profession. This post highlights the voice and work of Jennifer Kabaker and the team at TEACH. (more…)

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It’s Time to Submit Proposals to the iNACOL Symposium

February 13, 2019 by

The iNACOL Symposium will be held on October 28-31, 2019 at the Palm Springs Convention Center in Palm Springs, California.

iNACOL is now accepting Requests for Presentation Proposals to present at the iNACOL Symposium, held at the Palm Springs Convention Center in Palm Springs, California on October 28-31, 2019. This year’s theme is: Shining a Light on the Future of Learning. iNACOL’s annual conference is the premier learning conference for those driving the transformation of education systems and accelerating the advancement of breakthrough policies and practices to ensure high-quality learning for all. Experts, practitioners, educators, policymakers, researchers and innovators gather and work to transform education.

To access the RFP and submit your proposal to present, please click hereThe deadline for submitting presentation proposals is Friday, March 8, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. ET. You can download the RFP questions in advance by clicking this link. The iNACOL Program Committee will notify applicants of proposal status no later than Monday, May 6, 2019. (more…)

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In Real Life: How do CBE systems manage differences in pace?

February 11, 2019 by

Mallory Haar, English as a New Language Teacher, Casco Bay High School, ME.

This article is the sixth in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Competency-based education (CBE) systems meet students where they are and support them to master a pre-defined set of learning targets at their own pace. Managing a group of learners who are at different places in their learning might seem doable if their paces are similar, but what about students who deviate widely from the class norm or “teacher pace”? Are there limits to how quickly or slowly students are allowed to move through the system?

To better understand how competency-based systems reckon with these questions, I sat down with Mallory Haar, who teaches English as a New Language and English Literature at Casco Bay High School in Portland, Maine.

(more…)

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What’s New in K-12 Competency-Based Education?

February 8, 2019 by

What's New Image

RESOURCES

  • iNACOL just released our 2019 State Policy Priorities and 2019 Federal Policy Priorities. These briefs provide a long-range vision of reforms needed to create personalized, competency-based learning environments to ensure that all students develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they will need to achieve success and advance society.
  • In How to Design a Competency-Based Assessment, Eric Hudson, the Director of Learning and Teaching at Global Online Academy, provides an overview of four main steps: articulating competencies, developing evidence, building student-friendly rubrics, and creating learning experiences – with extensive links to more detailed information.
  • In Designing Advisory Systems: Innovative Approaches from High Schools, Springpoint provides five case studies of advisory systems that aim to build community, create a safe environment, and ensure that every student has a trusted adult invested in their success. Each school has a different approach to advisory, customized to its students and context, so the report provides a variety of helpful models and program elements.

(more…)

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In Real Life: How feedback loops and student supports help ensure learning is deep, ongoing, and integrated.

February 6, 2019 by

Elizabeth Cardine, Lead Teacher and Advisor, MC2 Schools, NH

This article is the fifth in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Competency-based education (CBE) systems define competencies and learning progressions to make learning expectations more transparent and accessible to students; but such transparency can be prone to the unintended consequence of creating a “check the box” mentality that compromises depth and relevance.

To better understand how competency-based systems balance the desire for transparency with the need for depth, I sat down with Elizabeth Cardine, Lead Teacher and Advisor at Making Community Connections (MC2) Charter Schools in New Hampshire.

(more…)

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ENTRY POINTS – First Steps Toward a Lifelong Profession

February 4, 2019 by

This is the seventh post in a ten-part series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in the Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education report accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

“A lifelong profession engages, develops and sustains educators over the course of their careers. Educators are supported and trusted as respected members of a respected profession. They are meaningfully and adequately prepared for the roles they will take on, they have opportunity to grow and specialize in their careers, and they are evaluated in ways that support improvement and promote advancement.” – Moving Toward Mastery, p. 51

Becoming a masterful educator does not happen overnight, or in a year, or in two. It is a continuous process of learning and growth. As Peter Senge wrote, “personal mastery is not something you possess. It is a process. It is a lifelong discipline.” Getting to equity for our students and families means finding, developing, and keeping exceptional people in the classroom.

Moving Toward Mastery paints a picture of teaching as a “lifelong” profession. But admittedly, of all the ideas in the paper, “lifelong” can seem the most abstract. Of course we want teachers to have powerful experiences in their preparation programs, to be able to learn and grow as educators, to be evaluated in fair and meaningful ways, and to stay in the profession while they develop mastery. But the changes needed to bring about these conditions can seem far away, especially for people working in schools or districts.

(more…)

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VOICES – Lisa Simms on Leading and Sustaining Innovation

February 1, 2019 by

This is the sixth post in a ten-part series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in the Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education report accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

“Competency-based districts and schools are innovative at their core. Educators are at the forefront of innovation, leading the way as they test and share new practices. But, it is a mistake to think about innovators as lone actors or rogue agents of change. Innovators are collaborative practitioners focused on trying, testing and growing new ideas that improve student learning and support school improvement.” – Moving Toward Mastery, p. 48

“Creating a culture of innovation” gets talked about a lot in competency-based education. Almost everyone can agree that implementing dramatic changes in education at all levels requires that everyone, from students to superintendents to state leaders, be willing and able to try, test, and refine new ways of working. What’s sometimes harder to understand is how a “culture of innovation” actually happens. As I listen to teachers and leaders reflect on challenges in their work and as I reflect on my own leadership in the field, here are some questions that come to mind for which there are no easy or clear answers:

How do leaders actually create environments in which people can innovate well? How can leaders balance the need for innovation with the pressures for performance? In what ways does innovation look different (and require different leadership and structures and activities) in early-stage endeavors compared to late-stage ones? What does it look like to sustain innovation over time?

To help answer these questions, I spoke with Lisa Simms. Lisa is a founding design team member and current principal at Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design. DSISD opened its doors in fall of 2015, offering competency-based and project-based learning in early college pathways. In this post, Lisa reflects on what it means to lead for innovation in the fourth year of a new competency-based high school: how she supports teachers to innovate and stay the course as they prepare to graduate their founding class. (more…)

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