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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The Best Academic Schools in Tennessee Feature the Best Character Program in the Country

December 14, 2018 by

This article originally appeared at Education Week on December 11, 2018. It was posted on Vander Ark on Innovation.

“Teaching has to change. If I never tap into your truth, if I never validate your truth, I’ve failed you as a teacher,” said Valor College Prep HS teacher Matthias McNeal. About the morning meeting, McNeal adds, “Circle is getting to the root of what makes you so special.”

The best academic secondary schools in Tennessee feature the best character development program in the country.

Valor Collegiate Academies has been in the top 5% of Tennessee schools on growth and achievement every year since it started in 2014. But we visited Valor (seven miles south of the Country Music Hall of Fame in suburban southeast Nashville) because of the well regarded Valor Compass, a holistic human development program. (more…)

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In Reflection: The Challenges and Opportunities Before Us

December 13, 2018 by

This article is the final in a three-part series of my final reflections on the field of competency-based education before I depart CompetencyWorks. You can find more about how to move from traditional to modern schools, including a series on what it means to modernize your schools to include competency education, at LearningEdge.

In this final article, I’m going to make some suggestions on what we can do about some of those hand-wringing problems facing us and then wrap up with the opportunities that bring me hand-fluttering excitement.

Facing Up to the Challenges

I honestly don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer when I talk about hand-wringing problems. I just firmly believe that we need to deal with problems that are both emerging and currently facing us, or at least have well-laid plans in hand. Otherwise, they really could be our downfall; the movement will start to dissipate and we’ll have to wait for the next cycle that will re-introduce the ideas of personalized learning and competency-based education under a new name. (more…)

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In Reflection: Eight Lessons Learned Over the Past Decade

December 12, 2018 by

This article is the second in a three-part series of my final reflections on the field of competency-based education before I depart CompetencyWorks. You can find more about how to move from traditional to modern schools, including a series on what it means to modernize your schools to include competency education, at LearningEdge.

I feel like I’ve been in “the zone” for eight years. Honestly, I’ve been in the flow that is just as exciting as the crazy high of swimming among 30 whale sharks in the Yucatan. Constantly learning, readjusting the internal framework I use to cluster ideas, checking out new insights to work out whether they are partial, conditional, nuanced, or something that holds generally true. Below are just a few of the big A-HA!s I’ve had over the years. What insights and lessons learned have you had in your work? Wanna share? We all benefit by hearing from each other.

1. Student Agency is Much More Than Voice and Choice (more…)

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In Reflection: Can We Stop Ourselves From Slipping and Sliding Sideways?

December 11, 2018 by

This article is the first in a three-part series of my final reflections on the field of competency-based education before I depart CompetencyWorks. You can find more about how to move from traditional to modern schools, including a series on what it means to modernize your schools to include competency education, at LearningEdge.

Each summer, the CompetencyWorks Advisory Board has a conversation about where we are and where we are going: we call it the “strategic reflection.” This year, the conversation was focused on how we keep our field and the movement toward personalized, competency-based education from slipping sideways.

States have created enabling policy for personalized, competency-based education with waivers, innovation zones, and pilots. Some have fully embraced it as their future. Yet, effective implementation and high quality examples of personalized, competency-based education are not expanding as quickly. Policy is outstripping practice. (more…)

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Insights from Aotearoa New Zealand: Credentialing Learning

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From Youth Guarantee http://youthguarantee.net.nz

This is the eleventh article in the series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand, which highlights insights from a totally different education system about what is possible in transforming our education system. Read the first article here.

One of the key features of a competency-based system that CompetencyWorks has identified is a transparent framework of learning. Every school making the transition takes the time to build shared understanding of either a competency framework or the state standards. This includes building understanding of what depth of knowledge the standards are set at to align instruction and assessment, as well as building a shared understanding of what proficiency looks like for the grade level being taught (in addition to the standards above and below that students might need to or are ready to tackle).

However, in most cases, these transparent competency frameworks are primarily organized within a school or perhaps across a district. Only a handful of states have developed a full K-12 competency framework. And as far as I know, there is no place (yet) where higher education has been willing to construct a transparent framework that might extend from K-13 or even K-16. (more…)

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Insights from Aotearoa New Zealand: Key Competencies

December 10, 2018 by

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This is the tenth article in the series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand, which highlights insights from a totally different education system about what is possible in transforming our education system. Read the first article here.

Aotearoa New Zealand offers so many insights and inspirations in our work to forge a personalized, competency-based system. I’m going to highlight three examples: key competencies; a transparent system of cross-sector performance levels; and the National Certificate of Educational Achievement.

These examples are not going to be easily or directly translated to the U.S. context. Certainly, it’s best to draw from NZ for ideas for state policy. Imagining its approach as a model for our federal government makes my brain hurt because of our multiple levels of governance as compared to their Tomorrow’s School policy granting school autonomy. It’s also important to remember, too, that the Kiwis are in a process of moving toward modern schools with modern pedagogy and modern learning environments. With 2,500 autonomous schools, there are plenty of very traditional schools that just want to keep doing what they are doing. Similar to the U.S., there are also schools that have sunk into the swamp of dysfunction and are awaiting the combination of community and national public will that is required to intervene. (more…)

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Changes at CompetencyWorks

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Chris Sturgis

Oh, I have such mixed feelings. I’ll be leaving CompetencyWorks at the end of December and my emotions are all atwitter.

I’m thrilled with how the field of competency education has advanced over the past eight years and how much we have learned. I’m proud of what CompetencyWorks and the incredible network of leaders from districts and schools across the country have accomplished. I’m excited for the next stage of work to modernize schools. And I’m a bit heartbroken about leaving CompetencyWorks.

However, I’m not leaving our work. You can find me at LearningEdge. I know I’ll keep learning and writing. I’ll continue to collaborate with those of you leading the field. And I’ll be consulting and seeking opportunities to integrate knowledge about how to modernize schools so we can make it easier and easier for education leaders to understand and implement high quality models.

What’s Going to Happen to CompetencyWorks? (more…)

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Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #12: Maximize Transparency

December 9, 2018 by

This is the thirteenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #12 Maximize Transparency on page 81. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

Transparency is by far one of the most powerful principles that drives personalized, competency-based education. (more…)

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U.S. Department of Education Outlines Guidance for Submitting Amendments to State ESSA Plans

December 8, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on November 27, 2018.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released guidance outlining how states can amend their state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA State Plan amendment process offers an opportunity for continuous improvement of state education systems, toward greater coherence.

According to the guidelines, a state wishing to make an amendment will need to: (more…)

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Insights from Aotearoa New Zealand: Defining Lifelong Learning

December 7, 2018 by

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This is the ninth article in the series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand, which highlights insights from a totally different education system about what is possible in transforming our education system. Read the first article here.

Day by day, I am developing a deeper understanding about the Building Blocks for Learning (a 16-part comprehensive framework that includes everything from self-regulation to self-direction), their relationship to modern pedagogy based on research on learning, and the ultimate goal of ensuring students are powerful lifelong learners. The Building Blocks also have implications for school design, teaching, and how learning experiences (i.e., curriculum) are designed. (more…)

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