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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Idaho Site Visit: Mastery Education in Idaho

September 19, 2018 by

What Not To Do: Six Problematic Practices in the Transition to Competency Education

September 17, 2018 by

Implementation mistakes cause harm in both the short run and the long run. In the short run, students may be receiving mixed messages that can impact learning, engagement, and motivation or result in inadequate support. In the long run, it harms the competency education movement.

There are always going to be concerns raised by those who oppose competency education based on an ideological or political standpoint such as anti-standards, a wish to return to covering content, and an enduring fear that communism may rear its head if we hold high expectations for all students. However, the larger threat to advancing competency education is shallow or one-off implementation and failure to not address problems of practice . (Please see David Ruff’s article Six Fixes for Proficiency-Based Learning.)

The risk of poor implementation is that competency-based education becomes defined by the problems in the field rather than a definitional, aspirational, or research-based approach. Can you imagine describing the field of medicine, journalism, or agriculture by the errors, missteps, or bad actors? This is why building a field with an agreed upon working definition, design principles, and quality standards is important. Otherwise we leave ourselves to being defined, as in this case, by poor practice.

The Critics Are Our Friends

The fact of the matter is when our critics comment on problems of practice they are often right to do so. We need to take these types of critiques seriously and correct them. These practices are likely to be problematic unless a highly developed model is in place. (more…)

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Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: How New is a New School Year?

September 14, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on September 11, 2018. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

The new year is underway. New classes, new teachers, new supplies, new buildings (for some). But how new should the new year be in a learner centered proficiency based environment? Is it really a clean slate, a fresh start, a brand new year of learning? Maybe the start of a new school year should be thought of more as a resuming of the learning rather than a new start of learning. (more…)

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The Power of Connections

September 12, 2018 by

This is the third article in the series Conversations with Authors About Competency-Based Education.

It’s always fascinating when you read several books in a row that you might not have thought were at all related but when read together forge an overarching set of ideas. It happened last week when I read Who You Know by Julia Freeland Fisher and Daniel Fisher, Better Together by Tom Vander Ark and Lydia Dobyns, and The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach, one right after the other. My breakthrough thinking was that we understand ourselves and assess ourselves as individuals – individual people, individual teachers, individual schools. And certainly there is always a story to be told through this singular lens. However, there is another analysis that tells quite a different story. Who are we, what do we know, and what do we accomplish through our relationships, connections, and collaborations? (more…)

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Getting Ahead of the Curve: Time for a Mid-Course Correction

September 10, 2018 by

I recently played chess with an eleven-year-old niece who is a much better player than I am. She thinks ahead whereas I am definitely still a novice, a step-by-step player constantly surprised when the next pawn, rook, or knight is bumped off the board.

When I read an op-ed titled Proficiency is a flawed model for education regarding proficiency-based education in Maine, I realized that as a field we are operating as novices with the risk of getting bumped off the board and bumped out of the educational agenda. (more…)

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The Sharp Ones: A Few Takeaways from Idaho

September 5, 2018 by

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This is the tenth article in the series on Mastery Education in Idaho. Links to the other articles can be found below.

Oh, there is so much to learn in Idaho. Where to start?

1) Learning from others and making it your own.

Too often we recreate the wheel. It’s fun to be so creative and to think it through. It’s also a lot of work to investigate what others have done and try to make sense of it. However, the cost is huge to start from scratch. You’ll make mistakes. The designs will most likely only represent the limits of your own knowledge and imagination at that point in time. Usually, we can only design around a few strands or concepts – it’s hard to create robust models straight out of the gate. Reiteration takes time, and there is a risk that there will be pushback on the big idea if early models are too limited or shallow.

Idaho seems to have mastered being “a sharp one” in the language of the “pencil metaphor.” In other words, they saw what early adopters had done, grabbed the best of it, and learned from the mistakes of others to do the best they can for their students. At every stop, people would refer to other schools and resources, describing which parts they were using and which parts they have modified. In Kuna Middle School, the teachers at Synergy had taken the Summit platform and pillars as the foundation for a fully interdisciplinary, project-based approach. At Central Academy, they had drawn from Building 21 and Bronx Arena in terms of approaches and information systems. Columbia High School has been pulling pieces from Marzano Research Lab, Summit, and Buck Institute. The team from reDesign has been a strong partner throughout the development of the Idaho Mastery Education Network. (more…)

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Opportunities for Competency Education in the Reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act

September 4, 2018 by

Carl D. Perkins

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on August 3, 2018. 

On July 23, Congress voted to pass a bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins Act) and on July 31, President Trump signed into law, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, providing states with the opportunity to advance competency-based pathways in career and technical education (CTE) programs. (more…)

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Leaving Single Cell Behind: Moving from Isolation to Flexible Collaboration

September 3, 2018 by

Denise Airola and a team of educators from Arkansas traveled to New Zealand to learn about their educational approach. Here are a few of their highlights. (Originally posted at Office of Innovation for Education on December 6, 2017.) 

I ended my last blog by introducing the New Zealand term for a traditional classroom–single-cell. The adjective evokes images of isolation for a teacher. For the learner, if the teacher/student match is positive it isn’t so bad. On the other hand, we’ve all had that teacher in our lives, the one with whom we’ve spent a year feeling like we’ve been sentenced to jail, stifled by the lack of creative expression or extreme power differential that makes taking a restroom break an act of piracy. As a parent, I’ve waited with baited breath for the class lists to get posted the Friday before the start of the school year, praying my girls would be matched with the right teacher for their learner dispositions because single-cell is just what it sounds like for the most part—a school year sentence to a single space with a single teacher. New Zealand’s ministry of education is moving away from that industrial-age concept. I’ll elaborate on how they are doing this as I describe our visit to Glen Eden Intermediate School. (more…)

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A Visit with the ‘Westies’–Day 2 in New Zealand

August 30, 2018 by

Denise Airola and a team of educators from Arkansas traveled to New Zealand to learn about their educational approach. Here are a few of their highlights. (Originally posted at Office of Innovation for Education on November 17, 2017.) 

Disclaimer: When you are in the southern hemisphere it is easy to get your sense of direction a little confused, especially if geography isn’t your strong suit. That sense of confusion can be exacerbated by changing seasons as well–from fall in Northwest Arkansas to spring in New Zealand in the course of a 13 hour plane ride. Given the upheaval, my sense of place, time, and context was a bit out of sorts by the second day of school visits in New Zealand. (more…)

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Central Academy, West Ada School District

August 29, 2018 by

Nichole Velasquez and Donell McNeal

This is the ninth post in a series on Mastery Education in Idaho. Links to the other articles in the series can be found below.

“I was badly behind. No teacher would ever stop to help me. I even had a teacher scream at me once when I asked a question. It’s different at Central. They listen. They walk me through things. They make sure I understand. I’ve gained confidence. And I’m more motivated. Even though I am only a sophomore I have enough credits to graduate,” explained a student at Central Academy in West Ada School District. (more…)

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