Results for: Adams 50

A Conversation with Adams 50

March 12, 2014 by
Oliver Grenham

Oliver Grenham

Last week I had the opportunity to meet with part of the Adams 50 leadership team: Oliver Grenham, Chief Education Officer; Jeni Gotto, Director of Assessment and Instructional Technology, and Steve Saunders, Communications Director. Our conversation, summarized below, touched on the results they are seeing, the big implementation issues they have faced, and the new ones popping up. Check out their incredibly great wiki to understand their design and implementation, as well as the new video describing their competency-based system.

1. On An Uphill Trajectory, or Getting Out of the Red

Grenham was adamant: “Is our competency-based system making a difference in achievement? Absolutely.”

The graduation rate within Adams 50 continues to increase (the high school is now 74% for the traditional four-year rate, while the most recent districtwide five year rate is 75.4%, which is expected to be higher next August). This in a district with 81% FRL, 45% ELL, and about 39% student turnover per year (18% by Colorado’s newly implemented school-year based calculations). It’s great news.

In terms of school performance, out of Colorado’s four-category accountability system, Adams 50 moved all their schools out of turnaround status (they are marked red on the state reports), with only four schools (two middle and two elementary) in priority improvement. Of the remaining schools, half are in improvement and the other half in performance. (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.

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Upcoming: Adams 50 Tells Their Story

April 21, 2014 by
dr. swanson

Adams 50 Superintendent Pamela Swanson

REL Central has organized a webinar Competency-Based Education Systems: One Colorado School District’s Experience at which leadership from Adams County School District 50, fondly known as Adams 50, will discuss their approach and lessons learned.

Dr. Oliver Grenham, Chief Academic Officer and Dr. Pamela Swanson, Superintendent will present the district’s instructional model for all learners (including instruction and assessment) and discuss particular concrete examples. The presenters will also discuss challenges and steps they have taken to address the challenges as they have strived to implement a competency-based system.

The webinar is May 14, 2014 from 1:00-3:00 pm MST. You can register here.

The Results are In!

August 28, 2012 by

Time is the Variable. From Adams 50 web

We have all been watching and learning from Adams County School District 50 (Adams 50).  This district, on the outskirts of Denver, embraced competency education with early support of the Reinventing Schools Coalition (the folks who led the way in Chugach, Alaska). They have been staying the course, even with changes in district leadership. They have been staying the course even when they weren’t seeing positive indicators.

And it is paying off — According to the article in the Denver Post, Francis Day Elementary school jumped two levels from turnaround status to performance status. Other positive indicators are that enrollment in the district has started climbing back up and there was no principal turnover this year.  (more…)

Early Investments in Engagement?

September 26, 2012 by

From Adams 50 website

Over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations with district and state leadership about introducing competency education through different entry points and roll-out strategies. There are certainly many strategies – looking for natural leadership, as in Muscatine, Iowa; transforming credits from time-based to competency-based, like in New Hampshire; or opening the door to credit flexibility, like in Ohio. And many opportunities—improving graduation rates, educating over-age and under-credited students, and online learning.

What’s missing from these conversations is the opportunity for communities, educators, and parents to learn about competency education and decide for themselves whether it is the way they want to go. It’s hard to balance district and state leadership with an empowered process in which communities are part of the decision-making. Usually we depend on getting “buy-in,” which is essentially a marketing strategy rather than an engagement strategy.

That’s not the case in the districts described in the case studies available at the Center for Best Practices at the Maine Department of Education. These districts invested heavily in engaging educators, parents, and the broader community. Educators even had the chance to vote whether or not their schools would embrace competency education. According to the case studies, this unleashed the full creativity and determination of school personnel to shape very dynamic processes in which students were much more empowered.

Adams 50 also invested heavily in community engagement. They were able to sustain a leadership transition because community leaders, parents, and educators understood the value of the competency education reform, even when they weren’t yet seeing results. (Check out the Adams 50 website that describes their Competency-based System.)

So I’m left wondering: Is engaging educators and community the first step that we need to take in every community to build the environment for effective and sustained competency education?

 

Yes, This Is Definitely Evidence

December 4, 2012 by

from cbsadams50.org

In a previous post I summarized the evidence of competency education making a difference in student achievement and school performance.

Sometimes a picture says a thousand words.  Below is a snapshot of Adams 50 transformation from having seven schools identified as lowest-performing to having zero. ZERO.  Notice the schools in green – those are the highest performing schools that expanded from two to seven schools in three years.

 

 

You can see the image more clearly here. (more…)

Is There Enough Time for Learning?

November 4, 2014 by
Oliver Grenham

Oliver Grenham

Because of the growing number of mass-administered, required tests under state and/or federal law, there is an increasing and unsustainable demand being placed on student time in school. In recent years, these mandated test increases have affected students in Colorado at all grade levels, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

While student assessment is vital to learning, excessive testing is not, particularly in the way it is handled today. The quantity and quality of instructional time is what matters most for productive learning to occur.

Our experience in Adams County School District 50 has shown that a mass administration of the same test to students of the same age at the same time does not promote learning. In fact, it penalizes students, their teachers, and their schools. An overemphasis on testing significantly reduces the quantity and quality of time that could be better utilized in closing the achievement gap: something our data shows we are successfully doing.

The Teaching Learning Cycle in a Competency-Based System

We all know that teaching and learning take place in the classroom. As educators, we refer to this cyclic process as the Teaching Learning Cycle.

Teaching Learning Cycle (more…)

Summer Reading: What Does Competency Education Look Like?

June 30, 2015 by

Summer ReadingHere is a list of examples of what competency education looks like in different districts and individual schools (over-age/undercredit/high school/middle and elementary/online). My dream (which requires funding that is hard to come by, as we have so many organizations now supporting competency education) is to bring these schools together with a number of experts (assessment, engagement, motivation, learning progressions, design, student agency, social emotional learning, etc.) to try to understand the commonalities and unpack the differences. There isn’t any one right or better model at this point (it may still be too early to do that kind of evaluation…and again, we would need funding), so the best we can do is understand our options.

Please note: There are many more high school examples than elementary and middle school. This is partially due to the country’s focus on college and career readiness and big investments by big foundations into high schools, and also because high school raises some unique issues. Finally, I’m more familiar with high schools and deeply concerned about how we educate kids who are over-age and undercredited. I will do my best to focus more on the younger years to build up our knowledge there, but I need your help in identifying great examples of elementary and middle schools that are competency-based.

Please, please, please…leave in the comments any other great examples that you know about. Competency education is expanding rapidly, and it is very likely I am missing the best examples. Or there may be descriptions of schools that are missing from this list that will be very useful to others.

Districts

Chugach School District: One of the most developed districts, Chugach has figured out the ways to manage quality control and organize content and skills in ways that are meaningful to students and teachers without relying on courses. This is a seven-part series.

Lindsay School District: This district is shaping our understanding of competency education, as so many districts have visited them. They are on a rapid process of creating their 2.0 version with deep thinking about the competencies adults must have, lifelong learning competencies, and powerful information management systems to support pace and progress. We offer a five-part series about their process.

Pittsfield School District: This district began a transformation to become student-centered at the same time the state was advancing competency-based credits. The result is a strong infrastructure that supports high levels of personalization. Their four-series is listed here.

Sanborn School District: A district that has been consistently improving its capacity for instruction and assessment for over a decade, they are now participating in the powerful efforts in New Hampshire to establish common performance assessments and a new accountability model. You can hear directly from their leadership by going reading the pieces written by Brian Stack, principal at Sanborn Regional High School, and Jonathan Vander Els, principal at Memorial Elementary. There is also a three-part case study series outlined below.

School Models

Designed for Students with Large Gaps/Over-Age and Undercredited

Boston Day and Evening Academy: There has been a lot written about BDEA. The case study on CompetencyWorks is listed below. It is included in two reports describing competency-based schools: Making Mastery Work and Springpoint’s new paper Inside Mastery Based High Schools: Profiles and Conversations. It is also the focus of Jobs for the Future’s Aligning Competencies to Rigorous Standards for Off-track Youth.

Bronx Arena: This is a transfer school in New York City that is very comfortable breaking down the walls of the traditional system and re-constructing in ways that meet the needs of students.

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Creating a Common Language of Learning: A Continuum of Learning

October 24, 2016 by

blocksThis is the eleventh article in the series Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders. In this article, we continue to explore questions that districts consider when creating their instruction and assessment model.

How will learning targets and curriculum be organized within the structure?

Once a district has established what the structure will be, the next step is to organize the content areas or domains into the structure or a continuum of learning. The task at hand is to create a learning continuum for each domain that has been determined as important to graduation expectations, stretching from K through 12, with a clear indication of what it means to advance upon mastery. In thinking about the definitional elements of competency education, this is where districts create a transparent set of explicit and measurable learning objectives and a system of assessments that are designed to advance student learning.

The process of developing the learning continuum, defined as an aligned set of standards and rubrics, can be designed as embedded professional development. Working in groups, teachers unpack standards, share student work, and write the standards in user-friendly language. While a vital step, this can also become an overly iterative process when the focus turns to getting every word right rather than building a shared understanding, holding deep conversations about learning progressions that describe how students move from one concept to the next, and building assessment literacy. Schools may develop and review rubrics simultaneously or as a subsequent step. (The topic of rubrics and calibrating the determination of proficiency is discussed separately in the next article.)

Something to Think About: Districts should set the goal as creating continuums of learning across elementary and secondary schools, not just as segments for each grade level. It is important to think about vertical alignment. Once teachers have organized the learning continuums, be prepared for frustration that curriculum isn’t designed well for the competency-based classroom. Publishers create curricular resources on specific grade levels, with different products for elementary, middle, and high school. Thus, a teacher in seventh grade trying to teach students with gaps at the fourth- or fifth-grade level may not have any resources within the middle school curriculum or be familiar with the elementary school curriculum. As a partial solution, Adams 50 turned to an open source curriculum, Progressive Math Initiative from the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning.

 

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San Antonio Here We Come: Competency Ed at the iNACOL Symposium

August 17, 2016 by

El PasoI’ve just been looking at the schedule for the competency education strand at the iNACOL Symposium on October 25-28. It is definitely the best set of sessions yet, with a much stronger focus on equity than ever before. For anyone new to competency education trying to understand or to think about how to move forward, I definitely recommend starting with the full-day workshop with the Charleston County School District team. (Check out the series on CCSD.) If you stay around to the very end, Susan Patrick and I are facilitating a “meet the expert” discussion. And we’ll be posting information about where to find us for the CompetencyWorks meet-up at the President’s Reception the evening of October 25.

Here is an overview of the strand:

Equity and Competency-Based Education

Proficiency as a Pathway to Equity

Tony Lamair Burks II and Angela Hardy, Great Schools Partnership will focus on the rationale for, the critical elements of, and the policies that support a proficiency-based learning system as a means to achieve equity for all students.

How Competency-Based Education Drives Equity and Cultural Responsiveness

Joy Nolan, Jeremy Kraushar, and Julianna Charles Brown, Mastery Collaborative: an initiative of Model Redesign team, NYC DOE Office of Postsecondary Readiness will discuss the major shifts that happen when schools become competency-based and how this increased cultural responsiveness.

Redefining Equity in Competency-Based Systems of Learning

David Cook, Kentucky Department of Innovation and Dr. Carmen Coleman, Center for Innovation in Education will begin to develop a new definition of equity that makes sense in a personalized, competency-based environment.

Culture, Practices, Rituals and Routines

Competency-Based Education and Self-Directed Learning Practices in the Classroom

(more…)

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