Author: Chris Sturgis

August 2018 CompetencyWorks Catch-Up

September 1, 2018 by

Here are the highlights from August 2018 on CompetencyWorks. Happy reading. And let us know if you have questions you want us to delve into!


Mastery Education in Idaho


Next Stop New Zealand


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…)


August 27, 2018 by

Building on last year’s Mastery Week, Springpoint Schools and their partners are launching Mastery Assessment Week (#masteryweek)from August 27 – 31. This is a chance to focus in on what it means to have a mastery assessment system (including transparency about where students are in their learning based on specific learning objectives; opportunity to apply and demonstrate learning with common assessment criteria and performance-based assessment; multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning when a student is “not yet” there; and multiple ways to demonstrate learning).  You can hear from your colleagues around the country and share your ideas as well.According to Springpoint the week will unfold with the following activities:

Monday – What can assessment look like in a mastery-based system?

Springpoint will open the week with a welcome post that explains the mechanics of the week and highlights resources and examples around creating and refining mastery assessment practices. (more…)

Tips for Teachers

August 24, 2018 by

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

Courtney Belolan, Instructional Coach at RSU #2 in Maine, is a frequent writer about the practices teachers can use in the classroom to personalize, motivate, and engage students. She writes from her teacher background for teachers. Her weekly tips focus in on one practice, one challenge, or one question at a time. She’s covered a lot of ground over the years, and I thought it might be helpful for teachers if they could access them more easily.


Target Practice

Dancing Out Front

Be Reasonable!

Application of Learning: It Doesn’t Have To Be An Outhouse

Exceeding Is More Complicated Than Adding Glitter and Flash

Testing Myths

Understanding Formative Assessment Using the Teaching and Learning Möbius Strip


What’s New in Competency-Based Education

August 23, 2018 by

Coming Up

Listening to the Voices of Students and Teachers
Education Reimagined has published several pieces in which students share their experience in learner-centered classrooms. We should do more of this to capture the experience of students as they move from traditional approaches to personalized, competency-based ones.


Slaying the Dragon: A Conversation with Cory Woolstenhulme on Mastery-Based Learning

August 22, 2018 by

Cory Woolstenhume

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

The conversation with Cory Woolstenhulme, principal of Columbia High School, was rich with insights. He is reflective and candid, a learner-leader if you will. Here are a few of the insights he shared:

Repairing Gaps

“Filling the gaps is new to us. It’s never been an expectation that a high school should do that. What we’ve been doing as an education system has been a not-so-funny joke. As long as no one blew the whistle, students got passed on. We say to students that as long as you behave okay, I’ll pass you. If you do enough homework, you’ll pass my class. Retention has been our only tool, but it can be miserable for students. They have to go through an entire year of the same material but still not actually get the help they need. Now we begin with the idea that we need to start students exactly where they are, and that means finding out what they know and don’t know. It means we have to figure out how to organize school to respond to every student being in a different place rather than pretending that they are all are at the same starting point.” (more…)

Moving from Compliance to Agency: Maine Modifies its Proficiency-Based Policy

August 21, 2018 by

By Tony Webster (Maine State Legislature Office (Capitol) – Augusta) via Wikimedia Commons

The growing concerns about proficiency-based learning has led to the Maine state legislature repealing the proficiency-based diploma and modifying its policy that all school districts be expected to implement proficiency-based education. (A note: There are complications about when this goes into effect and, for those students already in proficiency-based systems, they will need to complete their high school experience with the same graduation requirements in which they started according to Maine law.) School districts do retain the option to move to proficiency-based learning and many are likely to do so.

Poor implementation by districts that were only making the changes to comply with state law rather than thinking about designing around what is best for students to learn created confusion such as thinking that proficiency-based learning is only a change in grading practice. Understandably, parents pushed back when districts mistakenly focused on the issue of “time being a variable” and no longer required students to attend school without having put into place the system that is designed to support student learning, such as building intrinsic motivation and systems of feedback on the habits of success. Instead of demanding effective implementation, the concerns about problematic implementation were directed at proficiency-based learning itself. Thus, the lagging districts that were driven by compliance were undermining the efforts of those leading districts that were empowered and driven to forge proficiency-based systems designed around research on how students learn. (more…)

Upcoming Webinar: Fit for Purpose

August 20, 2018 by

An iNACOL/ComptencyWorks webinar Fit for Purpose: Taking the Long View on Systems Change and Policy to Support Competency Education is coming up soon. Join Maria Worthen for a lively discussion about the the type of system we need to support competency-based education on August 28 at 2-3 ET. (register here)

Gathering Insights on Mastery-Based Learning from Columbia High School

August 15, 2018 by

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

Throughout the conversations during the site visit to Columbia High School, there were many important insights. Principal Cory Woolstenhulme reflected, “There is lots of failing forward. We are leaning forward hard, learning from our failures. We are learning something new every day about the nature of support that is needed for our learners.”

Here are just a few: (more…)

Next Stop New Zealand

August 13, 2018 by

CompetencyWorks is heading to New Zealand in September to try to learn from how they think about learning, schools, and the system of education to push our thinking and spark our imagination of what is possible. Based on her experiences in 2016, Susan Patrick recommended that we turn to New Zealand to help us build a deeper understanding of what state systems and approaches might look like. (Given our all-things-education-are-local approach, it’s best to focus on states with the assumption that states can work together to create regional and national structures when needed.)

As I prepare for this trip, reading everything I can about education in New Zealand, I have been working to hone the questions that will guide the investigation knowing full well that I will encounter ideas that will take me to new lines of inquiry. The focus of the investigation includes questions such as: (more…)

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