Author: Chris Sturgis

Spaulding High: Creating a Comprehensive System of Supports

June 25, 2012 by
Paul Newell

Paul Newell

CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network includes a Comprehensive System of Supports as one of the six attributes of a next generation education system. In the working definition of competency education, the fourth element refers to “timely and differentiated support.” Spaulding High School provides a window into what this really means for schools and districts as they build a competency education system.

As Spaulding High moved forward in implementing competency education, they knew  that students would need time for extra help. In addition to teachers providing extra help, they created E-Block to provide after-school tutoring, and expanded the “Plato room” to provide-credit recovery programming.

What they didn’t plan for is how many students  didn’t complete all the competencies needed to transition to tenth grade (more…)

Boston Day and Evening Academy: A Learning Organization

June 22, 2012 by

This is the third post in the Boston Day and Evening Academy series. Continue reading the first and second posts.

This final post on Boston Day and Evening Academy(BDEA) offers some of the big takeaways and lessons learned from my site visit.

Beatriz Zapater & BDEA student

Process for Designing Competencies: Beatriz Zapater, Head of BDEA, explained that “We always start with the curriculum frameworks. In Massachusetts, the standards feel like a telephone book with long lists of what we expect students to know. We can’t teach a phone book—we don’t have time. So we go in search of the most important ones. Common Core offers anchor standards so that makes it easier.” Alison Hramiec, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, continued by saying, “We ask ourselves three questions: 1) What is essential for all students to know and be able to do in each section of the Common Core?  2) What are the essential components of those skills and knowledge we are asking students to demonstrate?, and, 3) How can we scaffold this learning through the scope and sequence?

Zapater further suggested that “Schools develop a framework of common language around the language used in rubrics (BDEA uses not yet competent, competent, and highly competent), scope and sequence, and extra support. Otherwise it becomes a Tower of Babel, and you risk focusing on things other than student learning.” (See definitions used at BDEA on the wiki.)

(more…)

Boston Day and Evening Academy: Where Competency Education is Good Teaching Practice

June 21, 2012 by

This is the second post in the Boston Day and Evening Academy series. Continue reading the first and third posts.

During my site visit to BDEA, Alison Hramiec, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, explained that at BDEA “competency is synonymous with good teaching practice, with clear rubrics and discussion around student work. Competency education instills a sense of ownership in the learning process for teachers and for students. Learning comes alive.” Below are a few highlights of the BDEA competency education model.

Competencies, Benchmarks, and Assessments: BDEA defines competency as “able to demonstrate understanding and application of specific skills and content independently, multiple times, and using the correct vocabulary.” BDEA uses three levels: basic competent, competent, and highly competent.

BDEA uses benchmarks to organize learning and monitor progress. They do not use traditional grades or traditional grade levels. Their students earn benchmarks; each benchmark has a rubric. The Individual Learning Plans with the benchmarks for math, science, and humanities can be found on the wiki. (more…)

Reading the Pulse of Students at Boston Day and Evening Academy

June 20, 2012 by

This is the first post in the Boston Day and Evening Academy series. Continue reading the second and third posts.

Reading the pulse of students. That’s what Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA) does exceptionally well—read the pulse of their students. They know them, they respect them, and they’ve got their backs. That’s where personalization always starts—by having respectful relationships between educators and students.

BDEA has been fine-tuning competency education for fifteen years, and they have a lot of insights to offer to schools that are transforming from a time-based system to a learning-based system. They now offer a Responsive Education Alternatives Lab (REAL) summer institute for interested educators. (more…)

Gathering the Tools for Designing Competencies

June 13, 2012 by

In our research for the paper “The Art and Science of Designing Competencies” to be released later this summer, it is becoming clear that there is some variation in how schools develop competencies. I’m sharing this now because we’d like to know if there are other possible starting points.

We appear to be in agreement that competencies are more encompassing than standards. Therefore, it is important for everyone to first become comfortable with the standards—really get to know them. Start by “unpacking” the standards to determine which ones are the most meaningful. Then reorganize the remaining standards to fall under one (or more) of the larger ideas. (more…)

A Powerful Letter of Reflection and Gratitude

June 9, 2012 by

David Theoharides, Superintendent of Sanford Schools in Maine wrote a beautiful reflection in his June 7th op-ed Vision pursues ‘student-centered, proficiency-based learning‘. The piece also brilliantly served to further engage the community in the transformation towards the Sanford Vision: Learning for Life with its focus on student-centered, proficiency-based learning. (more…)

DC Panel on Competency Education in Higher Education

May 29, 2012 by

The interest for competency education is growing in higher education as well as K-12.  For those of you in the DC area you might want to check out the Center for American Progress discussion June 7, 2012, 10:30am – 12:30pm (you’ll need to rsvp – admission free – and get there early ). If anyone attends, we’d love to hear the highlights of the conversation.

Here is the info from CAP. (more…)

Competency Education at the Education Innovation Summit

May 28, 2012 by

I was lucky to get to go to the Education Innovation Summit. They’ve just uploaded video of their keynote speakers and panels so you can get a sense of the conversations among the technology innovators and the investors.

Below are links to two of the highlights of the event. The first is the competency education panel with Dr. Sybil Francis, Executive Director, Center for the Future of Arizona, Rich Crandall, Senator, Arizona State Legislature, and  Susan Patrick, President and CEO, International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). (more…)

RTT Gets Personalized

May 23, 2012 by

Just in case you missed it, the draft of the next Race to the Top competition was released yesterday.  The first Absolute Priority is Personalized Learning Environment.  They are looking for comments by June 8th. ( Ann Whelan walks through the proposal for RTT at 14:15 on the video.)

It looks like ED is merging the concepts of personalized learning and competency education (the concepts are mutually reinforcing but not exactly the same).   Jim Shelton facilitated a panel to explore what personalized learning means. (Jump to 25:20 on the video) which refers to mastery and progress upon mastery several times.

What are ways that the RTT proposal can be strengthened? We will be a lot more successful in getting constructive changes if we use common language and build on common points.  As you think this through please share your ideas in the comments section, write a post, or just send me an email so I can pull your ideas together.

Art and Science of Designing Competencies

May 17, 2012 by

Greetings everyone!  We just wanted to let you know about our first working paper — the working title is the Art and Science of Designing Competencies.  Our goal is to quickly capture knowledge through a short briefing paper, wiki resources, blog posts and a webinar.  We do not want to duplicate efforts  so if you now about resources that already tackle this issue, please let us know immediately! If you have resources that you think can be useful, please send them our way so that others can draw on them as well.

We have a great group of people willing to share their knowledge — Kim Carter, QED Foundation; Rose Colby from New Hampshire; Gloria Pineda, Diploma Plus; Steve Kossakoski, Virtual Learning Academy Charter School; Kari Webb from Iowa. Thank you to all of them and others who will be reviewing our work to make sure it will be helpful to schools and districts tackling competency education for the first time. (more…)

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