Author: Chris Sturgis

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…)

Juggling Frogs

May 10, 2012 by

Read the first post on Spaulding High School.

Organizational change is always a case of juggling frogs. As I continue to reflect on my visit to Spaulding High School in April, I’m increasingly humbled by the enormous change they are involved in and the amount of respect and thoughtfulness that the administration, teachers, and students offered one another. Here are a few more insights into the competency education practices being introduced at Spaulding High School.

Competencies and Staff Cohesion: A number of different issues emerged as we talked about the scheduling of courses and their design. Spaulding is using Understanding by Design to help them design courses. (more…)

Spaulding High Holds the Spirit of Competency Education

May 9, 2012 by

Read more about Spaulding High School.

Traveling to Amherst, Massachusetts, for the Proficiency-Based Pathways meeting and a visit to Spaulding High School in Rochester, New Hampshire, was one of those profound reminders of the enormously beautiful variation in our country in terms of culture, race, and ethnicity—and, of course, geography—as the greening woods, running rivers, and sparkling forsythia nearly blinded my New Mexico eyes.

As you probably know, New Hampshire has transformed credits from seat-time to competency in all of its high schools. Spaulding’s principal, Mr. Rob Seaward, understands the spirit and value of competency education and is working with teachers to get it into every classroom. They are in the first year of the change and are still working out the kinks, so it’s way too early to look for results. However, here are just a few of the highlights of the site visit. (more…)

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