Author: Eliot Levine

Using Global Best Practices for School Self-Assessment and Action Planning at Monmouth Middle School

April 29, 2019 by

Cover of Global Best Practices ToolThis is the second post in a series about the Global Best Practices (GBP) tool from the Great Schools Partnership. It is an outstanding, free resource that offers a practical, step-by-step process for assessing schools to inform school improvement plans. It focuses on characteristics of high-performing schools and can help facilitate shifts toward high-quality competency-based practice.

The first post gives an overview of GBP. This article shares how GBP has been used by Monmouth Middle School in RSU2 in Monmouth, Maine. Their work advances several of the quality principles for competency-based education, such as developing processes for ongoing continuous improvement and organizational learning.

Developing a Self-Assessment and Action Plan

Principal Mel Barter explained that Monmouth, a school with grades 4–8, used Global Best Practices when they had a multi-year coaching and professional development contract with the Great Schools Partnership. She was a teacher on the school leadership team at the time, and they had a new principal who wanted to conduct GBP’s self-assessment and develop an action plan.

After recording their performance strategies and evidence for each GBP dimension, teachers scored the school on each dimension. The school’s leadership team used these scores to draft an action plan during the summer and presented it to the whole staff in the fall. Staff members volunteered to take leadership on the parts they were most interested in.

The Action Plan “got traction quickly. It made it so easy to talk about challenges and how we could make important changes,” Barter explained. “Having the Great Schools Partnership coaches was amazing. They did so much for us, and we still use their protocols.”

The full action plan for all GBP dimensions is available here. School culture was one priority area (more…)

Building a Powerful School Culture at Four Rivers

April 23, 2019 by

This is the first post in a series about Four Rivers Charter Public School in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Walking into the high school building recently at Four Rivers Charter Public School, an EL Education school where I used to teach, the first thing I saw was this sign:

Note on WallThe sign epitomized the thoughtfulness, caring, and powerful teaching around school culture and social-emotional learning that run deep at Four Rivers. It helped students understand the impact of actions that they might not have considered. Writing “Tina” rather than “the custodian” highlighted that everyone is an important member of the school community. The sign was visually appealing, consistent with the school’s strong culture of quality and aesthetics. Notably, it hadn’t been torn or defaced. The wording was polite, not authoritarian, surely a more productive approach for encouraging student reflection and ownership.

Four Rivers was founded in 2003 as an Expeditionary Learning (now called EL Education) school, a national model that strongly promotes competency-based practices. Located in Greenfield, Massachusetts, in the state’s rural northwestern corner, the school has 220 students in grades 7–12, drawn from Greenfield and many surrounding towns.

One of EL Education’s five core practices is “school culture and character,” a practice that Four Rivers focuses on intensively. Promoting a school culture of growth, empowerment, safety, and belonging is also essential for shifting to high-quality competency-based systems. The Four Rivers Student and Family Handbook says, “School culture is shaped by the accumulation of thousands of day-to-day interactions.  How students are with each other, how teachers are with students, how students are with teachers, and much more all contribute to creating culture.” Four Rivers has many strategies to build school culture and character; two of them—community meetings and restorative circles—are described in this article. (more…)

Project Example: Mobile App Design at Urban Assembly Maker Academy

April 16, 2019 by

Students Working on Laptops at UAMAThis is the fourth post in a series about the Mastery Collaborative in New York City. Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Whether you’re already deeply engaged in competency-based learning and assessment or just starting, it’s helpful to see how other teachers who are doing this work are structuring their units. After our recent visit to Urban Assembly Maker Academy, a Living Lab school in New York City’s Mastery Collaborative, the design teacher shared one of his unit plans and student work. This blog post discusses the unit and aspects of the Definition of Competency-Based Education and the Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education that it illustrates.

The unit plan on mobile app design from Teacher Gerry Irizarry’s prototyping course is here. This course is part of UA Maker’s digital media sequence, one of their two approved Career and Technical Education pathways. The unit plan begins with naming the design outcomes (here called “standards”) that are being assessed, such as:

  • I can demonstrate the application of the design process to define and solve design problems.
  • I can demonstrate purposeful arrangement of text and image for a creative layout: size, shape, location, and resolution.
  • I can demonstrate an understanding of a target audience.
  • I can demonstrate the ability to give constructive criticism & feedback.

Mobile App Design Project Components

The project summary section of the unit plan describes an “entry event” intended to increase student engagement by personalizing it to their experiences and interests. First students write a list of their favorite mobile apps, then the group discusses the lists together. This leads to a discussion of the most popular music apps and the pros and cons of each, and finally a more general discussion of what makes apps successful and popular (or not).

With students’ knowledge about apps activated and deepened, the work becomes more individualized, with each student selecting profiles of at least two target buyers (based on factors such as (more…)

Registration Is Open for the 2019 iNACOL Symposium

April 15, 2019 by

Announcement of 2019 iNACOL Symposium

Attendee registration is now open for the iNACOL Symposium held on October 28-31, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. This year’s theme is “Shining a Light on the Future of Learning.”

Register to attend the iNACOL Symposium here.

iNACOL’s annual conference is the premier learning conference for those driving the transformation of education systems and accelerating the advancement of breakthrough policies and practices to ensure high-quality learning for all. Experts, practitioners, educators, policymakers, researchers, and innovators gather and work to transform education.

The iNACOL Symposium includes tracks for competency-based education, assessment for learning, leadership, professional development, policy and advocacy, quality assurance, human capital, community engagement, research, and many more.

Symposium Conference Hall

Register to attend the iNACOL Symposium by 11:59 p.m. ET on July 10, 2019 to receive special early-bird discounts on attendee registration.

For questions, please contact the iNACOL Symposium team. We look forward to seeing you in Palm Springs. (more…)

Mastery-Based Making: The Urban Assembly Maker Academy

April 8, 2019 by

Maker Classroom Door SignThis is the third post in a series about the Mastery Collaborative in New York City. Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Urban Assembly Maker Academy is a New York City public high school with a well-developed mastery system, one of the model “Living Lab” schools for the Mastery Collaborative, an organization described in the first post in this series. The school has many well-developed elements of competency-based education that could serve as models for other schools.

Projects in the maker classroom this school year include students creating original designs in everything from skateboards to sneakers to mobile apps. The maker classroom teacher, Gerry Irizarry, whose former work was in the design field, says that the most important take-away is the design thinking students are learning, which can be applied to any industry—not the specifics of mobile apps or skateboards.

The school is based on the belief that “the world needs problem solvers who can find out and solve challenges to create positive change in a world where change is the only constant. We empower students to be successful, adaptive citizens of the future, who will create the future through design thinking and innovation. Our students are curious about the world around them and empathize with others to develop personalized solutions. Our students know that to innovate, they must take risks. They measure the impact of their actions. They overcome challenges with resilience.”

Photo of Urban Assembly Maker Academy StudentCTE Pathways in a Competency-Based System

The school has two approved career and technical education pathways: computer science and digital media. Students in the computer science pathway take courses including video game programming, physical computing, and Python programming. These courses connect with projects such as (more…)

Webinar: Envisioning the Future of Educator Learning

April 4, 2019 by

iNACOL WebinarFor students to experience the future of learning, we need to transform educator learning. This iNACOL webinar is the first in a three-part series focused on envisioning and realizing the future of educator learning. Participants are invited to attend all or part of this series.

Presenters Adam Rubin and Katherine Casey will investigate the current state of educator professional learning and unpack why professional learning needs to change. They will examine trends shaping the future of educator learning and envision what a next generation professional learning model could look like. Participants will then apply their learning by designing the Future of Educator Learning experience.

Presenters:

You can register for the webinar here.

Diversifying the Student Body and Personalizing Student Schedules at NYC iSchool

April 3, 2019 by
NYC iSchool teacher Evelyn Baracaldo, Principal Isora Bailey, and Assistant Principal Michelle Leimsider

NYC iSchool teacher Evelyn Baracaldo, Principal Isora Bailey, and Assistant Principal Michelle Leimsider

This is the second post in a series about the Mastery Collaborative in New York City. Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

NYC iSchool in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan is one of the Mastery Collaborative’s eight “Living Lab Schools” that serve as models in New York City and beyond. The iSchool emphasizes that it “is designed to offer students opportunities to engage in meaningful work that has relevance to them and the world, [and] choice and responsibility in determining their high school experience.” Two areas in which the school has developed strong practices related to competency-based education are creating a diverse student body against headwinds of the selective schools process and enabling students to select courses based on their interests.

Deliberate Steps to Recruit a Diverse Student Body

As NYC iSchool developed a strong reputation during its early years, its applicant pool grew and its student body became less representative of the school district, as shown in the figure below. Students eligible for free or reduced price lunch fell from 43% to 27% (compared to 74% district-wide) and the percentage of white students increased from 35% to 48% (compared to 15% in the district). (The two groups overlap, because some white students are from low-income families.)

Graph of NYC iSchool Student Demographics Before Policy ChangeThese disparities were inconsistent with the iSchool’s goals to disrupt systemic inequities and serve a representative student body. They responded by taking advantage of a city policy to help them reach this goal.

The disparities were likely a result of both district and iSchool recruitment processes. With more than 400 high schools in New York City, applying can be bewildering. Students need to submit a ranked list of up to 12 choices, taking into account their odds of admission at the many “Specialized” and “Screened” high schools. Doing this systematically requires considerable research and often involves multiple school visits and supplemental application components. It has much in common with selective college admissions, but for 8th graders. (more…)

The Mastery Collaborative: Dozens of NYC Schools Support Each Other’s Reforms

April 1, 2019 by

Mastery Collaborative LogoThe Mastery Collaborative (MC) is a network of public middle and high schools in New York City that are shifting and working together toward greater implementation of mastery/competency-based and culturally responsive education practices. The network is led by the New York City Department of Education, currently with two full-time staff members and two part-time consultants, who support the work of dozens of member schools. Detailed background information about the Mastery Collaborative is available in past CompetencyWorks posts (see links below).

This is the first in a series of posts based on iNACOL’s recent visit to two MC member schools, participation in a roundtable discussion with faculty and students from several schools, and attendance at a professional development workshop on culturally responsive education.

Shifting to Mastery-Based and Culturally Responsive Education Takes Time

Map of Mastery Collaborative Schools

Mastery Collaborative Schools

The Mastery Collaborative’s structure makes explicit an essential aspect of shifting to mastery-based and culturally responsive education (CRE)—that schools transform at different paces and to varying degrees. The 37 member schools span three tiers with different levels of implementation:

  1. Living Lab Schools have “effective schoolwide mastery systems with exemplary aspects to share with others.”
  2. Active Member Schools are “engaged in strengthening and spreading mastery/CRE practices, with a goal of ever-more-effective schoolwide implementation.”
  3. Incubator Schools are “in early stages of shifting to the MC’s mastery/CRE model.”

A fourth group, called the Friends of Mastery Collaborative (FOMC), contains hundreds of educators from 80 additional New York City schools, plus other states and countries, that are invited to participate in (more…)

Competency-Based Education in Rural Schools

March 29, 2019 by

CompetencyWorks has featured visits to rural schools, enabling us to examine how competency-based education has taken hold in rural districts. After reviewing past blog posts and reports, and obtaining updates from the websites of the schools or their state departments of education, we are highlighting the following districts:

  • Chugach, Alaska (blog series and report)
  • Eminence, Kentucky (blog post)
  • Deer Isle-Stonington, Maine (blog series)

Chugach School District, Alaska

School districts don’t get much more rural than Chugach. The central office is in Anchorage, but the schools are in small towns and villages across 20,000 square miles of Prince William Sound. The Whittier Community School, for example, served 33 students in the 2017–18 school year. The district also served 377 homeschoolers across the state with teachers who serve 40 to 60 students at a time.

Chugach was the first K–12 district in the United States to move from a time-based system to a performance-based system in which graduation was based on meeting performance targets rather than earning credits. Their first steps were in 1994, in response to concerns about low student achievement levels. This led to a district transformation that resulted in a performance-based learning and assessment system and dramatic improvements in student outcomes.

In 2001, Chugach was the first public school district to receive the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award , a presidential-level honor that recognizes (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency-Based Education?

March 27, 2019 by

What's New ImagePersonalized Learning

  • In an article published on The 74, Personalized Learning on the Rise, iNACOL President and CEO Susan Patrick shares lessons learned from iNACOL’s national study of personalized learning and teachers and principals rethinking what’s possible in education.

Earning Credit for Anytime, Anywhere Learning

  • New Hampshire’s new Learn Everywhere program, recently passed by the state legislature, provides a mechanism for the State Board of Education to credential community educational programs to extend students’ learning for out-of-school activities and enable students to receive credit toward graduation.

Equity and Anti-Racism

(more…)

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