Author: Gary Chapin

RSU Students Now Proficiency-Based

October 29, 2014 by
School District RSU #14

School District RSU #14 Web

This post was originally published in the RSU14 Maine Fall Newsletter.

The students who are entering kindergarten this year will be working until around the year 2100.

Think about it. Did your head just explode?

In a very real and somewhat scary sense, the future that we’re preparing our kids for hasn’t been invented yet. Employers and colleges throughout Maine and throughout the country say they need graduates who not only know specific things – the content of our classes – they need graduates who know how to learn independently; graduates who are active citizens; graduates who can persevere; graduates who work collaboratively; graduates who can approach problems with both critical and creative thinking; and graduates who can communicate effectively with different audiences.

And it isn’t just some graduates. It’s every graduate.

Every Kid: John Davis, an educator in Maine, puts it very simply, “We are here for every kid.” He says it, rightly, as a moral argument: we have an obligation to every child in our care.

That means something different than it used to. In the past, schools were here to help sort kids and send them off to their particular professions. Some would go to college, some to skilled professions, and many to the mills. That was enough. Schools today have a different mission. Because of conditions in Maine and throughout the world, we need every student succeeding to the highest level possible. RSU 14 is committed to that. It’s necessary for our community, and it’s necessary for our kids. We act on this commitment in a number of ways. (more…)

Education Philosophy Becomes Practice

April 29, 2013 by

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This post was originally published at the Partially Examined Life:  A Philosophy Podcast and Blog.

Over the past hundred years Constructivists and Traditionalists have enjoyed an uneasy truce in the world of education practitioners.  Constructivism “says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.” [thirteen.org]  Traditionalists were more influenced by the “scientific management” of Taylorism, seeing schools on the industry model. Schools are factories with inputs, throughputs  and outputs.  The compromise between the two:  educators would agree that Constructivism was true, but would act as if it were not.

Yes, it made sense as a model to discuss how learners “construct” knowledge” rather than “acquire” it. Of course, any teacher would say, students learn at different rates, in different ways, and according to their circumstance. But it was so impractical – hordes of students operating according to their individual motivations. Who can afford that?  And how are you going to track progress?  How will you know if you are getting your money’s worth from your schools? (more…)

How Many Conversations?

April 25, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-04-25 at 10.05.45 AMSystems consultant Judith Enright, in the Maine Center for Best Practice video on the Western Maine Education Collaborative, reminds us, “change happens one conversation at a time.”  It’s a truism, of course, but in our work promoting competency-based learning, it has met its moment.  Again and again – in the case study work I’ve done, or in my own experience talking to teachers, parents and education leaders – I find that the real work of cultural transformation occurs when one person talks to another honestly, and a relationship is forged.  One conversation at a time.

Which means a lot of conversations. (more…)

Unleashed to Learn: Book Highlights Performance Assessment

April 4, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 8.44.43 AMA new book by Linda C. Aronson, Unleashed to Learn: Empowering Students to Learn at Full Capacity, makes a clear and passionate argument about the power of performance assessment in a competency-based/learner-centered system.

Performance assessment – in which students pursue genuine interests, in real world settings, and in ways that suit their learning styles – is one of the keystones of Maine’s vision of proficiency-based/learner-centered education.  The Senior Capstone, implemented by Hall-Dale High School (RSU2), is a shining example of performance assessment.  A video featuring the Senior Capstone was included in Maine’s Center for Best Practice.  The energy is remarkable.

Aronson spent six years at Hall-Dale High School designing and refining the Senior Capstone. Drawing from the stories of that time – both the shining moments and the hard challenges – she has written a moving case study and passionate jeremiad about why and how students should be allowed to guide their own learning. Performance assessment – and Senior Capstone – can help that happen.

About the Author

Gary Chapin is a Senior Associate at the Center for Collaborative Education.

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