Author: Karla Esparza-Phillips

How Can States Transition to Student-Centered Learning?

October 22, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at ExcelinEd’s EdFly blog on August 14, 2018 and has been updated to include links to the first three briefs.

The proliferation of innovative, personalized and mastery-based models in schools, districts and states across the country demonstrates that completely prohibitive policy barriers, thankfully, do not exist. Our work has shown us that most states already have policies in place, (e.g., waivers) that can help schools implement new models—though we have also seen these opportunities remain largely underutilized or misunderstood. (more…)

Are Non-Traditional Diplomas and Transcripts Barriers to Implementing Personalized Learning?

November 21, 2017 by

As part of its efforts to build understanding and advance policies to support personalized learning and mastery-based education, ExcelinEd’s advocacy of innovation and pilot programs is identifying state policies that hinder full implementation of personalized learning as well as those that can provide better support.

Below is a quick overview of personalized learning, challenges related to nontraditional diplomas and transcripts, and a recommendation for state policy that you can use to engage state policymakers.

WHAT IS PERSONALIZED LEARNING?

Personalized learning tailors a student’s educational experience to meet their unique strengths, interests, and needs while empowering students to play a greater role in their learning. Coupled with flexibility in pace and delivery, personalized learning is grounded in the idea that students should progress when they demonstrate mastery of key content and skills regardless of the time spent in class or even where instruction takes place.

POLICY BARRIER

Non-traditional diplomas or transcripts can place graduates from schools implementing personalized learning at a disadvantage when applying for admission to colleges and universities as well as financial aid. (more…)

How Can You Truly Meet Students Where They Are?

June 24, 2016 by

This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on May 16, 2016. 

Competency-based educationGetting Smart Meet Students Where They Are is a system of instruction where students advance to higher levels of learning when they demonstrate mastery of concepts and skills. In this setting, learning doesn’t rely on time, place or pace. Students are challenged and ultimately graduate ready to choose college or career. This new system is comprehensive and can include fundamental changes in schedules, calendars, assessment and grading.

I know what you are thinking…an education system truly centered on students? An education system where time becomes the variable and learning the constant? An education system where students move on when ready? What does that actually look like? (more…)

Putting the Pieces Together

February 27, 2016 by

GeorgiaThis post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s The EdFly Blog on February 1, 2016.

In the midst of holiday preparations, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission issued its final report and gave competency-based education advocates a little present.

With a clear charge from the Governor to develop a system allowing students to progress and learn at their unique pace, the Commission’s Move On When Ready Subcommittee gave careful thought to the many different ways new learning pathways could be developed or expanded for Georgia’s students. One of its recommendations was to begin the transition to a competency-based education system—an important component of personalized learning that allows students to advance to higher levels of learning when they demonstrate mastery of concepts and skills regardless of time, place or pace.

Even before the subcommittee began its work, Georgia had made significant steps to encourage innovation in education and regulatory flexibility for schools and districts testing new ways to personalize learning. In fact, the core pieces were already in place to accelerate the adoption of competency-based education. The subcommittee’s final recommendations clearly communicate the priority and leverage the opportunities already available in Georgia.

Strong State Support
Since the 2013 report of the Governor’s Digital Learning Task Force, Governor Deal’s support has been strong. The task force made six competency-based learning specific recommendations. The recommendations spanned from assessments to funding, with an overarching theme to “provide blended and competency-based learning opportunities, so that PK-12 and postsecondary students are able to broaden, accelerate, or otherwise pace their learning appropriately and ensure mastery before progressing.” The Georgia Department of Education has also demonstrated its commitment to this policy through Georgia’s Path to Personalized Learning. The path provides more information on a variety of state-level resources available to schools to help them transition to personalized and competency-based learning. (more…)

3 Smart State Approaches to Competency-Based Education

February 10, 2016 by

SuppliesThis post originally appeared on the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Ed Fly Blog on December 30, 2015.

There is a growing chorus of excitement and interest in competency-based education (CBE). One of the biggest draws is the potential for competency-based education to better meet individual student needs and eliminate learning gaps that traditional time-based systems have not been able to close.
In a competency-based system, each individual student progresses as learning expectations are met, rather than moving through a predetermined curriculum schedule dictated by fixed, age-based grade levels or seat-time requirements (sometimes expressed as Carnegie Units or credit hours).

Although the idea of time becoming the variable and learning the constant is attractive, making that a reality sometimes leaves the strongest of advocates scratching their heads. Many policymakers are committed to next generation reforms and have a sense of urgency, yet at the same time they have seen enough failed reform efforts to know that fidelity in implementation is paramount.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways states can create the conditions in which CBE can thrive and the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) is committed to supporting states in these efforts.

Our principal recommendation is for states to authorize the creation of innovation districts or schools to pilot a competency-based system and identify the pathway for statewide policy adoption. (For more, see our model policy.) This strategy paves the road for innovative leaders to request flexibility from the rules or regulations that hinder innovation while committing to transition to competency-based education. (more…)

When Diplomas and Credits Send False Signals

June 12, 2015 by

PercentageThis post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education on June 11, 2015.

Last month Achieve launched its #HonestyGap campaign. The effort highlights the gap between the percent of students deemed proficient on state exams versus the percent of students deemed proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Not surprisingly, the gaps are wide and pervasive.

The NAEP is considered to be the gold standard of assessments, and this Achieve report clearly demonstrates how parents, students and, quite frankly, educators are being misled by inconsistent expectations of proficiency. In many states when a student passes a state exam, it may not mean he has mastered the content. Often the tests are too easy or the passing scores too generous.

This proficiency gap is decried by the education reform community, but the NAEP isn’t a test most parents are even aware of because it has no impact on individual students or state accountability systems.

Parents typically rely on the most familiar aspect of American education to understand how their student is performing in school—the report card.

The real miscommunication happens when students earn passing grades in required courses yet struggle with end of year assessments. Students may accumulate all the required credits, but what is their diploma worth if they haven’t mastered the content? (more…)

Idaho Agrees: Flexible Pace > Seat Time

June 4, 2015 by

Desk ChairThis post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education on March 27, 2015.

The goal of a high school biology student should be to learn biology, or at least learn all the course has to offer.

That sounds simple enough. But in reality, it is not how the public education system works. Instead, the goal is to have the student sit in a biology class for a specific amount of time (often about 180 days), regardless of how long it actually takes the student to master the material.

An advanced student has to slow down; a struggling student has to keep up.

Inserting an artificial time restriction into learning forces students to adapt to someone else’s learning schedule. A better approach is to allow students to progress at a flexible pace so they can move on when they have mastered the material. Idaho is taking a bold step in this direction. The state recognizes the need for education to be more personalized in order to reach their goals.

Earlier this month, the Idaho legislature unanimously passed HB 110, which directs the Department of Education to begin Idaho’s transition to a mastery-based education system. And last week, Governor Butch Otter signed the bill into law.

This is another stride towards implementing Governor Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education, and it is an important step forward in preparing Idaho students for success in the 21st century. (more…)

Warning: Delayed Graduation Possible

February 26, 2015 by

This post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education on February 23, 2015. 

MINIMUM GROWTH WARNING: AT YOUR CHILD’S CURRENT RATE OF PROGRESS AND ACHIEVEMENT LEVEL ON THE STATE ASSESSMENT, THE PROBABILITY OF YOUR STUDENT GRADUATING ON TIME IS _____ %.

What if parents received these notices on their child’s report cards?

Since 2009, every credit card bill in the United States has been required to notify consumers exactly how long it will take to pay off the debt if making only the minimum payment. This was mandated by Congress in order to establish fair and transparent policies related to consumer debt.

Isn’t a child’s education just as important? Don’t we owe full disclosure to parents and educators? Don’t they deserve fair and transparent information? (more…)

When the Stars Align in Support of Learning . . .

December 22, 2014 by
Karla Phillips

Karla Phillips

This post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education on December 8, 2014.

There is one key area where K-12 and higher education policy intersect—teacher preparation. Higher education needs college and career ready graduates while K-12 turns around and asks for better equipped teachers.

I think it’s safe to say that there is broad agreement on the importance and impact a great teacher can make—a point confirmed by evidence and reiterated in Joel Klein’s new book. However, the debate continues over fundamental policies such as who should teach, how they should be trained, and how to ensure that graduates have the skills they need for the classroom. This debate is sure to be resurrected now that the U.S. Department of Education has released new proposed regulations on teacher preparation programs.

Maybe there is a common K-12 and higher education reform effort where the stars can align? I think it’s competency-based learning. (more…)

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