Author: Maria Worthen

Three Big Questions for Evolving State Education Policy to Support Student-Centered Learning in 2018

February 28, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on January 26, 2018.

With states preparing to implement newly-approved plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there is an opportunity to reflect on some key issues from the field. ESSA provides a historic opportunity for states to transform K-12 education by redefining success, redesigning systems of assessments, rethinking accountability and aligning educator workforce capacity to student-centered learning.

After years of asking for more flexibility and freedom from No Child Left Behind’s restrictive frameworks for accountability, assessment and teacher quality, state and local stakeholders can now approach outdated educational systems differently under ESSA. States could use new flexibility in ESSA to advance equity and improve student outcomes with systems that support student-centered learning. (more…)

U.S. Department of Education Invites State Applications for a New Pilot on Innovative Systems of Assessments

January 24, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on January 8, 2018. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) created an Innovative Assessment Pilot and the much anticipated application was released last week by the United States Department of Education (USED). States can now apply for new flexibility they’ve been seeking to create innovative, next generation models of accountability and systems of assessments (with a smaller subset of districts in the state) since the passage of ESSA in 2015.

Innovative Assessment Pilot (ESSA Section 1204)

On January 3, the U.S. Department of Education released a Federal Register official notice inviting applications from states for the Innovative Accountability and Assessment Demonstration Authority. This is the “Innovative Assessment Pilot” and it is also a new opportunity in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for states to pilot new types of assessments. (more…)

Going BIG in Cedar Rapids

September 30, 2015 by

iowa bigCedar Rapids is only twenty minutes down the road from Iowa City, a center of the educational curriculum and assessment industry (ACT and Pearson both have offices there), but feels like a journey twenty years into the future. I had a chance to meet with Cedar Rapids Associate Superintendent, Trace Pickering, and visit Iowa BIG thanks to an introduction from Sandra Dop, competency education guru at the Iowa Department of Education.

In 2008, a devastating flood destroyed Cedar Rapids’ downtown and many residential areas. Community members came together and realized that rebuilding the city provided an opportunity to completely rethink how they did things, including redesigning education. As part of the planning process, community leaders conducted what they affectionately, but unofficially, called the “Billy Madison Project.” Adult community leaders attended high school to see how they would experience it with the hindsight of their own education, life experience, and knowledge of the skills actually needed to be successful in a career. They realized how ridiculous it seemed to ask students to sit through lectures, with bell schedules and silos between subjects. They agreed that the following key elements would be necessary in a new school model:

  • Focus on kids’ passions: because most successful adults have passion for what they’re doing;
  • Get kids out doing real work: the community has more problems and opportunities than the adults can address on their own. The Cedar Rapids area has 7000 high school students—an untapped resource for the community;
  • Make sure kids are learning content in an integrated way: academic rigor is essential, but it must be relevant.

Iowa BIG was founded as a result of these findings and the superintendent agreed to include it in the district’s portfolio of educational opportunities. (more…)

23 Groups Call for Innovative Assessment Flexibility in ESEA Reauthorization

April 14, 2015 by

By Maria Worthen and Lillian Pace

This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will begin consideration of a bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind. The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 is a bipartisan bill authored by the HELP Committee’s Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray.

In this bill there are a number of things of interest to the field of competency education; among them, an Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority that would allow states to develop and pilot new systems of assessments that better enable personalized, competency-based learning. States would be able to test their system in a subset of school districts before expanding them statewide. They would be able to use their new system of assessments as the basis for the state-designed accountability system.

Yesterday, a coalition of 23 groups, including our organizations—iNACOL and KnowledgeWorks—sent the following letter to Senators Alexander and Murray, and the members of the HELP Committee. The letter supports the inclusion of the pilot and states key common principles that signatories agree should be included in the final bill. (more…)

Supporting Competency Education in ESEA Reauthorization

January 10, 2015 by
Maria Worthen

Maria Worthen

A new Congress brings new hopes for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA reauthorization provides an important window of opportunity to realign federal policy to support and enable the transition to competency education.

Background

The new Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Senator Lamar Alexander, has indicated his intention to consider an ESEA reauthorization bill in that committee by February. House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman, Representative John Kline, has said it will be a top priority. Both have announced plans to hold hearings in the next month.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the state education chiefs last fall that the new Congress gives new potential to work on a bipartisan basis and that he will be pushing very hard to reauthorize ESEA.

With positive signals coming from House, Senate, and the Education Department leaders about reauthorization, could 2015 be ESEA’s year? Maybe, maybe not—but if you care about the outcome, it’s still essential to weigh in. (more…)

When Teachers Can Implement At Their Own Pace

October 15, 2014 by

bull dog for van meterI recently had the opportunity to visit Van Meter School in Van Meter, Iowa with Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills at the Iowa Department of Education and facilitator of the Iowa Competency-based Education (CBE) Collaborative. Two faculty members accompanied us from Drake University’s School of Education, Dr. Randy Peters and Dr. Laura Kieran. They are members of the CBE Collaborative, bringing vision, curiosity and dedication to scoping out the future of competency education in Iowa.

Van Meter Community School District is a small district located 15 miles outside of Des Moines. It has one school building comprising K-12. Total attendance is 677 students, of whom 158 chose to open enroll into the district (students in Iowa can enroll in another district of their choice). The Mission of Van Meter Community School District is “to personalize learning for each student’s success, today and tomorrow.”

Van Meter is transitioning to full-school competency education, but has been doing standards-based grading school-wide in K-12 for three years. Elementary Principal and Director of Teaching and Learning Jen Sigrist explained the evolution: “We had a few teachers trying it before (five and six years ago), which led to each secondary teacher trying it for at least one class four years ago. After that, we made the move district wide. The last team to come on board was 5th grade mostly because they were not included in the secondary conversations and were preparing kids for the secondary by giving traditional letter grades in the past. They were happy to jump on board with the entire district three years ago.” (more…)

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