Author: Nina Lopez, Susan Patrick, and Chris Sturgis

How Competency-Based Education Differs from the Traditional System of Education

November 16, 2017 by

This is the fourth post in the blog series on the report, Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education.

Across the country, schools, districts and states are replacing the traditional, time-based structure with one that is designed to help each student reach proficiency. Educators organize learning in a variety of ways that respond to students and are designed to motivate and engage students in mastery of their own learning. Competency-based structures are also designed to ensure students reach proficiency so that students and parents are confident that their students are learning what they need to as they advance towards graduation.

Below is the working definition of competency-based education. (Please note: the working definition is being updated and a logic model being developed to be released in second quarter of 2018).

Students advance upon demonstrated mastery — By advancing upon demonstrated mastery rather than on seat time, students are more engaged and motivated, and educators can direct their efforts to where students need the most help.

 

Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students — With clear, transparent learning objectives, students have greater ownership over their education.

 

Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs — Students receive the supports and flexibility they need, when they need them, to learn, thrive and master the competencies they will need to succeed.

 

Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students — New systems of assessments give students real-time information on their progress and provide the opportunity to show evidence of higher order skills, whenever they are ready, rather than at set points in time during the school year.

 

Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions — Personalized, competency-based learning models meet each student where they are to build the knowledge, skills and abilities they will need to succeed in postsecondary education, in an ever-changing workplace and in civic life.

The section below illustrates key differences between competency-based education as compared to traditional education systems, and offers examples of how competency-based systems can embed an intentional focus upon equity. (more…)

Why a Competency-Based System Is Needed: 10 Ways the Traditional System Contributes to Inequity

November 9, 2017 by

This is the third post in the blog series on the report, Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education. See the first post and second post.

Before exploring key issues in a competency-based system, it is valuable to unpack why the traditional system is an obstacle to creating high-achieving schools and equitable outcomes.

The strategies used by districts in response to state accountability exams under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), including one-size-fits all instructional strategies and delivering grade level curriculum regardless of what students know, exposed the traditional system for what it is: a sorting system. Despite implementing a series of education reforms and programs, many schools struggle to produce better outcomes largely because the traditional system is not set up to do so. Despite teachers’ persistent best efforts to support every student, the traditional system passes students on before they have mastered each stage of learning. Those who have mastered the skills continue on a path towards graduation and college. For those who have not, little is offered to help them learn what was expected. The result is a new set of students each year who may not have the necessary prerequisite skills and knowledge to take on the content offered by each successive year’s teachers. This sets up teachers and students alike for failure. This sorting function of traditional education is exacerbated by unequal and inequitable school resources that continue to haunt the education system.

10 Flaws in the Traditional System

The traditional system is simply not designed to produce the goals we have set for it, or that our children, communities and nation so desperately need and deserve. There are ten primary flaws in the traditional system that can be corrected by redesigning the system for success in which all students achieve mastery. These flaws include that the traditional system: (more…)

Readiness for College, Career and Life: The Purpose of K-12 Public Education Today

November 2, 2017 by

This is the second post in the blog series on the report, Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education. See the first blog here.

Effective system design starts with a clarity of purpose, or said another way, what are the results we want to get from our system of public education? The current design of our K-12 public education system delivers the following results: After decades of policy reforms and targeted improvement strategies, the on-time graduation rate has inched up to 82%, with states ranging from 61% to 91%. Yet, Alaska Natives, students with disabilities, Native American, African-American, and Latino students continue to graduate at much lower rates: 55, 64, 70, 73 and 76%, respectively. Among those students who do graduate high school, nearly 25% of them, from all socioeconomic groups, require remedial courses in college, costing them and their families $1.5 billion a year. Graduates who enter the world of work directly after high school fare no better, with 62% of employers by one account indicating that “high schools aren’t doing enough to prepare their graduates to meet the expectations of the workplace.” Students are not fully prepared for civic engagement to ensure a functioning democracy (only 30% of today’s young people believe it is “essential” to live in a country that is governed democratically). These results are evidence that students are not getting what they need, and the implications ripple through their lives, their families, communities and our economy. In subsequent blogs in this series, we will explore why the traditional system is designed to produce these results. First, let’s consider what results we want instead.

So, what is the purpose of public education today and what are the results we want it to deliver? The purpose of public education has evolved significantly since the first public school, Boston Latin School, was established in the 17th century to educate white males in, among other things, “religion, Latin and classical literature.” Today, states and districts define the purpose of education in variety of different ways. Increasingly that purpose is stated as “college and career readiness,” or a variation thereof. But what does it really mean to be college and career ready? Although the terminology and details may vary, almost all states and districts continue to use a combination of time-based academic credits, state graduation exams and state accountability exams to measure learning. For the majority of states, these elements prioritize content knowledge rather than skills, with a focus upon a narrow set of areas — math and English language arts. (more…)

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