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Author: Stephanie Krauss

Competency Education Can Address Readiness Gaps—But Not Alone

December 19, 2014 by
Equity in Competency Education

Equity in Competency Education: Realizing the Potential, Overcoming the Obstacles

This post originally appeared at Jobs for the Future on December 4, 2014.

My youngest brother’s senior year of high school—in a public school in New Jersey—was also my first year running a competency-based high school for over-age and under-credited youth in St. Louis. It is hard to describe just how different his experience was compared to my students’.

My brother attended one of the best public high schools in a state known for its high marks in public education and student achievement. In his final year of high school, he took a handful of Advanced Placement courses, served as student body president, played drums in the school band, wrestled, and still found time to work at the local pizza shop and connect with family and friends. He was accepted into Harvard University and decided to go.

By contrast, most of my students came from schools known as “dropout factories.” These students had significant academic catching-up to do. We did not have demand for AP courses, nor did we have time for robust extracurricular activities.

The starting point of my brother’s and my students’ senior years paints a stark picture of deep and persistent inequities that many young people in under-resourced communities face. In my brother’s case, his age and stage of learning matched. My students, all of whom had transcripts that said they were juniors and seniors, rarely had the full scope of academic, social and emotional skills they needed.

I was reminded of these glaring oppositions when I read Jobs for the Future’s Equity in Education: Realizing the Potential, Overcoming the Obstacles, part of a competency-based education research series produced by its Students at the Center initiative. (more…)

Ten Ways that Competency-Based Education is the same in K-12 & Higher Education

October 14, 2014 by
Charla Long

Charla Long

Last June, I had the chance to co-present on competency-based education (CBE) with Charla Long, dean of Lipscomb University. Lipscomb is nationally recognized for its pioneering work in competency-based higher education, and Charla has been the star of that work. In our presentation, we each shared about the opportunities and challenges that we have faced building and running competency-based programs – her in higher education and me in K-12.

Charla and I did not talk about our presentation with each other beforehand. So, we were both amazed when almost 50 similarities emerged between her experience and my own.

Here are just 10 of the nearly 50 ways that we found our CBE experiences in K-12 and higher education to be the same:

Opportunities

  1. We find that CBE permits us to focus on student learning and outcomes and operate from the belief that CBE is the best way to equip students with the skills they need personally and professionally.
  2. We find that the CBE experience works best when it is customized and personalized around student needs, interests and future plans.
  3. We have seen key technologies (like blended and online learning programs) help actualize and enhance CBE, but we do think that CBE can exist without these technologies.
  4. We have come to believe that CBE is a better way to organize schooling and learning and that it addresses both “excellence” and “equity” issues, in part by providing a quality education to all students, even those who struggle in traditional schools. (more…)

Why My Competency-Based School Failed – And How It Can Help Yours To Succeed

February 10, 2014 by
Shearwater Graduates

Shearwater Graduates

In 2008 I was asked by the City of St. Louis Mayor’s Office to consider starting a school for youth who had dropped out. I agreed. These youth deserved a quality education. The school would be hard to build and harder to sustain, but worth a try. Given that our students were all over-age and under-credited, we knew that seat-time meant that many would age-out of the system before they could graduate. Hence, we decided to be competency-based. (Click here for the 21 by 21 model overview, FAQ’s, Youth Readiness Taxonomy and the Design Process)

Hundreds of local volunteers and over a dozen community-based organizations poured sweat equity into planning and start-up, pledging their ongoing support. A private technical college agreed to house us. The state declared us a needed demonstration project. We had mayoral endorsement and a sponsor.

Thus Shearwater High School was born. All signs suggested we would work. And at first we did. We had passionate staff, community support, private money, and resources. Youth applied, showed up, learned. Applicants bloated our waiting list. We worked tirelessly. Most of the time we enjoyed what we were doing.

If you had told me that just a few years later we would close, I wouldn’t have believed you.

So, what happened? Here are the four primary reasons that my school failed: (more…)

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