Category: Case Studies

Competency Education at iNACOL18

October 18, 2018 by

Are you heading to Nashville? Here is a sampling of sessions on competency-based education (and there are definitely a lot of other great ones to choose from!). If you aren’t going, this can give you a sense of how the field is moving along, show you the knowledge that is being developed, and highlight possible people for you to contact along the way if you need a thought partner. I’ve added some links to sessions led by people with experience making the transition in schools and districts – you’ll get even more out of the sessions if you do some pre-reads about their districts. (FYI – some of the great CBE sessions are tagged as personalized learning.)

Where Not to Start When Implementing Personalized Competency-Based Education: Learning from Our Mistakes and Understanding the Steps for Success with Doug Finn, Marzano Research Lab

Sometimes you wish there was a reset button on implementing personalized, competency-based education (PCBE). Implementation of PCBE follows a certain framework, which we will review, but the specific details for each school or district can be extremely unique.

Performance-Based Education in the Last Frontier: Chugach School District’s Journey in Meeting the Needs of All Students with Mike Hanley and Deborah Treece from Chugach School District

The transformation of an educational system from one of the lowest performing in the state, to exceeding state results in spite of the challenges of poverty, transportation, and extreme geographic locations: Chugach School District’s Performance-Based Education Model began in 1994 to support student success. From PK-12 one-building sites, to meeting the needs of homeschool students and families throughout Alaska, Chugach School District’s continuous improvement cycle incorporates the ongoing journey of student ownership and success in life. (more…)

A Decade On: Lindsay Unified’s Personalized Learning Journey

October 17, 2018 by

A young reader at Lindsay Unified’s Kennedy Elementary.

This post originally appeared at Education Week’s Next Gen Learning in Action blog on September 21, 2018. All images are courtesy of Lindsay Unified District. 

When educators tell the story of what galvanized them to embrace next gen learning, they often point to a watershed moment, a realization that so fundamentally shifted their thinking that it divided their career into “before” and “after.” (more…)

Why New Zealand? A Primer on the NZ Education System

October 12, 2018 by

This is the second article in the series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand, which highlights insights from a totally different education system about what is possible in transforming our education system. Read the first article here.

As I planned my trip, I was constantly asked, “But why New Zealand? Are they better than we are?”

The simple answer is I went to New Zealand with the encouragement of Susan Patrick, CompetencyWorks co-founder and President/CEO of iNACOL. She visited several years ago and found that there were many lessons learned to be found there. However, the question of what makes an education system better than another one prompted an internal dialogue: “In what way might they be better? How do we judge the effectiveness of an education system?” It might be based on academic achievement scores but those don’t capture well-being, success in post-secondary employment, training or education, lifelong learning skills, or transferable skills such as problem-solving and communication. Perhaps we could look at the cost-effectiveness or satisfaction of teachers. Thus, I started my trip with an orientation of inquiry rather than analysis.

I am a believer in benchmarking against high performance to discover policies and practices that might bring improvements. However, I have not returned with solid recommendations for how we should replicate New Zealand. What I did find was that my expectations were lifted, my imagination sparked, and my understanding of our own education system clarified.

Below I provide a snapshot of New Zealand’s education system. In future articles, I’ll be looking more deeply at the system and the ways it can help us think about options for the American system.

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Snaps from Aotearoa New Zealand

October 5, 2018 by

This is the first article in the series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand, which highlights insights from a totally different education system about what is possible in transforming our education system. Aotearoa is the Māori word for New Zealand meaning ‘long white cloud,’ indicating one of the ways the ancestors traveling from the Pacific islands could identify land. New Zealand is on a powerful trajectory toward biculturalism. Thus, when possible, I will be including Māori concepts along the way to honor their efforts and do my little bit to return indigenous language and culture to its rightful place.

I’m just back from three weeks of school visits in Aotearoa New Zealand and trying to process all that I learned as quickly as possible. Like the Māori god Tāne who brought three baskets of knowledge to humanity, I have returned from New Zealand with three baskets of knowledge. The first is an understanding of the New Zealand education system. The second is about New Zealand’s journey of reconciliation of past injustice toward biculturalism, returning Māori culture and language to its rightful place. The third basket is full of ideas of how the first two can inform, inspire, and guide educators and policymakers in shifting toward personalized, competency-based education. (more…)

Updated: Competency-Based Education Across America

September 25, 2018 by

I received several requests to organize this by geography, not date. Most recent update: September 2018.

We recently updated the map of competency education because so many states  have taken steps forward for state policies to enable and invest in competency-based education. In reflecting upon how competency-based education is developing, we pulled together all the “case studies” we have done based on site visits and interviews in seventeen states. As soon as we can, we want to visit Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and Vermont. We should probably swing back and visit some of the places like Maine and New Hampshire to see what they are up to as well in the leading districts.

For those of you trying to learn more about competency education, we are hearing that some districts are using the case studies as discussion tools. Everyone reads about one school and then talks about what is challenging, how their understanding of the traditional system is changing, and what ideas they think might be valuable. It’s just a warm-up to embracing the values and assumptions that are the roots of competency education. (more…)

Idaho Site Visit: Mastery Education in Idaho

September 19, 2018 by

The Sharp Ones: A Few Takeaways from Idaho

September 5, 2018 by

Click Image to Enlarge

This is the tenth article in the series on Mastery Education in Idaho. Links to the other articles can be found below.

Oh, there is so much to learn in Idaho. Where to start?

1) Learning from others and making it your own.

Too often we recreate the wheel. It’s fun to be so creative and to think it through. It’s also a lot of work to investigate what others have done and try to make sense of it. However, the cost is huge to start from scratch. You’ll make mistakes. The designs will most likely only represent the limits of your own knowledge and imagination at that point in time. Usually, we can only design around a few strands or concepts – it’s hard to create robust models straight out of the gate. Reiteration takes time, and there is a risk that there will be pushback on the big idea if early models are too limited or shallow.

Idaho seems to have mastered being “a sharp one” in the language of the “pencil metaphor.” In other words, they saw what early adopters had done, grabbed the best of it, and learned from the mistakes of others to do the best they can for their students. At every stop, people would refer to other schools and resources, describing which parts they were using and which parts they have modified. In Kuna Middle School, the teachers at Synergy had taken the Summit platform and pillars as the foundation for a fully interdisciplinary, project-based approach. At Central Academy, they had drawn from Building 21 and Bronx Arena in terms of approaches and information systems. Columbia High School has been pulling pieces from Marzano Research Lab, Summit, and Buck Institute. The team from reDesign has been a strong partner throughout the development of the Idaho Mastery Education Network. (more…)

Leaving Single Cell Behind: Moving from Isolation to Flexible Collaboration

September 3, 2018 by

Denise Airola and a team of educators from Arkansas traveled to New Zealand to learn about their educational approach. Here are a few of their highlights. (Originally posted at Office of Innovation for Education on December 6, 2017.) 

I ended my last blog by introducing the New Zealand term for a traditional classroom–single-cell. The adjective evokes images of isolation for a teacher. For the learner, if the teacher/student match is positive it isn’t so bad. On the other hand, we’ve all had that teacher in our lives, the one with whom we’ve spent a year feeling like we’ve been sentenced to jail, stifled by the lack of creative expression or extreme power differential that makes taking a restroom break an act of piracy. As a parent, I’ve waited with baited breath for the class lists to get posted the Friday before the start of the school year, praying my girls would be matched with the right teacher for their learner dispositions because single-cell is just what it sounds like for the most part—a school year sentence to a single space with a single teacher. New Zealand’s ministry of education is moving away from that industrial-age concept. I’ll elaborate on how they are doing this as I describe our visit to Glen Eden Intermediate School. (more…)

A Visit with the ‘Westies’–Day 2 in New Zealand

August 30, 2018 by

Denise Airola and a team of educators from Arkansas traveled to New Zealand to learn about their educational approach. Here are a few of their highlights. (Originally posted at Office of Innovation for Education on November 17, 2017.) 

Disclaimer: When you are in the southern hemisphere it is easy to get your sense of direction a little confused, especially if geography isn’t your strong suit. That sense of confusion can be exacerbated by changing seasons as well–from fall in Northwest Arkansas to spring in New Zealand in the course of a 13 hour plane ride. Given the upheaval, my sense of place, time, and context was a bit out of sorts by the second day of school visits in New Zealand. (more…)

Central Academy, West Ada School District

August 29, 2018 by

Nichole Velasquez and Donell McNeal

This is the ninth post in a series on Mastery Education in Idaho. Links to the other articles in the series can be found below.

“I was badly behind. No teacher would ever stop to help me. I even had a teacher scream at me once when I asked a question. It’s different at Central. They listen. They walk me through things. They make sure I understand. I’ve gained confidence. And I’m more motivated. Even though I am only a sophomore I have enough credits to graduate,” explained a student at Central Academy in West Ada School District. (more…)

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