Category: School Models

In Real Life: How do CBE systems support all students to reach mastery?

February 20, 2019 by

Alison Kearney, Assistant Principal, Noble High School, ME

This article is the seventh in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Since learners are met where they are in CBE systems and are supported to reach mastery at their own pace, what supports are needed to ensure everyone succeeds?

To better understand this question, I sat down with Alison Kearney, Assistant Principal at Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine.

A rural school, Noble High School serves roughly 1,100 students across three towns up to an hour bus ride away. Its students often come from rural poor backgrounds, influencing how the school has structured its student support system. Noble High’s proficiency-based system was profiled in a CompetencyWorks blog post in 2015.

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In Real Life: How do CBE systems manage differences in pace?

February 11, 2019 by

Mallory Haar, English as a New Language Teacher, Casco Bay High School, ME.

This article is the sixth in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Competency-based education (CBE) systems meet students where they are and support them to master a pre-defined set of learning targets at their own pace. Managing a group of learners who are at different places in their learning might seem doable if their paces are similar, but what about students who deviate widely from the class norm or “teacher pace”? Are there limits to how quickly or slowly students are allowed to move through the system?

To better understand how competency-based systems reckon with these questions, I sat down with Mallory Haar, who teaches English as a New Language and English Literature at Casco Bay High School in Portland, Maine.

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In Real Life: How feedback loops and student supports help ensure learning is deep, ongoing, and integrated.

February 6, 2019 by

Elizabeth Cardine, Lead Teacher and Advisor, MC2 Schools, NH

This article is the fifth in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Competency-based education (CBE) systems define competencies and learning progressions to make learning expectations more transparent and accessible to students; but such transparency can be prone to the unintended consequence of creating a “check the box” mentality that compromises depth and relevance.

To better understand how competency-based systems balance the desire for transparency with the need for depth, I sat down with Elizabeth Cardine, Lead Teacher and Advisor at Making Community Connections (MC2) Charter Schools in New Hampshire.

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The Best Academic Schools in Tennessee Feature the Best Character Program in the Country

December 14, 2018 by

This article originally appeared at Education Week on December 11, 2018. It was posted on Vander Ark on Innovation.

“Teaching has to change. If I never tap into your truth, if I never validate your truth, I’ve failed you as a teacher,” said Valor College Prep HS teacher Matthias McNeal. About the morning meeting, McNeal adds, “Circle is getting to the root of what makes you so special.”

The best academic secondary schools in Tennessee feature the best character development program in the country.

Valor Collegiate Academies has been in the top 5% of Tennessee schools on growth and achievement every year since it started in 2014. But we visited Valor (seven miles south of the Country Music Hall of Fame in suburban southeast Nashville) because of the well regarded Valor Compass, a holistic human development program. (more…)

Updated: Competency-Based Education Across America

September 25, 2018 by

Updated: 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…)

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…)

Slaying the Dragon: A Conversation with Cory Woolstenhulme on Mastery-Based Learning

August 22, 2018 by

Cory Woolstenhume

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

The conversation with Cory Woolstenhulme, principal of Columbia High School, was rich with insights. He is reflective and candid, a learner-leader if you will. Here are a few of the insights he shared:

Repairing Gaps

“Filling the gaps is new to us. It’s never been an expectation that a high school should do that. What we’ve been doing as an education system has been a not-so-funny joke. As long as no one blew the whistle, students got passed on. We say to students that as long as you behave okay, I’ll pass you. If you do enough homework, you’ll pass my class. Retention has been our only tool, but it can be miserable for students. They have to go through an entire year of the same material but still not actually get the help they need. Now we begin with the idea that we need to start students exactly where they are, and that means finding out what they know and don’t know. It means we have to figure out how to organize school to respond to every student being in a different place rather than pretending that they are all are at the same starting point.” (more…)

Freemans Bay: Honoring Diversity and Māori Culture

August 20, 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 6, 2017.) 

It has been several days since I blogged about our learning journey to New Zealand and I am anxious to tell you more about our trip. I find I need to fully process what I learned to honor the impact that each school offered to my learning journey. Here is Freeman’s Bay School, the second school we visited on our learning journey.  (more…)

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