Category: How To

Class Rank in a Competency-Based High School

October 2, 2012 by

My school, Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, NH, made the shift to a competency-based grading and reporting   system about three years ago. For those of you who have recently made the switch, as well as those of you who are planning one in the near future, I can tell you that once you go down the “competency road” it creates a chain reaction of other proposed changes – some you would anticipate, some you would not.For us, we weren’t too far down the path before the question came up of what we should do about class rank. Like most traditional high schools, we have always used a weighted grade point average (G.P.A.) to compute our class rank. We also have always engaged in traditions such as holding a banquet for students who were ranked in the top ten percent of the graduating class and naming a Valedictorian, Salutatorian, and a Class Essayist to the students who were ranked 1, 2, and 3 respectively in their graduating class. With the shift to a competency-based system, we hoped to remove the tradition of class rank. We found that this would prove harder to do than we originally thought.

(more…)

Alberta Breaking Down the Boundaries

September 20, 2012 by

Some of our friends across our northern border are experimenting with seat-time flexibility as well. Jonathan Oglesby from iNACOL just sent an article about Mother Margaret Mary Catholic High School’s experimentation with flexible time. It’s an interesting pilot as it works around the margins of seat-time providing students with weekly opportunities to design their own schedules.

It’s part of Alberta’s High School Flexibility Project aimed at increasing high school completion. They did a nice piece of work in their planning phase where they started to name and describe the different techniques related to credit flexibility. This is just the beginning list of the infinite design choices we have in front of us. Looking at this list, it’s probably time for us to make an easy to use tool to help us think strategically about these design choices as they are bound to grow as the boundaries of the traditional school system loosen up. (Please add others in the comments section so we can get a good list going in order to save time having to start from scratch every time).

Courses and Credits

  • Self-Directed Learning Modules: Portions of, or entire courses, that are made available to students to work through at their own pace.
  • Condensed Classes/Compacting Curriculum: Providing less than 25 hours per credit for classes. Such a practice requires a review of the traditional delivery of courses in order to “compact” the program outcomes into less time.
  • Expanded Classes: Providing more than 25 hours per credit for classes.
  • Credit Recovery: Making allowances for students who have not successfully completed a course to continue their coursework beyond the time scheduled. (more…)

The Shift to Competencies: A Practical Approach

September 18, 2012 by

Welcome Back! I hope you all thoroughly enjoyed the time that you had during the summer months. It is always good to have reflection, as they say. I hope that you, as the probable influencers in your buildings, districts, and states, have been able to focus a bit on the work that we have ahead of us!

As I read through this blog, as well as some of the great literature floating around, I thought that it may be a good idea to provide a bit of experiential hindsight for those of us transitioning from the philosophy of seat time to show-and-prove academics. Many questions emerge when I speak with students, parents, and policy makers, so I thought you might appreciate a “been-there-done-that” point of view. Hopefully it can assist you in your movement toward competency.

(more…)

Competencies Build Better Assessment Practices

September 13, 2012 by

Competencies have the potential to truly shift assessment practices in the classroom. If you took a sampling of the current assessment practices, including gradebooks, you would see a variety of systems in place. From elaborate weights and point systems, to standards-based and rigorous, assessment practices run the gamut. With a competency-based assessment system, we have the opportunity to create exemplary, equitable assessment practices for our students.

Objective Targets – Competencies are hinged on targets in the content area. When designed well, they are aligned to state, national, or common core standards, and explain clearly the evidence needed to demonstrate mastery. The competency promotes evidence of learning, regardless of how the learning is shown. Because of this, students are allowed to show learning in a variety of ways, because the competency isn’t hinged on the product of learning, but rather what needs to be in that product. Teachers who use competency-based grading system must truly understand what evidence of that learning is. In other words, the target must be clear. When teachers are creating assessments, they aligned to objective targets, not subjective products. With this, we can be confident that the assessment is accurate and objective, regardless of product. (more…)

Tips for Designing Competencies

August 22, 2012 by

It was an absolute joy having the opportunity to interview so many of our leading competency education innovators for the Issue Brief: The Art and Science of Designing Competencies. Kim Carter, Rose Colby, Alison Hramiec, Steve Kossakoski, Tony Monfiletto, Gloria Pineda, and Beatriz Zapater all shared their time and knowledge.

Yet, there is a lot more knowledge out there that we can tap into and a lot more questions.  I’m sure there are other approaches, other ways to use the competency design process as a method to build school culture, professional development, and educational leadership.

Here are a few things that didn’t make it into the paper. Consider them tips from people who have learned the hard way: (more…)

The Creative Process — Spark It!

August 16, 2012 by

Instruction of the creative process is primarily the domain of arts educators, but application of the creative process belongs in every classroom. It is central to 21st century learning, and direct instruction of the process shouldn’t be marginalized.

Teachers know that students don’t integrate learning that is shallow, and that the creative process helps their students invest in what they learning. Most teachers, however, have not had any education about creative thinking and how to actively encourage students to engage in it. There is more and more science behind creativity, which means that it’s time for educators to expand their own understanding of what it means to be creative and why it matters in their classrooms. (more…)

Assessment of Learning with Competency-Based Grading

August 13, 2012 by

From SRHS website

This past spring, two members of my administrative team at Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, New Hampshire had the opportunity to present our school’s competency-based grading and reporting system to admissions representatives from each of the New Hampshire Colleges and Universities. A very interesting conversation unfolded when the team passed out two competency-based report cards from two students at our school. Both students had earned a final grade of an “80” in their Forensic Science class, but both had very different grades in each of their competencies for that particular course. One had an “exceeding” grade of 95 for the crime scene management competency (students will demonstrate the ability to use and understand how observation is used in order to collect and gather evidence in scene investigation). The other student had an “inconsistent progress” grade of a 75 for the same skill. This evidence suggests that one student perhaps had a more complete understanding of the scientific inquiry process that goes into a forensics investigation, while the other still had work to do to bring that skill to competency.

The ability to be able to “dig deeper” into what a final grade represents and how it can be used to report learning not only intrigued the admissions officers, but it generated an entire discussion around what else a competency-based grading and reporting system could do for students. Indeed, this model should be the way of the future for all high schools. Our school made the leap from a traditional to a competency-based model over a period of about three years, and I challenge you to explore how you might make the same leap at your school. (more…)

Changing our Bumper-Sticker Message: My Student is More Proficient Than Your Student!

August 7, 2012 by

On a recent walk, I was stopped by my neighbor who had a complaint about her son’s end-of-year report card.  “See this,” she said, pointing to the bumper sticker on her car that proudly declared her son an honor roll student at Olympia Middle School.  “It’s a lie; it doesn’t match the information from his teachers about what he knows and can do.  I don’t understand.  What should I do?”  Her voice sounded pleading and I could sense a rising frustration with the public school system, a beloved institution that I had participated in and protected for over thirty-six years.

We have no chance at making strategic and systemic changes in our education system if we don’t bring parents along on the change journey.  And, the changes that occur when districts embrace proficiency-based practices (competency-based/standards-based) go against the traditional picture of education that parents experienced and daily use as their frame of reference.  Our parents were batch educated, moving through a textbook from cover to cover with classmates who shared birthdays that put them all at the same grade level.  (See Sir Kenneth Robinson)  Their students, on the other hand, are allowed to progress without any barriers traditionally affixed to the calendar, the clock, or the curriculum.  This means that a fourth grader might be working at a second-grade reading level and, at the same time, be working on fifth or sixth grade math standards.  Or, a high school student may earn credit for learning experiences that occur outside of the traditional school year.  Parents chased points to reach artificial levels of excellence; their students are evaluated against descriptions of proficiency or higher, knowing exactly what they need to know and do in order to be successful.  It’s no wonder that parents have such a hard time accepting some of the new changes that proficiency-based teaching and learning bring. (more…)

Re-Learning and Reassessment

July 31, 2012 by

While that last planning year was filled with excitement and adventure, we hadn’t anticipated the journey that was to come. (See previous post and related resources on the wiki)

Spaulding High School has just completed year one of its implementation phase and has leaned so many valuable lessons ranging from just-in-time learning to re-learning to reassessment, just to name a few.  While we don’t necessarily have all of the answers yet, we certainly have generated a few solid questions that we are actively responding to.

Among those questions falls perhaps the biggest: How do you manage re-learning and reassessment within the constraints of school?!  We are implementing a progressive way of assessing and promoting students within a very traditional setting which presents constraints.  Some of these constraints include: bells, scheduling, teacher contracts, and access to technology.  (more…)

Competency-Based Instruction & Assessment: Building the Framework

by

As the Rochester School District embarks upon its K-12 Full-Competency Based System of Instruction and Assessment, we continue to build steam.  While the push came from the state to embed competencies into the state’s high schools, what Assistant Superintendent Mary Moriarty realized was that the philosophy and practices of this structure were vital to the success of not just our high-school aged students but all of our students.  As such, the fall of 2013, the Rochester School District will open all of its schools’ doors with a Competency-based model in place.

Our work began several years ago when our administrative team at the high school began site visits in order to build an understanding of just what it meant to be Competency-based.  Through these visits it was observed that many schools were engaging in a process to makeover their framework but not much was changing in the day-to-day work that was going on within classrooms.  These schools weren’t to blame.  They simply weren’t provided support or a model to which they could aspire.  Individual schools were tackling this Competency beast in isolation. (more…)

WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera