Category: K-12 and Higher Education

Becoming an Effective Educator of English Learners: Job-Embedded, Competency-Based Professional Development for All Teachers

October 24, 2018 by

Ask any public-school teacher across the country about their greatest challenge. They are likely to tell you it is a lack of confidence in their own ability to work with students in their classes who may not speak English, sometimes representing vastly different cultures. The ExcEL Leadership Academy recognized the need for a better approach to professional learning that would prepare all teachers to work with English Learners. (more…)

The MTC Network: Reinventing How Students Prepare for College, Career, and Life

October 21, 2018 by

How do we prepare students for future careers we can’t even begin to imagine? This is a question we hear a lot in education today. Teachers most commonly tell us that they are seeking to educate students who think creatively and critically, take agency in their own learning, and solve problems by often challenging assumptions. They want to prepare them for our world of accelerating change. But, too often, they are confronted with the reality that the traditional transcript, established during the Industrial Age, limits their ability to best serve and represent the students in their care. Although educators serve diverse student populations—from rural to urban communities, from private to public schools—they find more similarities than differences in what effective teaching and learning look like. (more…)

Opportunities for Competency Education in the Reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act

September 4, 2018 by

Carl D. Perkins

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on August 3, 2018. 

On July 23, Congress voted to pass a bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins Act) and on July 31, President Trump signed into law, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, providing states with the opportunity to advance competency-based pathways in career and technical education (CTE) programs. (more…)

What’s Happening with Competency-Based Transcripts and Rethinking College Admissions in the United States

July 2, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on June 11, 2018.

What are competency-based transcripts, and why are they important?

The New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) explains the main issue: “For more than a century, American high school students have earned ‘credits’ for passing courses. When they accumulate enough credits, they receive a diploma. The problem with this approach is that credits do not always equal competency.”

Competency-based transcripts provide colleges and universities with comprehensive information on a high school student’s knowledge, skills and performance upon graduation. They communicate what a student knows and can do in the transition from secondary to postsecondary systems of education based on actual mastery and offer a comprehensive record of achievement in a competency-based learning model. (more…)

Mastery Credits? Mastery Transcript?

May 7, 2018 by

Image from the MTC website.

I had the opportunity to participate in a fascinating conversation as a member of the advisory council to Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) a few weeks ago. Lots of people I’ve never met. Lots of ideas that got me thinking. Here’s a bit of background about MTC, as we should all follow and support what they are doing, followed by some of my take-aways.

Background on the Mastery Transcript Consortium (more…)

Grades, College Admission, and Competency-Based Education

March 2, 2018 by

There’s a great quick read in the February AASA School Administrator on standards-based grading and the college admissions process. Four university college admissions staff were interviewed in Getting a Fair Shot about their thoughts about standards-based grading.

Here are some of my big (and small) takeaways: (more…)

Webinar on CBE Student Outcomes Metrics Framework

November 29, 2017 by

The American Institutes for Research and the Institute for CBE at Texas A&M University-Commerce have developed a CBE Student Outcomes Metrics Framework to support a common language for measuring student success within and across higher education CBE programs. This framework is designed to support local continuous improvement efforts as well as field-wide efforts to build evidence about student outcomes in CBE programs, and is based on ongoing CBE student outcomes research with seven program partners.

In general at CompetencyWorks, we keep the articles and resources on CBE in post-secondary institutions separate from those directed at K-12. However, this is a powerful set of work to guide the field of CBE in higher education and can certainly inform the work of K-12 as we enter into a new stage of field-building and attention to quality. I’m certain K-12 will think differently about student outcomes – and this report can help by providing something to react to. We need to make sure that communication goes both ways. As K-12 thinks more deeply about metrics, it’s likely that it will be helpful to institutions of higher education as well, especially those serving younger students entering directly from high school.

On December 14th from 3-4 pm ET, a webinar discussion will be held on the Student Outcomes Metrics Framework. Presenters will be Kelle Parsons, Researcher, Postsecondary Success, American Institutes for Research, and Carlos Rivers, Operations Research Analyst, Institute for Competency-Based Education at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Click here to register.

Debunking a Myth – Competency-Based Transcripts Don’t Disadvantage High School Graduates in the Admissions Process

August 23, 2017 by

A transition to a competency-based education system brings with it many small and large changes. In order to serve their students better, districts, schools, and teachers change instructional practices, strategies, feedback, and, frequently, reporting. These changes are made in order to more accurately capture what a student knows and is able to do – how they are performing in relation to rigorous, common, shared expectations. While all of these changes should be made in consultation and collaboration with school communities, in response to the vision that they have for graduates, some of these changes are more visible to them than others. Transcripts represent one of the most visible – and public – of these changes.

The ultimate goal of our system is to graduate students who are college and career ready and prepared for the futures of their choosing. Admission to a college and university is a huge part of that future for many of our graduates, and it is only natural that students and parents will immediately think about the implications that the shift to competency-based education has on college admissions. These concerns can be particularly acute for parents who were served well by more traditional educational systems and those whose students have historically thrived in such conventional academic settings.

The Great Schools Partnership and the New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) have worked to address these concerns in a variety of ways. The engagement began by working, over the course of a year, with deans and directors of admission, high school guidance counselors, and principals to create a sample competency-based transcript that would serve as a model for secondary schools to use, change, and adapt to their local context with the assurance that it met the needs of a variety of admissions officials. At the conclusion of this process, the group of deans and directors of admissions requested to continue working together to create a sample school profile, knowing just how critical a clear, complete, brief, easily understandable school profile is in the admissions process. The school profile conveys important descriptive information about the school, its academic program, and its community, and they are customarily included in student applications to colleges and postsecondary programs. The school profile is especially important for admissions staff with fewer resources and limited internal capacity.

Following that process, the NESSC transitioned to gathering a repository of letters from public and private colleges and universities that unequivocally state that students from competency-based systems are not disadvantaged in the admissions process. To date, the NESSC has collected statements from seventy private and public institutions of higher education across New England (including Harvard, Dartmouth, MIT, Tufts, and Bowdoin). These efforts are ongoing and additional statements will be added and are available for download on the NESSC website.

Additional resources about engaging with your community around these questions (and an interview with Nancy David Griffin, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs at the University of Southern Maine) can be found here.

Questions about competency-based learning and college admissions are not context specific. They are at least a consideration in every district implementing competency-based learning. In every community, there are students, parents, teachers, and community members who would like to better understand the ways in which this transition impacts the college admissions process. These questions recognize that there are serious flaws with traditional educational systems: the assumption that traditional grades are equivalent school to school and classroom-to-classroom is false. The assumption that earning a high school diploma means that a student is prepared for college coursework and experiences is false, proven wrong by the high rates of remedial course taking across the country. (more…)

New Metrics and Student Engagement System

August 4, 2017 by

It is definitely time for the competency education innovators in K-12 and higher education to be learning from each other.

One of the opportunities for learning from each other is in thinking about information management systems that support student learning and collect what students know and are able to do in some form of a transcript. For example, in skimming the case study on the University of Wisconsin Flexible Option, I found two ideas that can push our thinking forward in K-12.

Metrics on Pace

In the Metrics Framework, the University of Wisconsin identifies three elements of pace:

  • Measuring rate of assessment completion within each subscription period (time) to reach personal educational goals
  • Assessing rate against student’s planned rate
  • Measuring nature of student’s engagement with curriculum

For aggregated student level data, University of Wisconsin is “aggregating average (mean, mode, median) pace through a program. This aggregate should be measured from student matriculation to completion (or other reason student leaves program). Aggregate pace can also be measured yearly. Aggregate pace can also be analyzed by types of students including demographics, professional interests, etc.”

Student Engagement System

(more…)

Competency-Based Education Gains Momentum

March 8, 2017 by

This post first appeared in the EDUCAUSE Transforming Higher Ed blog on Febuary 6, 2017.

We’re examining competency-based education (CBE), an approach that has been celebrated for its customization and modularized structure, enabling students to demonstrate mastery and move at their own pace through academic programs. Beyond its timing advantages, CBE also has been cited as a means of supporting student equity, and encouraging knowledge transfer—in order to sufficiently educate kids as well as adults for roles that are currently evolving, or perhaps those which have yet to be created.

While CBE remains somewhat nascent across K-12 districts and postsecondary institutions, it has gained a foothold and interest in it continues to grow across the United States.

I spoke with educators, academic experts and institutional leaders to learn more about the ways in which CBE is serving students of all ages, grades and skill levels, and to better understand existing collaborations or points of intersection between schools and academia.

The approach is currently bridging gaps between employers and aspiring college graduates; there appears to be significant potential for CBE to also positively impact younger students.

Embracing the Real World

Matthew Prineas, Vice Provost and Dean of The Undergraduate School at University of Maryland University College, agrees.

“The promise of competency-based methodology is its power to create new connections and seamless pathways between K12, higher education, and the workplace,” he said.

“At UMUC, we are developing competency-based learning experiences that connect the real-world skills employers are asking for with the intellectual abilities our students need for academic success. We believe that competency-based approaches are equally adaptable to the needs of our adult students, who are looking to connect their prior experience with a college credential and a profession, as they are for high school students, who need to develop the foundational skills and behaviors necessary for success in college and beyond.

The emphasis is, of course, on demonstrated mastery rather than rote memorization.

“By putting the focus on what students can do, not just what they know, competencies give us the means to construct learning experiences that are more relevant and engaging—and that is to the benefit of all students, wherever they are in their educational journey.” (more…)

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