Category: Policy

Competency-Based Learning Assessments Coming Soon to North Carolina?

September 16, 2015 by

NCWe were delighted to see that the North Carolina budget conference report published yesterday indicated their interest in competency-based education. As I understand it, there is no budget attached to their intent to transition to a “system of testing and assessments” for K12 that “utilizes competency-based learning assessments.” As you can see from the text from the report below, they are using the five part working definition of competency education to define the system.

COMPETENCY-BASED LEARNING AND ASSESSMENTS

SECTION 8.12.(a) It is the intent of the General Assembly to transition to a system of testing and assessments applicable for all elementary and secondary public school students that utilizes competency-based learning assessments to measure student performance and student growth, whenever practicable. The competency-based student assessment system should provide that (i) students advance upon mastery, (ii) competencies are broken down into explicit and measurable learning objectives, (iii) assessment is meaningful for students, (iv) students receive differentiated support based on their learning needs, and (v) learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include the application and creation of knowledge.

SECTION 8.12.(b) In order to develop the use of competency-based assessments for all elementary and secondary public school students in North Carolina in accordance with subsection (a) of this section, the State Board of Education is encouraged to evaluate the feasibility of integrating competency-based assessments for use in local school administrative units and as part of the statewide testing system for measuring student performance and student growth. The State Board may examine competency-based student assessment systems utilized in other states, including potential benefits and obstacles to implementing similar systems in North Carolina, and the relationship between competency-based assessments and innovative teaching methods utilized in North Carolina schools, such as blended learning models and digital teaching tools.

We’ll share more information on North Carolina’s interest in competency education as we gather it.

State Policy: Resources for Getting Started

July 15, 2015 by
susan_patrick

Susan Patrick

Looking for a few resources to send state policy makers to get started on competency education? Here are some suggestions.

How Are States Advancing Competency Education?

The report Necessary for Success: A State Policymakers Guide to Competency Education (iNACOL CompetencyWorks) provides an overview and recommendations for state policy.

There is also a short briefing paper on Aligning K-12 State Policy with Competency Education that you can use and adapt for your state.

This article provides an overview on Iowa’s initiative.

New Hampshire’s efforts have been well-documented, including NH’s Story of Transformation and From policy to practice: How competency-based education is evolving in New Hampshire.

Maine also has been documenting their efforts. You can find resources here.

Background: Overview of Competency-Based Education

States considering policies to support competency-based education are on the rise. Policy levers that support competency education and personalized learning include creating innovation zones, supporting school finance changes, planning grants, implementing new assessment frameworks, and starting pilot programs.

Five approaches in state policy to enable competency-based education:

  1. Competency-Based Education Pilot Programs
  2. Innovation Zones
  3. Competency-Based Diplomas
  4. Competency-Based Task Forces
  5. Flexibility for Competency-Based Assessments

(more…)

States Considering Policies Supporting Competency-Based Education

July 14, 2015 by

LibraryThis post originally appeared at iNACOL on June 26, 2015.

States considering policies to support competency-based education are on the rise. Policy levers that support competency education and personalized learning include innovation zones, school finance changes, planning grants, new assessment frameworks, and pilot programs. This week, we highlight states’ efforts to pass policies that support new models and systems of assessments, including flexibility for locally-developed, performance-based assessments.

How a state structures its assessments and accountability systems can significantly enhance or impede competency education. Acknowledging this, North Carolina HB 439 expresses legislative intent that the state “transition to a system of testing and assessments…that utilizes competency-based learning assessments to measure student performance and student growth.” The bill passed the House by a vote of 112-2 but has stalled in the Senate. North Carolina can still pass the bill but must move quickly in order to do so because the legislature adjourns on July 1.

Federal rules require states to administer summative tests at the end of each school year that include test items from only students’ current grade levels. These single-point-in-time assessment systems discourage schools from implementing personalized, competency-based pathways. (more…)

Lesson Learned: Enabling Policy Isn’t Enough, It takes Incentives

July 7, 2015 by

Ohio SealOhio offers all of us a big lesson learned about how states can advance competency education. They have learned from experience that enabling policy isn’t enough, it is going to require incentives to engage districts in full systemic re-design. Several years ago, Ohio created credit flexibility that allowed for districts to award competency-based credits to students. Even though a district could have used this to create competency-based pathways or even make the transition to competency education, there was little uptake. So now the Ohio state legislature passed H.B. 64, which includes funds for pilots in competency-based education. (Go to page 2572 SECTION 263.280. to find information on the pilot.) The Ohio Department of Education is authorized to make two-year grants to five districts, schools, or consortia of districts and schools of up to $200,000 for each fiscal year.

Ohio is going to be a state to pay attention to, as they are also encouraging higher education to become competency-based, as well. Thus, we may start to see some innovations about how to create more seamless K-16 competency-based pathways.

Below is the testimony of iNACOL President and CEO Susan Patrick (and co-founder of CompetencyWorks) to the Ohio House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education regarding competency-based education:

Chairman Cupp and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of the competency-based education pilot program found in H.B. 64.

iNACOL is a non-profit organization with the mission to ensure all students have access to a world-class education and leads the CompetencyWorks initiative.

The competency-based education pilot is an important step for Ohio districts and schools to begin this transition towards providing personalized, competency-based learning to Ohio students.

The iNACOL/CCSSO definition of competency education has five elements:

  • Students advance upon mastery;
  • Competencies include explicit, learning objectives that empower students;
  • Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students;
  • Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual needs; and
  • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, and the development of important skills and dispositions.

(more…)

When Diplomas and Credits Send False Signals

June 12, 2015 by

PercentageThis post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education on June 11, 2015.

Last month Achieve launched its #HonestyGap campaign. The effort highlights the gap between the percent of students deemed proficient on state exams versus the percent of students deemed proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Not surprisingly, the gaps are wide and pervasive.

The NAEP is considered to be the gold standard of assessments, and this Achieve report clearly demonstrates how parents, students and, quite frankly, educators are being misled by inconsistent expectations of proficiency. In many states when a student passes a state exam, it may not mean he has mastered the content. Often the tests are too easy or the passing scores too generous.

This proficiency gap is decried by the education reform community, but the NAEP isn’t a test most parents are even aware of because it has no impact on individual students or state accountability systems.

Parents typically rely on the most familiar aspect of American education to understand how their student is performing in school—the report card.

The real miscommunication happens when students earn passing grades in required courses yet struggle with end of year assessments. Students may accumulate all the required credits, but what is their diploma worth if they haven’t mastered the content? (more…)

Idaho Agrees: Flexible Pace > Seat Time

June 4, 2015 by

Desk ChairThis post originally appeared at the Foundation for Excellence in Education on March 27, 2015.

The goal of a high school biology student should be to learn biology, or at least learn all the course has to offer.

That sounds simple enough. But in reality, it is not how the public education system works. Instead, the goal is to have the student sit in a biology class for a specific amount of time (often about 180 days), regardless of how long it actually takes the student to master the material.

An advanced student has to slow down; a struggling student has to keep up.

Inserting an artificial time restriction into learning forces students to adapt to someone else’s learning schedule. A better approach is to allow students to progress at a flexible pace so they can move on when they have mastered the material. Idaho is taking a bold step in this direction. The state recognizes the need for education to be more personalized in order to reach their goals.

Earlier this month, the Idaho legislature unanimously passed HB 110, which directs the Department of Education to begin Idaho’s transition to a mastery-based education system. And last week, Governor Butch Otter signed the bill into law.

This is another stride towards implementing Governor Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education, and it is an important step forward in preparing Idaho students for success in the 21st century. (more…)

23 Groups Call for Innovative Assessment Flexibility in ESEA Reauthorization

April 14, 2015 by

By Maria Worthen and Lillian Pace

This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will begin consideration of a bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind. The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 is a bipartisan bill authored by the HELP Committee’s Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray.

In this bill there are a number of things of interest to the field of competency education; among them, an Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority that would allow states to develop and pilot new systems of assessments that better enable personalized, competency-based learning. States would be able to test their system in a subset of school districts before expanding them statewide. They would be able to use their new system of assessments as the basis for the state-designed accountability system.

Yesterday, a coalition of 23 groups, including our organizations—iNACOL and KnowledgeWorks—sent the following letter to Senators Alexander and Murray, and the members of the HELP Committee. The letter supports the inclusion of the pilot and states key common principles that signatories agree should be included in the final bill. (more…)

New Hampshire Testing Pilot Breaks the Federal Accountability Mold

March 6, 2015 by

NHThis post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on March 5, 2015.

This week the U.S. Department of Education made a groundbreaking decision to allow four school systems in New Hampshire to pilot a new accountability regime based on a mix of local and state assessments. This first-of-its-kind policy marks an important policy development for competency-based systems and signals a move in the right direction for federal accountability.

New Hampshire’s Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) pilot will allow locally managed assessments to count toward federal accountability requirements. New Hampshire’s PACE project began in 2012 as an opt-in effort for districts to coordinate local approaches to performance assessment. Starting this year, the four PACE implementing districts—Sanborn Regional, Rochester, Epping, and Souhegan—will administer the Smarter Balanced assessment once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school (in three grades instead of seven). In all other years when students aren’t taking Smarter Balanced assessments, the PACE districts will administer carefully designed common and locally managed “performance assessments” that were developed by the districts themselves and validated at the state level.

Although there is a range of definitions of what constitutes a performance assessment, according to the New Hampshire DOE, “[p]erformance assessments are complex, multi-part tasks that ask students to apply what they have learned in sophisticated ways.” The state emphasizes that different mediums may qualify as evidence of mastery. The Department explained that these assessments vary by context and subject, and sometimes by a student’s particular interests: (more…)

Green Light for New Hampshire

March 5, 2015 by

Green LightCongratulations to New Hampshire! The U.S. Department of Education has approved New Hampshire to use performance-based assessments in four districts that have been part of PACE.PACE is developing:

  • common performance tasks that have high technical quality,
  • locally designed performance tasks with guidelines for ensuring high technical quality,
  • regional scoring sessions and local district peer review audits to ensure sound accountability systems and high inter-rater reliability,
  • a web-based bank of local and common performance tasks, and
  • a regional support network for districts and schools.

NH will be using SBAC for some grade and the performance assessments for others. New Hampshire plans to expand PACE to eight districts next year.

This is an enormous step forward to building out the systems of assessments that emphasizes higher order skills by using performance assessments. More to come later!

 

Can Federal Grants Drive Personalized Learning?

March 3, 2015 by

US CapitolThis post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on February 13, 2015.

As ESEA debates heat up on the Hill this month, in addition to reconsidering the federal role in school accountability, there has been a growing discussion about whether and how the federal government should fund innovation in education. There are a variety of programs under consideration that could make this happen.

For example, earlier this week, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) re-introduced the Investing in Innovation in Education Act, which would award money for classroom technology investments, among other things. And Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are floating the 21st Century Classroom Innovation Act, which calls for the government to carve out supports for school systems that are blending face-to-face and online instruction.

Although federal innovation grants are not new to the education field, they could be a potent driver of moving personalized learning forward. What are the potential benefits of a federal innovation agenda and where would these dollars be best spent? Here are three areas to consider: (more…)

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