Category: Policy

Study of Competency-Based Education Practices and Noncognitive Student Outcomes

August 4, 2014 by
Catherine Bitter

Catherine Bitter

American Institutes for Research (AIR), in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), is conducting a new study on the implementation and outcomes of competency-based education (CBE). The study, supported by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, aims to increase our understanding of CBE practices and their effects on student outcomes that are considered critical for college and career readiness, including self-efficacy, self-regulation, and motivation to learn. This study’s other major contribution to the field will be a set of survey instruments that measure practices and structures associated with CBE implementation. The study will take place in high schools from three states participating in CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network.

This study consists of two components. For the first component, AIR will develop, validate, and administer surveys for principals, teachers, and students about CBE practices and structures. CBE practices vary widely, and may include different aspects of self-pacing, personalized learning, and skills mastery. The survey data will therefore be used to describe and develop a typology of the practices employed by a variety of schools implementing CBE. The study team anticipates that researchers can also use these instruments in future studies of the impacts of CBE, including examinations of postsecondary success. (more…)

Momentum is Building in Colorado

July 30, 2014 by
Colorado flag

From wikipedia.com

Colorado took a big step last year by establishing state policy for a proficiency-based high school diploma. As the Colorado Education Initiative explained the policy, the new graduation guidelines “signal a move away from seat time and toward enabling students to advance based on mastery of Colorado Academic Standards; provide students with a menu of options to demonstrate mastery rather than a single exit exam; emphasize multiple pathways for students to engage in learning; and elevate the importance of next generation student outcomes.”

There are a lot of pieces starting to come together that suggest that Colorado may start catching up with the New England states:

  • State Leadership:  Colorado has formed a Competency-based Study Group to better understand the benefits and challenges of implementing competency education. The study group is being facilitated by Achieve. Members of the group will be visiting Lindsay Unified School District in CA and will have a daylong seminar with former state and district officials from Maine. It’s so important for state and district leaders to take the time to visit the competency-based districts and schools to help them understand the fundamental shifts of focusing on proficiency rather than time.
  • Expansion of Competency Education: In addition to Adams 50, one of the early innovators of competency education, Colorado Springs District 11 and Thompson School District are participating in an initiative to expand next generation learning, in partnership with the Colorado Department of Education and The Colorado Education Initiative  (CEI) and funded by Next Generation Learning Challenges. Each district will focus on two schools. Adams 50 has done an extraordinary job in elementary school and is getting results. They will focus on Westminster High School and Ranum Middle School as part of this effort. (See CW post about how high school transformation was constrained by lack of innovation on part of SIS provider.)
  • Intermediary Capacity: Intermediary organizations play a critical role in advancing new reforms, leadership development and the transfer of knowledge. Several support organizations based in CO have substantial capacity around competency education.  The Colorado Education Initiative (formerly CO Legacy Foundation) is now actively supporting competency education along with it’s other initiatives including health and wellness and STEM.  (Here is their description of competency education.) Colorado also is working with the Marzano Research Laboratory (MRL), which has incredible expertise around formative assessment, standards-based grading and a new effort on high reliability schools that includes competency education. MRL has recently acquired the Reinvent Schools Coalition, adding even more capacity. The Regional Education Lab – Central (run by MRL) also is building capacity around state policy issues to better serve its states — Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

If you know of other states that are building momentum, we’d love to hear the details. We want to make sure that we continue to support network building as more states convert to competency-based education systems.

 

Mindsets and Student Agency

July 28, 2014 by

Originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of Unboxed, a publication of High Tech High

Eduardo Briceño

Eduardo Briceño

Deeper learning requires students to think, question, pursue, and create—to take agency and ownership of their learning. When they do, they acquire deeper understanding and skills, and most important, they become more competent learners in and out of school. They become better prepared to succeed in academics, but also in 21st century careers and in life.

We can’t force students to develop agency and drive their own learning. It must come from within. Deeper learning instructional practices, such as using student-centered and self-directed learning methods, encouraging collaboration, and incorporating real-world projects, interviews, case studies and explorations, result in prolific learning when students are ready to drive their own learning. But using these practices is not always sufficient for students to truly take the reins. So what else do they need in order to get in the driver’s seat, take agency, and dive deep? And how do we help them do so?

(more…)

Can Competency Education Work in Urban Districts?

July 10, 2014 by
triangle

Designing for Autonomy

I’ve been hearing this question by foundations that are excited about competency education but are focused on investing in solutions for big districts in order to reach the most low-income students. (Interesting that Puerto Rico is the third largest school district and I don’t know of any foundations investing there.) “Urban” can be a code for students and families with brown and black skin that don’t have much in the way of financial assets. For those who need proof points that CBE works for “urban students”, the Barack Obama Charter School in Los Angeles is one. (Read the CompetencyWorks blog about it here.) I believe in this instance, however, the concern about competency education’s workability in urban districts is more about the size of the districts and the difficulty of introducing reforms.

My first advice to foundations that want to support big districts is to expand their boundaries. There has been a demographic shift over the past 20 years, with poverty slipping into inner ring suburbs. Adams 50 is an example of a suburban district at the edges of Denver that decided they had to do something different as they realized that the traditional system was in their way of responding to a changing student population. (Read the CompetencyWorks blog about it here.)  Foundations can take advantage of this “opportunity” by investing in the neighboring smaller districts that are trying to find responses to increasing poverty in their communities.  Not only will you create a proof point for the surrounding districts, you will also begin to build a cadre of educators that can easily train others or even take on leadership in the large districts. (more…)

Maine Walks the Talk – Extends Date for Proficiency-Based Diplomas

June 9, 2014 by
innovation cycle

Innovation cycle from Wikipedia

In 2012, Maine’s legislature passed L.D. 1422, which established proficiency-based high school diplomas. The policy stated that the class of 2015 would be expected to demonstrate proficiency, not just pass a class in English, math, science, social studies and physical education. Based on requests from superintendents statewide for more time, however, Maine’s Department of Education is allowing districts to extend the date that proficiency-based diplomas will be required to 2020.

This is a smart decision on the part of Maine’s Department of Education. Proficiency-based education really has to be a voluntary reform – one that people do because they think it makes sense and will do the right thing for kids. From what I can tell, a third to a half of Maine’s districts have moved towards proficiency-based education (see the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning). In general, these districts have embraced the idea of proficiency-based education. The last time I was in Maine, however, it was clear that many are still in the early stages of implementation. (more…)

100%

June 5, 2014 by

New England ConsortiumOne hundred percent of the public institutions of higher education in five states have endorsed proficiency-based education. That’s right — 100%.

The New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) announced that all the public colleges and universities as well as three private colleges in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have endorsed proficiency-based education. That’s 55 colleges and universities.

I recently talked with Cory Curl from ACHIEVE about their meeting last week with higher education representatives and competency education leaders. She reported that there was general agreement that proficiency-based transcripts should not be a problem as colleges are used to receiving and making sense of all kinds of transcripts.  She also said there were several higher education associations at the meeting that are considering raising competency education at their meetings to get further support and acceptance for proficiency-based transcripts.

The conversation with Cory touched on what it is going to take to get elite colleges to endorse proficiency-based education. She suggested that a specific ask, such as a statement on their admissions websites that clearly states that they accept proficiency-based transcripts, might be considered rather than trying to get endorsements. Elite colleges, being elite. tend to avoid engaging in and advancing specific education reforms or participating in state-level efforts.

So I think it is safe to say we are making steady progress at addressing a fear, some considered a barrier to be overcome, about competency education. We are continuing to get confirmation that competency-based transcripts are not going to impact college admissions. We just have to keep working to get more colleges and universities in other parts of the country to sign on, or at a minimum say they’ll accept proficiency-based transcripts. One of the very easy things all of us can do is start to lay the groundwork by sending a letter to the president and trustees of our alma mater encouraging them to clarify on their admissions web page that they accept competency-based transcripts. Hopefully other intermediary organizations will take on the leadership role that NESCC has shown in engage higher education in other states and regions.  I’m sure NESSC would be glad to share their process and road bumps. (And bravo to all of you that facilitated the conversations and coordinated the endorsements).

FYI: The press release from NESSC was full of great quotes that others might find handy in their work: (more…)

Blending Toward Competency: A Closer Look at Blended Learning in New Hampshire

May 21, 2014 by
Originally posted May 21, 2014 at Christensen Institute.

inside a classroom

New Hampshire abolished the Carnegie unit in 2005.

Blended learning comes in various shapes and sizes in New Hampshire.

In 2007, Exeter Region Cooperative School District (SAU 16) in Exeter, N.H., applied for a statewide charter to launch the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS), New Hampshire’s first fully virtual charter school. Steve Kossakoski, the district’s then assistant superintendent for technology and research, took the helm as CEO of VLACS in 2008. Under Kossakoski’s guidance, VLACS has grown into the leading competency-based online course provider in the state. VLACS students move through online courses at their own pace, and the school has implemented competency assessments that require that students not only complete coursework, but also demonstrate mastery of each competency associated with a given course.

In 2008, in Durham, N.H., Celeste Best, an award-winning science teacher at Oyster River High School, noticed that her students lacked ownership of their learning. Best decided that instead of teaching all of her students at once, she would assign students to different projects or learning opportunities—either online or offline—depending on how they were progressing through the material.

That same year, in Litchfield, N.H., Campbell High School received a Federal Title-II-D grant to implement technology in its classrooms. But Andrea Ange and Justin Ballou, a library media specialist and a teacher, respectively, at the high school, noticed that the program fell short because the software programs they purchased were not user-friendly. As a result, the two decided to start their own company, Socrademy, which launched in 2012. Socrademy aims to serve as a personalized learning platform, where students can select and complete competency-based, modular content focused on their passions at their own pace. (more…)

What Does Competency-Based Education Have to do with Disruption?

May 19, 2014 by

christenseninstituteOriginally posted May 16, 2014 at christenseninstitute.org

Last week, we published the first paper in a two-part series on competency-based education. That paper investigates what competency-based education means in practice in New Hampshire, the first state to abolish the Carnegie unit and grant high school credit on the basis of mastery rather than hours of instruction.

What does that policy—and corresponding practice—have to do with the theory of disruptive innovation? Disruptive innovation describes a force by which industries that start off expensive, centralized, and complicated (they require deep expertise) become affordable, accessible, decentralized, and offer products that are more foolproof. When we talk about disruptive innovation in education, we often think about the explosive growth of online learning over the past two decades that has offered students a new paradigm in learning. Other innovations like peer-to-peer learning or early college high school models likewise may tug at the foundation of the traditional, centralized, factory- and time-based models that have dominated our education system for over a century. (more…)

Who Should Determine What Proficiency Is?

April 22, 2014 by
idaho

map data (c) 2014 Google

Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education in Idaho has been considering mastery-based education (Connecticut also uses this term). No recommendations to the state legislature were forthcoming, because, according to the news story, “they haven’t settled how to measure ‘mastery,’ or even who will make that decision. Some urged local control, while others argued if Idaho is providing funding to these schools, the state should be entitled to set forth some expectations.”

Fascinating that they saw it as an either-or decision rather than something that they might be able to construct together. New Hampshire started out with an emphasis on local control in designing the competency frameworks, but superintendents and school boards soon realized that resources can be better used in ways other than recreating the wheel in each of their districts.  So the state department of education led a process of co-designing to create statewide competencies that capture the big ideas we want students to be able to achieve in math and English language arts. (more…)

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