Category: Uncategorized

Student Learning Objectives: Insights into Using Competencies as a Growth Model

September 4, 2012 by

I’m a TQM-freak. I admit it. I think Total Quality Management and continuous improvement is just the best management practice ever developed. So I distinctly remember the moment ten years ago when I realized the power of competency education when the great team at the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School walked me through their management reports.

By tracking the progress of students mastering learning objectives in their management information systems, YWLCS could generate two powerful sets of reports. In addition to individual learning progression for each student, YWLCS would generate:

Exception Reports: By knowing which students haven’t yet mastered specific competencies, YWCLS can organize groups of students to work with specialists in the classroom or afterschool or Saturday programs for extra help. This allows teachers and the school to organize supports and opportunities during the semester rather delaying interventions. (more…)

Did I Mention That It’s Hard?

September 3, 2012 by

If you are considering having your district or school move towards competency education, then find an hour to dive into the recently released The Long Conversation or, “It’s hard, but worth it. Did I mention that it’s hard?”

This case study on Kennebec Intra-District Schools, better known as RSU 2, commissioned by the Maine Department of Education, really is a must-read for anyone starting to think about implementation.  It’s chock full of lessons and insights that can help you leap over the hurdles you are bound to encounter.

Setting a Vision:  The process used by RSU 2 under the leadership of Don Sivisiki, now at the Maine Department of Education and its vision for student centered learning can be helpful to think about how to shape a process to engage school board, educators and community members. (more…)

Muscatine Jumps into Competency Education

August 28, 2012 by

I don’t think there is a word for it…probably time to make one up. I just love the feeling of “a-ha!” – when I get an itsy-bitsy glimpse of understanding about our world and our work. I had two “a-ha!s” when I caught a glimpse into the Muscatine Community School District’s (Iowa) efforts in competency education.

The Muscatine Journal covered a school board meeting where a competency education pilot was described.

It starts in the classroom:  Muscatine has 26 volunteer teachers that are going to pilot competency education in their classrooms.  They are from elementary, middle and high school as well as their alternative school. They are doing their own research and figuring out how to integrate standards-based grading into their classrooms. (more…)

Using Competencies as a Blue Print to Personalize Learning

July 30, 2012 by

The following was written by Brian M. Stack, Principal; Michael Turmelle, Assistant Principal / Curriculum; Ann Hadwen, Assistant Principal / Freshman Learning Community; Michelle Catena, Guidance Director; and Vicki Parady-Guay, Athletic Director

Sanborn Regional High School had a very successful 2011-2012 school year in which it was recognized at local, state, and national levels for its work in school redesign for the twenty-first century. The school strives to become one of the premiere high schools in the State of New Hampshire and beyond. Using a competency-based grading and reporting system is one way the school personalizes learning for all students, but it is only part of a bigger picture. To move forward, the school has developed a master plan for redesign that is based on three pillars for success.

Pillar #1 – Learning Communities: Our learning communities work interdependently to achieve successful student performance for which we are collectively responsible and mutually accountable.

The term “learning community” describes a collegial group of administrators and/or school staff who are united in their commitment to student learning. They share a vision, work and learn collaboratively, visit and review other classrooms, and participate in decision-making. At our school, all staff belong to one or more learning communities that are based on a shared content and/or grade-level. Teams use student learning, specifically the mastery of school and course-level competencies, as a foundation for their work. (more…)

Spaulding High: Creating a Comprehensive System of Supports

June 25, 2012 by
Paul Newell

Paul Newell

CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network includes a Comprehensive System of Supports as one of the six attributes of a next generation education system. In the working definition of competency education, the fourth element refers to “timely and differentiated support.” Spaulding High School provides a window into what this really means for schools and districts as they build a competency education system.

As Spaulding High moved forward in implementing competency education, they knew  that students would need time for extra help. In addition to teachers providing extra help, they created E-Block to provide after-school tutoring, and expanded the “Plato room” to provide-credit recovery programming.

What they didn’t plan for is how many students  didn’t complete all the competencies needed to transition to tenth grade (more…)

Competency Education in Higher Education: Taking the First Steps

June 14, 2012 by

Last week I attended a Center for American Progress event on competency-based education from the perspective of postsecondary education. I was interested to hear that the US Department of Education is paying close attention to developments in this burgeoning field. Eduardo Ochoa, the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, pointed out three models currently being pursued by higher education institutions:

  1. Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) using competency-based systems to structure courses and assessments within the traditional credit-based model by mapping competencies back to the credit hour. (more…)

Freshman Learning Community – A Successful Model That Puts Competency-Based Grading into Action

June 1, 2012 by

The transition to ninth grade is challenging for many students. For Sanborn Regional High School students, their transition struggles pointed to several issues in the district. In 2008, the district convened a summit to consider research on the needs of these students and to review the best practices in teaming. The ninth grade teachers decided to focus on a Professional Learning Community model framed by teachers from English, Social Studies, Wellness, and Science.  Over the next three years, the team worked to develop team norms, goals, common grading practices for class work and homework, grading policies, integrated units, performance-based assessments, and communication to parents.  Their work spurred a movement in the Sanborn Regional School District to become a competency-based grading and reporting school district, which the district became officially for the 2010-2011 school year.

In the fall of 2011 under the direction of Assistant Principal Ann Hadwen, the team that had come to be known as the Freshman Learning Community (FLC) took their next big step in development. Working within the master schedule, the FLC created a school-within-a-school model (more…)

Mastery – Putting Learning Before Grades

May 17, 2012 by

I work with a team of people that submitted a letter of intent to the New Mexico State Department of Education to create a health careers high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It will be the second in a series of schools dedicated to serving young people who have not been well served by traditional high schools—and there are a lot of those kids in my home town. Nearly 40 percent of all high school students drop out and if you are a young person of color and poor it’s more like 50 percent. This mass of more than 25,000 young people is served in incredibly complicated schools that are incapable of the complexity and sophistication to be successful. About a year and a half ago I helped create ACE Leadership High School, an Architecture Construction and Engineering high school in my home town to get at this sticky problem. We are an outward facing institution that is ambitious about its own development and we incorporate lots of ideas from different disciplines. (more…)

Juggling Frogs

May 10, 2012 by

Read the first post on Spaulding High School.

Organizational change is always a case of juggling frogs. As I continue to reflect on my visit to Spaulding High School in April, I’m increasingly humbled by the enormous change they are involved in and the amount of respect and thoughtfulness that the administration, teachers, and students offered one another. Here are a few more insights into the competency education practices being introduced at Spaulding High School.

Competencies and Staff Cohesion: A number of different issues emerged as we talked about the scheduling of courses and their design. Spaulding is using Understanding by Design to help them design courses. (more…)

Spaulding High Holds the Spirit of Competency Education

May 9, 2012 by

Read more about Spaulding High School.

Traveling to Amherst, Massachusetts, for the Proficiency-Based Pathways meeting and a visit to Spaulding High School in Rochester, New Hampshire, was one of those profound reminders of the enormously beautiful variation in our country in terms of culture, race, and ethnicity—and, of course, geography—as the greening woods, running rivers, and sparkling forsythia nearly blinded my New Mexico eyes.

As you probably know, New Hampshire has transformed credits from seat-time to competency in all of its high schools. Spaulding’s principal, Mr. Rob Seaward, understands the spirit and value of competency education and is working with teachers to get it into every classroom. They are in the first year of the change and are still working out the kinks, so it’s way too early to look for results. However, here are just a few of the highlights of the site visit. (more…)

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