Florida and Utah Look to Support Districts through Competency-Based Education Pilots

April 11, 2016 by

USThis post originally appeared at iNACOL on March 29, 2016. 

Recently, iNACOL published a piece on competency-based education pilots and how they can help support personalized, competency-based environments for students and teachers. Two states, Florida and Utah, considered pilot bills this session. Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, signed the bill into law on March 25, 2016, and Utah’s Governor, Gary Herbert, signed the bill into law on March 28, 2016.

States create competency-based education pilots to help launch small-scale, short-term programs that localities use to determine how a larger program might work in practice and go to scale. While innovations in schools are taking hold across states, state policymakers are seeking to help support and foster educators. Pilots support collaboration to help bring together practitioners and educators to share lessons learned, while addressing the changes needed in instructional methods. Pilot programs are one way to connect and support innovators to plan, implement and ultimately scale high-quality competency-based education practices and systems.

Pilot programs provide an entry point for school leaders and educators to get started–combined with the needed flexibility and funding–to design new personalized models to ensure every student is successful through competency-based pathways.

Legislation

Utah’s bill, SB 143, creates the Competency-Based Education Grants Program consisting of grants to improve educational outcomes in public schools. Utah plans to do this by advancing student mastery of concepts and skills through the following core principles, established in the five-part definition of competency-based education by iNACOL and CompetencyWorks:

  • Student advancement upon demonstrated mastery of a concept or skill;
  • Competencies include explicit, measurable, and transferable learning objectives that empower a student;
  • Assessment is meaningful and provides a positive learning experience for a student;
  • Timely, differentiated support based on a student’s individual learning needs; and
  • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge along with the development of important skills and dispositions.

The grant program incentivizes a Local Education Agency (LEA) to establish competency-based education within the LEA through the use of: (more…)

Advancing Students When They are Ready

February 22, 2016 by

FloridaThis post originally appeared on the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Ed Fly Blog on January 4, 2016.

It’s no secret that ExcelinEd is excited about Competency-Based Education—the new approach to learning that allows to students to advance as they master course material.

Politico Florida recently reported that with guidance from the Foundation for Florida’s Future (ExcelinEd’s sister organization), three school districts in Florida have already begun implementing competency-based education pilot programs. Now it’s time for Florida lawmakers to remove existing barriers to competency-based learning in the state so more students can benefit from this strategy.

Check out an excerpt from the piece below, or head to Politico Florida for the full article.

…Florida is in a particularly strong position to implement competency-based learning because schools here have already implemented many of the components. The state’s schools have prioritized acquiring technological devices and offering online coursework, for example. There are policies that allow students to earn credit for some courses just by passing end-of-course exams or earn college credit while in high school through Advanced Placement or community college courses. Students may graduate high school early. (more…)

Lake County Schools: Windy Hill Middle School

February 19, 2016 by

WolvesThis post is the fifth in a five-part series on Lake County Schools in Florida. Begin with the district overview and follow along at these schools: South Lake High, Lost Lake Elementary, Sawgrass Bay Elementary, and Lake Windy Hill Middle

Kathy Halbig, Coordinator of Personalized Learning at Lake County Schools (LCS), described Windy Hill Middle School as “a high performing middle school with a strong level of trust. The staff are confident in their ability to manage change and take risks.” Yet, the team at Windy Hill knew they still weren’t reaching every student, which is why they decided to make the transition to personalized learning with implementation beginning the fall of 2015.

We had a rich conversation with Assistant Principal Abby Crosby and Personalized Learning Facilitator Mary Ellen Barger. Here are the highlights:

Building a Common Understanding of Personalized Learning: The journey to personalization at Windy Hill started by engaging everyone, including the school advisory committee, business community, teachers, and parents.

Four (Overlapping) Steps to Personalized Learning: The Windy Hill scale up strategy has four components that are not entirely sequential. First, invest in the culture of personalization, including growth mindset. Second, go with the teachers who are ready, willing, and able. Third, build capacity through a train-the-trainer model so Windy Hill teachers can train others in the personalized learning classroom design and delivery skills. Fourth, build the capacity for writing units that take into consideration that students are starting at different points and using a variety of multiple assessments. (more…)

Lake County Schools: Sawgrass Bay Elementary Increases Engagement with Personalized Learning

February 18, 2016 by

Sawgrass1This post is the fourth in a five-part series on Lake County Schools in Florida. Begin with the district overview and follow along at these schools: South Lake High, Lost Lake Elementary, Sawgrass Bay Elementary, and Lake Windy Hill Middle

Sawgrass Bay Elementary (SBE) has fully embraced personalized learning. In the first year, eight teachers started piloting the new practices in math in grades 3-5. A year later, they have full implementation in math and ELA throughout the school. As we wandered through classrooms, the conversation with Principal Heather Gelb; PL Facilitator Amy Billings; and Instructional Dean Michelle Work was full of insights and observations. Gelb enthusiastically explained, “We are seeing a big culture shift. It’s only been a year, and the teachers are noticing that the kids are highly engaged. Personalized Learning is a more intentional implementation of best practices as they pertain to student autonomy. This will be a shift for everyone.” Below are a few of the highlights from our conversation:

Background: Sawgrass Bay is situated in the corner of Lake County and is relatively close to Orlando. Many families have jobs in the tourist industry, which has led to high mobility as they move to obtain higher paying jobs. SBE is the largest elementary school in Lake County Schools, serving 1,300+ students in grades K-5. Nearly half are ELL.

The Power of Student as Leaders: Work explained that SBE is infusing Covey’s seven habits of the Leader in Me program into the overall personalized learning approach as a means to increase students’ sense of responsibility and the skills they will need. She explained, “When students feel empowered, there is no reason to act out. Instead of feeling that things are being done to them, they feel more in control of their own actions.” Assistant Principal Maurice Simmons expanded on this point with, “The Leader in Me program is helping our kids see themselves as leaders. Before, they were kids or children or students. Now they see themselves through the lens of learners and leaders. They feel more responsible for their own actions and for helping their classmates.” I saw the strong emphasis on the “habits” in Mrs. Miller’s classroom, where there were celebrations of students demonstrating the different qualities and a strong culture of “I can” and “We can.” [Red Bank Elementary in Lexington, SC is also using this program.] (more…)

Lake County Schools: Lost Lake Elementary is Putting the Fun Back into Teaching

February 17, 2016 by

lost lakeThis post is the third in a five-part series on Lake County Schools in Florida. Begin with the district overview and follow along at these schools: South Lake High, Lost Lake Elementary, Sawgrass Bay Elementary, and Lake Windy Hill Middle

When I visited Miss Green’s classroom at Lost Lake Elementary School, classical music was playing as students grabbed snacks and began to reflect on their day. Students explained to me their standards and, of course, the Dojo. Miss Green noted that PL has been particularly helpful, as she is an ELL teacher with four students with a variety of English skills in her class. She said that students are speaking more in class as part of the PL environment and she can provide more direct instruction to the student who is at the very beginning of his journey to learn English.

Michelle Mabry, Lost Lake’s PL facilitator, explained that at the Reinventing Schools Coalition training, they asked about how the ESE (Exceptional Student Education) students and the English Language Learners were doing. The conversation turned to the challenge of engaging students who were really struggling with the curriculum and the different strategies students develop, including learned helplessness. Lost Lake has turned to Mary Cay Ricci’s Mindsets in the Classroom to help integrate the growth mindset throughout the school. Assistant Principal Karen Hart noted that in the classrooms where teachers are embracing personalized learning, it’s difficult to tell which students are ESE. (more…)

Lake County Schools: Moving at the Speed of Trust at South Lake High School

February 16, 2016 by
slhs map of learning

SLHS Map of Learning

This post is the second in a five-part series on Lake County Schools in Florida. Begin with the district overview and follow along at these schools: South Lake High, Lost Lake Elementary, Sawgrass Bay Elementary, and Lake Windy Hill Middle

My first stop at Lake County Schools was South Lake High School (SLHS) with Kathy Halbig, Coordinator of Personalized Learning, as my guide. Arriving a bit early, I had the chance to read all the posters and photographs that dotted the walls in the reception area, congratulating students for Future Farmers of America, bowling, golf, track, and national merit scholars. And I thought – normal American high school.

However, once I met with Principal Rob McCue, Assistant Principal Kim Updike, and PL Facilitator Bobby Rego, I realized that South Lake High School is really the “new normal” – an entrepreneurial, innovative spirit committed to figuring out exactly how to personalize education so every student is achieving no matter what their level of skill and maturity when they first enroll in high school. With 1,820 students, of which 62 percent (or more) is FRL, South Lake High School has to design for students who are likely to be the first generation to go to college. The school is based in Groveland, Florida, where agricultural strength is on the decline and so are the jobs. In a world in which so many schools are not racially integrated, it’s worth noting that South Lake is 13 percent African-American, 23 percent Hispanic, and 64 percent white.

Powerful Understanding of Personalization: Immediately in our opening conversation, Updike and McCue stated, “Personalized learning means meeting kids where they are and taking them as far as you can by any means necessary.” The official definition of personalized learning is equally powerful, as it emphasizes student agency: Personalized learning is a broad spectrum of educational opportunities for students that provides students VOICE and CHOICE in how they learn and demonstrate mastery of standards. At South Lake High, we view personalized learning as simply meeting students where they are and taking them as far as they can go, and then some, while assisting them in making global connections to their interests, community, college, and careers. (more…)

Lake County Schools: Designing a Strategy to Bring Personalized Learning to Scale

February 15, 2016 by

Lake CountyThis post is the first in a five-part series on Lake County Schools in Florida.

After the iNACOL Symposium in Orlando, I had a whirlwind visit at Lake County Schools in Florida and an incredibly rich conversation with Kathy Halbig, Coordinator of Personalized Learning for Students. I first met Halbig two years ago at the iNACOL pre-conference symposium on competency education. She was just learning about competency education at the time. Two years later, a group of her schools are already in their first year of implementation. This district is moving fast, although one person referred to it as “moving at the speed of trust.”

In this post, I share a bit of background and an overview of the Lake County Schools strategy to transition to a system of personalized learning (including competency education). Each of the profiles of the schools shares insights and takeaways into the process of a medium-sized district making the transition to a competency-based, personalized system. Thanks to the educators at each of the following schools for their generosity in sharing their learning:

We didn’t have time to visit Umatilla High School – I hope to do that when I get back to visit Lake County. Or perhaps if you go to visit Lake County, you might be able to stop by and share how they are proceeding in their transition. (more…)

Competency-Based Learning and FLVS

January 14, 2013 by

FLVS-LogoCompetency based learning has its origins in the business world. High school graduates who decide to become a barber, for example, would need specialized training in cutting hair.  They would take an assessment to verify competency before receiving a license to cut hair. In order to maintain global standing, industry and education leaders teamed up to create a description of elements for 21st century outcomes. These elements would identify those skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for our future work force to be competent in the 21st century market, much like a competency exam that a plumber, electrician, mechanic, or other trained and skilled professional would need in order to practice their profession competently. These 21st century learning skills are embedded in the Common Core State Standards as well as the focus of the work and design of Florida Virtual School (FLVS) courses.

Many examples of benchmark competency-based practices can be found in FLVS courses. These include the following:

Assessments Against Competencies

Florida Virtual School builds its courses around this concept. Courses are built with formative and summative assessments embedded throughout the course measuring the students’ competency and mastery of the standards, which are based on the 21st skills. There are three components of these assessments against competencies: self-assessment, multi-source, and assessments through other methods.

  • In the self-assessment, learners are able to manage their own mastery level, and take appropriate action to relearn skills before attempting a formal assessment.    Students are able to “own” their own learning and work on those things they actually need to do as opposed to a traditional school where a student will sit through a lesson with the rest of a class even if they don’t individually need it.
  • Multi-source assessments allow the learner to get feedback through multiple formats. With pre-tests, formative assessments throughout the lessons, and summative assessments, students receive feedback from multiple sources. In addition, Florida Virtual School teachers complete discussion based assessments in each unit of study. Teachers verbally assess for mastery before students can move on to the next module. This ensures a deeper understanding in subjects that build upon previous understandings, such as foreign languages or math.  The teacher is the gatekeeper, who only allows the students to move on when mastery is demonstrated through work products and thorough discussions. Students also have some collaborative projects which provide opportunities for students to work together and building knowledge collaboratively.
  • An assessment through other methods is the third format delineated. FLVS provides many assessment options in its courses. In Physical Education, students will actually self-monitor and report exercise logs and personal goals and benchmarks of activity. In many courses, especially in science, students perform labs and will video tape their work. Students use multiple ways to communicate to their teacher evidence of mastery.

(more…)

FLVS Online Curriculum Design: Best Practices for Creating Competency-Based Learning Experiences

June 6, 2012 by

The FLVS Model

In April 1994, the National Education Commission on Time and Learning published a report providing eight recommendations for improving the state of learning across the nation.

  • Reinvent schools around learning, not time.
  • Fix the design flaw; use time in new and better ways.
  • Establish an academic day.
  • Keep schools open longer to meet the needs of children and communities.
  • Give teachers the time they need.
  • Invest in technology.
  • Develop local action plans to transform schools.
  • Share the responsibility: finger pointing and evasion must end. (more…)
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