Using Global Best Practices for School Self-Assessment and Action Planning at Monmouth Middle School

April 29, 2019 by

Cover of Global Best Practices ToolThis is the second post in a series about the Global Best Practices (GBP) tool from the Great Schools Partnership. It is an outstanding, free resource that offers a practical, step-by-step process for assessing schools to inform school improvement plans. It focuses on characteristics of high-performing schools and can help facilitate shifts toward high-quality competency-based practice.

The first post gives an overview of GBP. This article shares how GBP has been used by Monmouth Middle School in RSU2 in Monmouth, Maine. Their work advances several of the quality principles for competency-based education, such as developing processes for ongoing continuous improvement and organizational learning.

Developing a Self-Assessment and Action Plan

Principal Mel Barter explained that Monmouth, a school with grades 4–8, used Global Best Practices when they had a multi-year coaching and professional development contract with the Great Schools Partnership. She was a teacher on the school leadership team at the time, and they had a new principal who wanted to conduct GBP’s self-assessment and develop an action plan.

After recording their performance strategies and evidence for each GBP dimension, teachers scored the school on each dimension. The school’s leadership team used these scores to draft an action plan during the summer and presented it to the whole staff in the fall. Staff members volunteered to take leadership on the parts they were most interested in.

The Action Plan “got traction quickly. It made it so easy to talk about challenges and how we could make important changes,” Barter explained. “Having the Great Schools Partnership coaches was amazing. They did so much for us, and we still use their protocols.”

The full action plan for all GBP dimensions is available here. School culture was one priority area (more…)

Competency-Based Education in Rural Schools

March 29, 2019 by

CompetencyWorks has featured visits to rural schools, enabling us to examine how competency-based education has taken hold in rural districts. After reviewing past blog posts and reports, and obtaining updates from the websites of the schools or their state departments of education, we are highlighting the following districts:

  • Chugach, Alaska (blog series and report)
  • Eminence, Kentucky (blog post)
  • Deer Isle-Stonington, Maine (blog series)

Chugach School District, Alaska

School districts don’t get much more rural than Chugach. The central office is in Anchorage, but the schools are in small towns and villages across 20,000 square miles of Prince William Sound. The Whittier Community School, for example, served 33 students in the 2017–18 school year. The district also served 377 homeschoolers across the state with teachers who serve 40 to 60 students at a time.

Chugach was the first K–12 district in the United States to move from a time-based system to a performance-based system in which graduation was based on meeting performance targets rather than earning credits. Their first steps were in 1994, in response to concerns about low student achievement levels. This led to a district transformation that resulted in a performance-based learning and assessment system and dramatic improvements in student outcomes.

In 2001, Chugach was the first public school district to receive the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award , a presidential-level honor that recognizes (more…)

In Real Life: How do CBE systems support all students to reach mastery?

February 20, 2019 by

Alison Kearney, Assistant Principal, Noble High School, ME

This article is the seventh in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Since learners are met where they are in CBE systems and are supported to reach mastery at their own pace, what supports are needed to ensure everyone succeeds?

To better understand this question, I sat down with Alison Kearney, Assistant Principal at Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine.

A rural school, Noble High School serves roughly 1,100 students across three towns up to an hour bus ride away. Its students often come from rural poor backgrounds, influencing how the school has structured its student support system. Noble High’s proficiency-based system was profiled in a CompetencyWorks blog post in 2015.

(more…)

In Real Life: How Do CBE Systems Manage Differences In Pace?

February 11, 2019 by

Mallory Haar, English as a New Language Teacher, Casco Bay High School, ME.

This article is the sixth in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Competency-based education (CBE) systems meet students where they are and support them to master a pre-defined set of learning targets at their own pace. Managing a group of learners who are at different places in their learning might seem doable if their paces are similar, but what about students who deviate widely from the class norm or “teacher pace”? Are there limits to how quickly or slowly students are allowed to move through the system?

To better understand how competency-based systems reckon with these questions, I sat down with Mallory Haar, who teaches English as a New Language and English Literature at Casco Bay High School in Portland, Maine.

(more…)

What Lessons Are We Learning from Maine

November 5, 2018 by

The people of Maine have been reflecting and re-setting strategies regarding proficiency-based learning since this summer when the state legislature took a step back and said that districts could return to traditional systems and diplomas or continue on the path of modernizing their education systems with proficiency-based learning.

National public reflection has begun about lessons learned from Maine’s pathway toward proficiency-based learning for other states. However, the variety of tone and framing will certainly influence the lessons that we learn. Those who write about schools are creating a narrative that stretches from “uphill battle” to “roll-back” to “failure.”

(more…)

Moving from Compliance to Agency: Maine Modifies its Proficiency-Based Policy

August 21, 2018 by

By Tony Webster (Maine State Legislature Office (Capitol) – Augusta) via Wikimedia Commons

The growing concerns about proficiency-based learning has led to the Maine state legislature repealing the proficiency-based diploma and modifying its policy that all school districts be expected to implement proficiency-based education. (A note: There are complications about when this goes into effect and, for those students already in proficiency-based systems, they will need to complete their high school experience with the same graduation requirements in which they started according to Maine law.) School districts do retain the option to move to proficiency-based learning and many are likely to do so.

Poor implementation by districts that were only making the changes to comply with state law rather than thinking about designing around what is best for students to learn created confusion such as thinking that proficiency-based learning is only a change in grading practice. Understandably, parents pushed back when districts mistakenly focused on the issue of “time being a variable” and no longer required students to attend school without having put into place the system that is designed to support student learning, such as building intrinsic motivation and systems of feedback on the habits of success. Instead of demanding effective implementation, the concerns about problematic implementation were directed at proficiency-based learning itself. Thus, the lagging districts that were driven by compliance were undermining the efforts of those leading districts that were empowered and driven to forge proficiency-based systems designed around research on how students learn. (more…)

What’s New

May 11, 2018 by

Math, writing, and executive function! Learn about the search for new breakthroughs in The Gates Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Want Your Ideas On The Future Of Education.

US Department of Education is highlighting personalized learning in the Education Innovation and Research grants.

Must Read: I’ve just read the following two papers and think they are must reads! We all need to know the research on learning sciences. Seriously, everyone in the education field, from a person designing a new application to the U.S. Secretary of Education, needs to dive into the learning sciences if they haven’t already. Two relatively recent papers are really helpful as they summarize the research across fields:

These aren’t simple papers, so I suggest engaging colleagues to read and discuss the sections of the papers that relate the most directly to you and your work. We need similar papers that summarize what we know about instruction in each of the content areas, as well.

What’s Happening in the States

Local media is a great way to get a sense of what is going on in a region. It’s a clue that grading has been introduced too early when there are letters to the editor in support of A-F grading. (more…)

What’s New: What’s Happening in State Policy

April 18, 2018 by

This article reviews some of the new state policy resources and highlights the types of discussion and initiatives taking place in the individual states. Nevada is joining the group of states that are supporting innovative districts, and Mississippi is supporting an innovation network. The most important thing to pay attention to is the discussion and debate in Maine as they decide whether they are going to continue to believe that their students and educators can learn to high standards and will keep learning how to support students in doing so…or if they modify expectations. Fingers crossed that the discussion moves from what’s wrong to what we need to make sure all of our students learn!

State Policy Resources

Across the country, state policymakers have been engaged in thinking through how they can strengthen their policies and infrastructures to better (more…)

Creating a Peer Coaching Program to Grow Student-Centered Learning (Part 2)

January 16, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at Students at the Center on January 2, 2018. Read Part 1 here.

Mary Bellavance

In part I of this three-part series, I wrote about how Maine’s Biddeford School District created a peer coaching program to support our teachers as they spread a student-centered learning model across the district. Part II shares three of the most important lessons from the experience.

Develop a plan that is closely aligned to your district’s goals

  • Does your district have a strategic plan (or even just a set of well-defined goals) to help implement student-centered learning over a five-to seven-year timeframe? If so, it will help all stakeholders stay focused on the peer coaching steps necessary to help reach this goal. If not, Douglas Reeves offers recommendations in his book Leading Change in Your School: How to Conquer Myths, Build Commitment, and Get Results. Reeves addresses how to create the conditions for change, then plan, implement and sustain it.
  • Also, make sure you are clear about your goals for a peer coaching initiative and how those goals connect with the district’s ambitions for student-centered learning.

(more…)

Creating a Peer Coaching Program to Grow Student-Centered Learning (Part 1)

January 9, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at Students at the Center on December 15, 2017.

Mary Bellavance

In southern Maine, the little corner of the world where I teach, coach and learn, we are in the midst of transitioning to a student-centered learning (SCL) model. The Biddeford School Department is a public, K-12 system serving 2,425 students. I am an instructional coach at the middle school and am in my second year serving as the coordinator of the K-12 peer coaching program, a program that we created as a way to support our staff in building and sustaining a student-centered learning system.

Since our journey began, district leadership has encouraged collaboration among all stakeholders. School leaders engaged staff, students and parents in conversations about what our students need to be college- and career-ready in the 21st century. With the support of our school board, Superintendent Jeremy Ray made sure the message was clear: we were engaging in this transformative work because it’s what is best for children.

Part of our student-centered approach is that it is proficiency-based (also called competency-based). Maine passed a law in 2012 requiring that every school district determine standards for proficiency in eight areas and award diplomas, beginning in 2021, based on those standards being met.

Our SCL Road Map

The state has left it up to educators in each district to collaborate, plan and implement their version of proficiency-based education. The district must provide students with timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs. It became apparent that supports would be as necessary for the educators —who are also new to student-centered, proficiency-based learning—  as they are for the students. For help conceptualizing an SCL implementation plan, we reached out to Reinventing Schools, and they provided training and coaching. Reinventing Schools is a division of Marzano Research — one of the most well-known proponents of proficiency-based education.

The Launch Training

Teachers were invited—not mandated—to participate in a training session with an educational consultant from Reinventing Schools. The first group of enthusiastic staff members, about 25 in all, learned how to transform their classrooms to more learner-centered environments, including how to use the Affinity Diagram process with students to create a shared vision and code of cooperation—critical to the infrastructure of the new approach. They also spent time considering how they would build collegiality in their schools to pave the way for the acquisition of new skills among colleagues who did not attend the training session. These early activities were necessary to lay the foundation for our continued work with essential standards and to build a transparent, rigorous curriculum for our learners.

Using the skills acquired at the training, teachers worked with their students to develop shared visionscodes of cooperation and standard operating procedures for their classrooms.  These exercises provided the opportunity for students to take ownership of their learning, one of the four research-based tenets of Jobs for the Future’s (JFF) Student-Centered Learning Model. (more…)

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