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Setting up a Competency-Based System: The Authoring Process

October 3, 2012 by

If and when your institution is ready to move into the next steps of transitioning to competencies from set time, I have compiled a list of things that we have learned over the better part of a decade. I hope that these can assist your stakeholders in the authoring and implementation process.

School wide or Subject-wide:
In creating a competency based system, one of the first decisions to be discussed is the idea of school wide competencies, (the same 3-5 for all classes) or content wide competencies (3-5 for English, 3-5 for Mathematics courses, etc.) Understanding that different content structures are going to assess knowledge and skills differently, there are pros and cons to each. You should just make sure that the buy-in for the shift is there.

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Class Rank in a Competency-Based High School

October 2, 2012 by

My school, Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, NH, made the shift to a competency-based grading and reporting   system about three years ago. For those of you who have recently made the switch, as well as those of you who are planning one in the near future, I can tell you that once you go down the “competency road” it creates a chain reaction of other proposed changes – some you would anticipate, some you would not.For us, we weren’t too far down the path before the question came up of what we should do about class rank. Like most traditional high schools, we have always used a weighted grade point average (G.P.A.) to compute our class rank. We also have always engaged in traditions such as holding a banquet for students who were ranked in the top ten percent of the graduating class and naming a Valedictorian, Salutatorian, and a Class Essayist to the students who were ranked 1, 2, and 3 respectively in their graduating class. With the shift to a competency-based system, we hoped to remove the tradition of class rank. We found that this would prove harder to do than we originally thought.

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The Shift to Competencies: A Practical Approach

September 18, 2012 by

Welcome Back! I hope you all thoroughly enjoyed the time that you had during the summer months. It is always good to have reflection, as they say. I hope that you, as the probable influencers in your buildings, districts, and states, have been able to focus a bit on the work that we have ahead of us!

As I read through this blog, as well as some of the great literature floating around, I thought that it may be a good idea to provide a bit of experiential hindsight for those of us transitioning from the philosophy of seat time to show-and-prove academics. Many questions emerge when I speak with students, parents, and policy makers, so I thought you might appreciate a “been-there-done-that” point of view. Hopefully it can assist you in your movement toward competency.

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Re-Learning and Reassessment

July 31, 2012 by

While that last planning year was filled with excitement and adventure, we hadn’t anticipated the journey that was to come. (See previous post and related resources on the wiki)

Spaulding High School has just completed year one of its implementation phase and has leaned so many valuable lessons ranging from just-in-time learning to re-learning to reassessment, just to name a few.  While we don’t necessarily have all of the answers yet, we certainly have generated a few solid questions that we are actively responding to.

Among those questions falls perhaps the biggest: How do you manage re-learning and reassessment within the constraints of school?!  We are implementing a progressive way of assessing and promoting students within a very traditional setting which presents constraints.  Some of these constraints include: bells, scheduling, teacher contracts, and access to technology.  (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…)

A Classroom Teacher’s Approach to Competency-Based Education

June 4, 2012 by

Around this time of year, I am always reminded of one of the great things I did in life, which was graduate from college! And any of you that know or have experienced a college graduation before can attest…..it can be an extremely rewarding experience for those friends and family that have hit that milestone.

As I graduated 7 years ago, I can still remember my graduation experience. Minus the fact of my friends and I clustered together on the momentus occasion, (and one of them actually leaving their namecard on the seat when they went up to get their diploma…) the most memorable portion of that days events was the commencement speaker. He was funny, articulate, and had the ability to read the crowd to keep them in full engagement. Basically, it made for a rewarding experience as well as a fond memory….one that will carry on with me the rest of my life.

The question that I had at the time, and still remains; How did he do it? As an individual (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…)

A Rubric for Competency Education

May 23, 2012 by

A note from Chris Sturgis: CompetencyWorks has an incredibly great advisory board that provides valuable guidance.  This morning I received an email from Paul Leather, New Hampshire’s Deputy Commissioner of Education, with a reflection on how he has come to think about competency education:

In discussions with Mariane Gfroerer, Kim Carter, Rose Colby, and Joe DiMartino over the years, I have moved to the place of thinking of competency-based education as a developing rubric: (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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