With Much Sadness We Remember Diane Smith

December 9, 2016 by
Smith Diane

Diane Smith, Jan. 28, 1950 – Nov. 30, 2016

We lost Diane Smith recently, and the world feels very different. Diane was the Teaching & Learning Initiative Director at Oregon’s Business Education Compact, author of It’s About Time: A Framework for Proficiency-based Teaching & Learning and a valuable member of the CompetencyWorks Advisory Board. Her death came as a shock to all of us who cared for her, respected her, and were inspired by her never-ending enthusiasm to advance proficiency-based learning.

In preparing to write this tribute, Susan Patrick reminded me that we often turn to one of Diane’s statements, “Performance or competency based learning is fundamental to personalizing learning at scale and it challenges almost all of our assumptions about the present system.” That fact that we were forging into such new territory didn’t bother Diane at all. In fact she found it enthralling – she was simply an adventurer.

There is a passage in her obituary that I want to share with you, as I think it captures Diane’s entrepreneurial spirit perfectly:

Diane didn’t believe we needed to think outside the box with respect to educational reform, but rather asked attendees of her trainings, “what box?” She radiated joy and possibility that was contagious.

By now, you hopefully have a smile on your face thinking about her enthusiasm for learning and teaching.

Here are a few more memories of Diane from our colleagues:

I remember meeting Diane Smith and being amazed at the level of commitment and the span of influence of her work in competency education. She was an ardent supporter of examining systems change for competency-based pathways in partnership with local school systems and the state. Diane Smith was an early leader championing the need to move from a time-based system toward one that ensures mastery. She helped launch, drive, and support the work in Oregon over decades of sustained leadership. She was dedicated, passionate, and selfless with furthering the cause to ensure every student had the full range of knowledge and skills mastered for future success. She was kind and generously shared her knowledge broadly across the United States, taking lessons learned in Oregon with the state and with districts and working with others across the country to provide a pathway forward. She will be sorely missed by her colleagues and friends. – Susan Patrick, iNACOL, President and CEO

The world of competency education has lost one of its original innovators. Diane Smith, dear friend of Sandra Dop and I, died suddenly recently. Diane championed the work of teachers across the state of Oregon, creating models for all of us to follow. Sandra Dop, Diane and I were on speed dial with each other. Whether in a high level policy meeting, working with teachers, or having a problem presented to us, we knew we could count on each other at a moments notice. We valued our time together at national meetings and conferences. Whether sharing our love of Hallmark Christmas movies or helping to shape this new world of competency education as Coast to Coast pals, Sandra and I are honored to have called her friend. – Rose Colby, competency education consultant

With Diane’s passing I have lost a dear friend and colleague. Her work on personalized, proficiency-based education was an inspiration and a guide as we started personalized, competency-based education in Iowa.  As some of the early ones involved, we had few to call for help or just to talk through something. Rose Colby, Diane, and I called those calls the Coast to Coast Conversations. We called, texted, emailed anytime day or night and usually a response was there within the hour. We will miss you, Diane. Eventually that Coast to Coast will fill in as others join the movement, and those of us at the beginning of the journey will remember your dedication to the cause. Rest in Peace. Thanks for your friendship and hospitality–for the tour of schools in Oregon and the conference memories. – Sandra Dop, former consultant on competency education to Iowa Department of Education

Diane was always generous with her time and knowledge as an expert source as well as a mentor in providing tremendous encouragement and support for tackling issues in how to approach proficiency based learning and teaching. – Liz Glowa, consultant and author of Student-Centered Learning: Functional Requirements for Integrated Systems to Optimize Learning

Diane’s combination of professionalism and warmness permeated every room she was in. She could engage people in a conversation with ease and make them feel as though they had known each other for years, even if they just met. Her dedication to the students and teachers of Oregon was evident in the way her eyes lit up when she talked about her work. I will miss her kindness, and I will always be thankful for her partnership. – Anne Olson, Director of State Advocacy, KnowledgeWorks

Donations may be made in Diane’s honor by visiting www.AlbanyPublicSchoolsFoundation.org or calling 541-979-2773. Your condolences for the family may be posted online at www.fisherfuneralhome.com.

Please, it helps all of us to remember her. We hope you will share your memories in the comments below.

Diane, we are missing you.

Where to Meet Up with Competency Educators

February 5, 2015 by

AirplaneFor those of you ready to network with your colleagues, there are a few meetings that include competency education in the strands of sessions and speakers.

New England: Coming up soon is the New England Secondary Schools Consortium High School Redesign in Action conference on March 26-27 in Massachusetts. (Note: there are only about 100 spots left.)

Oregon: The Oregon Annual Proficiency Conference co-sponsored by BEC and COSA is scheduled for April 10, 2015. Jaime Robles, Principal at Lindsay High School, is a keynote speaker.

National: The 2015 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium will take place on November 8-11 in Orlando, Florida at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. A request for breakout sessions and workshop proposals opened on February 4th if you would like to share your knowledge and lessons learned. Registration for the Symposium will open in March.   (more…)

An Update From Oregon’s Business Education Compact

September 22, 2014 by

OregonAs you all know, Oregon is a state leader in proficiency-based education, first establishing credit flexibility in 2002. (You can learn about their progress in putting together a variety of elements on the wiki.)

The Oregon Business Education Compact (BEC) has been active in advancing proficiency-based education, supporting pilot schools and providing training to educators on classroom practices. In some ways, the conversion to proficiency-based education has started in classrooms across Oregon, which embraced standards-referenced grading. Now, schools are  opening their arms to the more systemic whole-school conversion. (more…)

Proficiency-Based Education Meet-Up in Oregon

December 18, 2013 by
beatrice_mcgarvey

Bea McGarvey

If you live in Oregon you should be putting March 6-7, 2014 on your calendar. The Confederation of Oregon School Administrators and the Business Education Compact are hosting the 2014 Northwest Proficiency/Competency Conference. It is THE meeting in Oregon for educators involved in implementing and expanding proficiency-based education to come together and learn from each other. You can register here.

Bea McGarvey, co-author of Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning will be the featured speaker. This is great news as many of the schools I visited had standards-referenced grading down pat but hadn’t quite figured out how to make their classrooms more personalized. McGarvey has been very influential in other parts of the country that have been converting to competency-education. So I can’t wait to see what happens once Oregonians, always innovating and pushing the envelope, begin to experiment with more personalized approaches.

Break out sessions include:
•    Assessment with Proficiency Strategies
•    Communicating with Key Stakeholders
•    CTE & Proficiency
•    Empowering Students
•    Grading & Reporting
•    Intervention Models
•    Outcomes with Proficiency Teaching Strategies
•    Proficiency and CCSS
•    Proficiency and Online Learning
•    Proficiency at the Elementary Level
•    Proficiency Models in Other States
•    School System Design Models
•    Technology & Proficiency
•    Transcripting Proficiency for Higher Education

If you are attending, please share your learning through Twitter (#cworks) and even by posting your big insights here.

Lingering Questions #3: Habits of Mind (Non-Academic Factors)

August 2, 2013 by
Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 11.53.09 AM

Personal management umbrella?

This was originally published on the College & Career Readiness & Success blog.

On June 24th, the American Youth Policy Forum and the College and Career Readiness and Success Center at the American Institutes for Research co-hosted a webinar on “State Implications for Competency-based Education Systems.” Presenters included Kate Nielson, Policy Analyst, National Governors Association; Diane Smith, Director, Teaching and Learning Initiative, Oregon Business Education Compact; Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills, Iowa Department of Education; Carissa Miller, Deputy Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Following the webinar, we collected a series of lingering questions from participants on a range of topics. Their responses to the last of three important questions are below:

There is growing consensus that schools should recognize not only academic content mastery, but the additional knowledge and skills (e.g. critical thinking, communication, social and emotional, self regulation, self advocacy, etc.) required to become college and career ready.  What role can a competency-based system play in helping students develop these skills? Additionally, how have states/districts begun to develop competency-based assessments and what do they look like?

Jennifer Davis, Director,  Innovation Lab Network, CCSSO (responding in place of Carissa Miller) – Some states, such as Maine, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin have defined the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they require of students to include these cross-curricular skills, and have embedded them into their state-defined competencies and/or diploma criteria.   Many states are exploring how both formative and summative assessments in a competency-based system can play a role in ensuring students develop these skills.  Various models exist, ranging from stand-alone assessments (for example, EPIC’s CampusReady and ThinkReady, MSLQ, QISA MyVoice, ETS Personal Potential Index, ACT ENGAGE, the Grit Scale, INCLASS, and so on) to integrated assessments (for example, PISA for schools), to performance-based assessments.  States in CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network are beginning work intended to better understand the learning progressions that describe students’ progress through these skills and dispositions, and to design performance-based assessments that capture them.  The Center for Collaborative Education is taking on similar work as well. (more…)

Lingering Questions #2: Flexibility in Instruction and Delivery

July 22, 2013 by

CBE, when done best, requires an interdisciplinary approach to learning, which in turn requires an interdisciplinary approach to teaching. — Jennifer Davis, Innovation Lab Network

This was originally published on the College & Career Readiness & Success blog.

On June 24th, the American Youth Policy Forum and the College and Career Readiness and Success Center at the American Institutes for Research co-hosted a webinar on “State Implications for Competency-based Education Systems.” Presenters included Kate Nielson, Policy Analyst, National Governors Association; Diane Smith, Director, Teaching and Learning Initiative, Oregon Business Education Compact; Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills, Iowa Department of Education; Carissa Miller, Deputy Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Following the webinar, we collected a series of lingering questions from participants on a range of topics. Their responses to the second of three important questions is below:

Competency-based learning calls for more flexibility in terms of how content is delivered and an emphasis on project-based learning opportunities that often require interdisciplinary approaches. How have states thought about this type of instruction in competency-based systems and what implications might it have for teacher preparation, ongoing professional development, and even teacher credentialing?

Jennifer Davis, Director, Innovation Lab Network, CCSSO (responding in place of Carissa Miller) – This question hits the nail on the head – CBE, when done best, requires an interdisciplinary approach to learning, which in turn requires an interdisciplinary approach to teaching.  Many sites implementing CBE have re-defined the role of teachers as “learning facilitators” who work with other teachers in cohorts, camps, or teams that collaborate around the needs of a designated group of students, sometimes following those students from year to year to preserve continuity.  Schools provide time and space for these teachers to plan together, and also often provide coaching to support teachers who are new to the system.  Districts and states have a responsibility to ensure that professional development and teacher preparation programs are reflective of the new roles for educators. Some states are looking to redesign teacher preparation programs in an effort to make them more competency-based. (more…)

Lingering Questions #1: Pacing and Supports

July 17, 2013 by

This was originally published on the College & Career Readiness & Success blog.

On June 24th, the American Youth Policy Forum and the College and Career Readiness and Success Center at tlingeringhe American Institutes for Research co-hosted a webinar on “State Implications for Competency-based Education Systems.” Presenters included Kate Nielson, Policy Analyst, National Governors Association; Diane Smith, Director, Teaching and Learning Initiative, Oregon Business Education Compact; Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills, Iowa Department of Education; Carissa Miller, Deputy Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Following the webinar, we collected a series of lingering questions from participants on a range of topics. Their responses to the first of three important questions are below:

In a competency-based system, students have the ability to complete work at their own pace. How have states thought about how to support students who need more time to demonstrate competency? Alternatively, what do states do when students finish early? How can states think about adjusting resources and funding to allow for such a shift?

Jennifer Davis, Director, Innovation Lab Network, CCSSO (responding in place of Carissa Miller) – For students who need more time, most states and districts implementing CBE have outlined mechanisms for knowing when students are struggling and providing them with a variety of supports.  Schools in Maine, for example, keep track of students’ pace against “teacher pace.” When students fall behind teacher pace, additional resources and supports are given.  In Lindsay Unified School District in CA, falling behind pace triggers the co-creation of an individualized learning plan (ILP) outlining the steps and supports the child will pursue to accelerate.  Other states, like Kentucky, mandate an ILP for all students, which helps students, parents, and teachers monitor the child’s progress.  Most states and districts implementing CBE are developing rich banks of digital resources for students to access on-demand.  This, coupled with human guidance through mentors or advisors, provides students with multiple and/or targeted methods for reaching mastery. (more…)

Streams of Innovation — Update on Federal and State Policy

June 21, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 8.22.22 AMIt’s getting hard to stay on top of all the advancements and initiatives related to competency education. We used to have pockets of innovation.  I’d say we now have streams of innovation – new school models, new districts starting the transition to competency education, and new policies.  There is definitely a growing worry that policy may be creeping ahead of practice. It’s important to make sure that practice is advanced enough to be able to inform policy – otherwise we risk new systems that reinforce practice where it was yesterday rather than what it is going to look like in three years.

Here is a quick update on some of advancements in policy at the federal and state level:

Federal

The Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013 (S.1094) introduced by Senator Harkin and passed by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) includes a section for a Competency-Based Assessment and Accountability Demonstration (See Section 4909).  The bill would authorize the Secretary of Education to provide eligible entities with the authority to incorporate competency-based accountability into the State accountability system for a period of 3 years.

Catalyzing Competency Education:  You probably know that these major federal reform initiatives open the door to competency-based or mastery-based learning models.  KnowledgeWorks has made it easy to get on top of what the winners of RTT and I3 are doing related to competency education in their second policy brief Federal Innovation Competitions: A Catalyst for Competency Education.  If you work in federal or state policy, I consider it a must read.

(more…)

Which Pilot Do You Want Flying Your Plane?

March 12, 2013 by

apLast week I had the opportunity to deliver the keynote to a large group of school administrators from Oregon at their 2013 State Proficiency Conference, sponsored jointly by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) and the Business Education Compact (BEC) in Portland. I began my talk by sharing with the group how I explained the idea of competency-based grading to a woman, Kathy, whom I shared a plane ride with on my way to Oregon. Kathy was very curious to learn more about competency-based grading. She is a mother of three and lives in the Portland area. Her oldest just graduated from high school and is now in the Air Force. She has another child in middle school and her youngest is in elementary school. As a result, she is very invested in educational reforms that promise to give her children a better future.

To help her understand the competency-based system, I asked her to hypothetically consider how the pilot school was organized that our airline pilot attended. We both agreed that in order to be able to fly our plane that day, he had to have been deemed “proficient” by his pilot school. We can only assume that his school taught him everything he needed to know about being a pilot. I offered her two hypothetical situations about the pilot school, and I asked her to then consider which school she thought was better. (more…)

If Failure Is Not an Option, Neither Are Supports

March 6, 2013 by
OrsbornSusie

Susie Orsborn
principal at West Albany High School

I just had the opportunity to listen to Susie Orsborn, principal at West Albany High School in Oregon, describe the school’s journey toward proficiency-based education at the Business Education Compact’s training, Implementing Proficiency at the Secondary Level.  Below are of my big take-aways from her story:

With Voluntary Comes Variation: Like much of the efforts in Oregon, participation in proficiency-based education starts with volunteers.  At West Albany, a handful of teachers volunteered, approximately one in each department, to use proficiency-based approaches in their classroom.  She explained that a veteran social studies teacher said that it was “the first time he actually knew what students know, or didn’t know.” The voluntary, teacher-led approach to transforming the education system from the classroom also means that there is a lot of variation.  Instructional, assessment and grading practices vary across and within departments.    (more…)

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