Results for: Sanborn

In Search of the Goldilocks Scale

January 15, 2015 by
Porridge

Too hot? Too cold? Just right!

We have learned a lot over the past five years as our district has implemented a competency-based model of grading and assessing. Competency-based grading and assessment requires a significant shift in the way we think about assessment—its purpose and its meaning. Our school, Memorial School in Newton, NH and our district, the Sanborn Regional School District, moved to this model five years ago. We continue to learn more about what assessment of students truly means as our overall understanding of assessment practices (our assessment literacy) increases.

When we moved to this model of grading and assessment, our elementary teachers made a wholesale change to grading with a four-point rubric. There would be no number scale (100 point scale) and there would be consistency across grade levels horizontally and vertically. The grade scale rubrics we used would identify the expectations around each level. Our learning curve was steep as we created the rubrics, but we found that our learning was not going to stop there. It continues to this day.

Our first year, we identified our rubric indicators as E (Exceeding), M (Meeting), IP (Inconsistent Progress), and LP (Limited Progress). The chart below reflects this first attempt at our rubric scale. The first roadblock came after the first progress report was distributed. As an educational staff, we looked at IP as what the descriptor outlined—inconsistent progress. A student was able to demonstrate competency, but it was on an inconsistent basis. Many parents provided feedback that it just “felt negative” (the word inconsistent). We decided that “In Progress” was also an accurate indicator, and parents agreed. We made the change immediately within the “Level” while keeping the performance descriptor the same. (more…)

Helping HELP: Paul Leather’s Testimony on Assessments and Accountability

January 21, 2015 by
Paul Leather

Paul Leather

Earlier today, Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner at NH’s Department of Education, testified at the Senate HELP Committee Full Committee Hearing on “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability” about improving assessments and accountability systems. His testimony is provided below or you can watch here. Additional resources on ESEA include:

– – –

Chairman Alexander, Senator Murray, and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify about testing and accountability in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

I am Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner of Education of the NH Department of Education.

In NH, we are working to explore what the next generation of assessments might look like, beyond an end-of-the-year test.

We have coordinated with the Council of Chief State School Officers on its Priorities for ESEA Reauthorization. These Priorities contain three important ingredients that are in line with the work we are doing:

  • First, it would continue to support annual assessments of student performance to ensure every parent receives the information they need on how their child is performing, at least once a year.
  • Second, it would allow states to base students’ annual determinations on a single standardized test, or the combined results from a coherent system of assessments.
  • Third, it gives states the space to continue to innovate on assessment and accountability systems, so important when the periods of authorization can last 10 years or longer. (more…)

Changing To a Competency-Based Grading System: A Student View

July 24, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 8.59.59 AMMy New Hampshire high school made the shift to a competency-based grading and reporting system two years ago. Educators who talk to me about that experience often want to know what that change process looked like from a student’s perspective. Surprisingly, most students were comfortable with the shift provided that they believed the school and teachers were effective at explaining how their grade would be calculated. The students who seemed most reluctant to change at the beginning were the ones who were already performing at a high level in the old system. These kids knew how to play what I like to call the grading game. They didn’t always test well, but they knew they could always compensate for that by doing all their homework, raising their hand every day in class, and bringing in canned goods on Thanksgiving week for extra credit points. The problem is that these behaviors made the assumption that, if students had good study habits, then they must have learned. When we think about it this way, it seems outrageous to support a system that doesn’t directly connect to competencies – the ability of a student to apply content knowledge and skills in and/or across the content area(s).

To help educators understand what I went through when my school made this shift, consider the following set of fictitious letters between a student and I. These letters are adapted from actual scenarios that I faced in the first year of implementation.

 

September

Dear Mr. Stack,

I am writing to you to express my displeasure that our school changed its grading practices for the upcoming school year. I have always been an “A” student. I do all of my homework, I always raise my hand to participate in class, and I always turn in my assignments on time. I am not; however, a good test-taker. In the past my teachers have always known this and they have compensated by giving me extra credit opportunities, making my homework worth more points, and giving me lots of participation point opportunities.

With this new grading system, it seems all the emphasis is being placed on doing well on tests. Homework is worth practically nothing. It seems due dates don’t matter. I am very concerned that I am no longer going to be an “A” student.

Why would our school change to a system that is going to hurt kids like me? I am very discouraged.

Sincerely,

Nicole (more…)

New Hampshire Testing Pilot Breaks the Federal Accountability Mold

March 6, 2015 by

NHThis post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on March 5, 2015.

This week the U.S. Department of Education made a groundbreaking decision to allow four school systems in New Hampshire to pilot a new accountability regime based on a mix of local and state assessments. This first-of-its-kind policy marks an important policy development for competency-based systems and signals a move in the right direction for federal accountability.

New Hampshire’s Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) pilot will allow locally managed assessments to count toward federal accountability requirements. New Hampshire’s PACE project began in 2012 as an opt-in effort for districts to coordinate local approaches to performance assessment. Starting this year, the four PACE implementing districts—Sanborn Regional, Rochester, Epping, and Souhegan—will administer the Smarter Balanced assessment once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school (in three grades instead of seven). In all other years when students aren’t taking Smarter Balanced assessments, the PACE districts will administer carefully designed common and locally managed “performance assessments” that were developed by the districts themselves and validated at the state level.

Although there is a range of definitions of what constitutes a performance assessment, according to the New Hampshire DOE, “[p]erformance assessments are complex, multi-part tasks that ask students to apply what they have learned in sophisticated ways.” The state emphasizes that different mediums may qualify as evidence of mastery. The Department explained that these assessments vary by context and subject, and sometimes by a student’s particular interests: (more…)

Summertime Learning Opportunities

May 19, 2015 by

SummerAre you starting to think about how you might use your summer? Vacation? Summer camps for your kids? Creating a summertime learning plan with a list of books to read?

There are also four professional development opportunities available that might help you think more deeply about how you can transform your district and school to a competency-based model.

  • Sanborn Regional School District in New Hampshire is offering a Competency Education Design Studio on July 22 -24. This is a new learning opportunity that’s never been offered before. The facilitators include Rose Colby, Competency Education Specialist; Dr. Brian Blake, Superintendent of Schools; and Ellen Hume-Howard, Director of Curriculum. You’ll hear from district staff including Ann Hadwen, Donna Johnson, Sandy Rutherford, Brian M. Stack, Michael Turmelle, Jonathan Vander Els, and Ann Rutherford. Mariane Gfroerer, Supervisor NH Performance Assessment, and Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner New Hampshire Department of Education will be there as well.  For more information, email Ellen Hume Howard at ehumehoward(at)sau17(dot)org.

If you go to one of these trainings, we’d love to hear about your three to five big takeaways! And if you know of other great summer learning opportunities, please let us know.

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

May 21, 2015 by

ResourcesScreen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AM

Achieve released a new paper titled Assessment to Support Competency-Based Pathways which addresses the role of summative assessment, clarifies key assessment challenges, and provides examples and recommendations that are useful to those who wish to design and implement assessment systems to support competency-based pathways.

Additionally, Springpoint is sharing a new set of resources, “Inside Mastery Based High Schools: Profiles and Conversations.” These resources — which include profiles, artifacts, and interview transcripts with school leaders — are drawn from visits to six competency-based high schools last year. Together, they provide a vivid picture of what competency-based learning looks like in a variety of contexts.

Springpoint began this project to address a need for concrete examples of competency-based learning in practice. Given the novelty of this work, they realized that many new school designers know the theory behind competency-based learning but would benefit from a deeper an understanding of its day-to-day practicalities.

They visited the following six schools: (more…)

Making Sense (or Trying to) of Competencies, Standards and the Structures of Learning

June 9, 2015 by
math comps

From Building 21 (Click to Enlarge)

States, districts, and schools are developing a range of different ways to structure their Instruction and Assessment system (the set of learning goals of what schools want students to know and be able to do; the way they can identify if students have learned them; and, if not, how they can provide feedback to help them learn it). I’m having difficulty being able to describe the differences as well as the implications. The issue of the importance of the design of how we describe what students should and/or have learned has come up in meetings about assessment, about learning progressions (instructional strategies that are based on how students learn and are designed to help them move from one concept to the next), and with the NCAA over the past month.

So I’m doing the only thing I know how to do—which is to try to identify the different issues or characteristics that are raised to see if I can make some sense of it. For example, here are a number of questions that help me understand the qualities of any set of standards and competencies:

Is it designed to reach deeper levels of learning?

Some structures clearly integrate deeper learning and higher order skills, whereas others seem to depend solely on the level of knowledge based on how the standard is written. We could just use standards and forgo an overarching set of competencies. However, the competencies ask us to ensure that students can transfer their learning to new situations. It drives us toward deeper learning.

Is it meaningful for teachers for teaching and for students for learning?

As I understand it, much of the Common Core State Standards was developed by backward planning, or backing out of what we wanted kids to know and be able to do upon graduation and then figuring out what it would look like at younger ages. Much less attention was spent on structuring the standards based on how students learn and meaningful ways to get them there. The learning progression experts are emphatic that it is important to organize the units of learning in a way that is rooted in the discipline and helps teachers to recognize where students’ understanding is and how they can help them tackle the next concept. That means the structures are going to be different in different disciplines. Thus, we need to understand how helpful the structures of the standards, competencies, and assessments are to actually help students learn. (more…)

Assessing Work Study Practices in a Competency Education School

July 19, 2015 by
Brian Stack

Brian Stack

Introduction

Five years ago, when my high school first implemented its competency education model, we as a faculty reached consensus on our purpose of grading. We believe that the purpose of grading is to communicate student achievement toward mastery of learning targets and standards. Grades represent what students learn, not what they earn. This helped us establish a common set of grading practices that every teacher agreed to use in their classrooms. They include things like the separation of formative and summative assessments (with formatives carrying no more than 10 percent weight for an overall course grade), the linking of summative assessments to performance indicators which link back to competencies in our grade book; the use of reassessment; the use of a 4.0 letter rubric scale for all assignments and assessments; and the separation of academics from academic behaviors. This article will focus on this last grading practice – from how we developed our academic behaviors to how we assess them and how we are using these grades to better prepare our students for their college and career futures.

At my school, we believe in the importance of separating what it is we want our students to know and be able to do (academics) from academic behaviors like working in groups, participating in class discussions, and meeting deadlines. While we firmly believe these behaviors are critical to academic achievement, comingling them with academic grades does not give us an accurate picture of the level of achievement our students have reached with their academic course competencies. When we first proposed this idea five years ago, separating behaviors was a big mind shift for many of our teachers who were accustomed to giving participation points as part of a course grade or taking points off of an assignment when they were turned in after a deadline. Early in our design phase we were charged with the task of finding a meaningful way to hold students accountable for these important work study practices without compromising the purity of our academic grades that we set out to establish. (more…)

It’s Simply Buzzing in New Hampshire

August 5, 2015 by

innovation2:15 pm ET

I’m sitting amidst 500 very energetic educators from all around New Hampshire (it’s 2 percent of the teacher workforce). To get access to the 2015 New Hampshire’s Educator Summit, districts had to be willing to send a team of people that had identified problems of practice to drive their learning….and it is just electric in the room as we wait for Virginia Barry, Commissioner of Education to launch the meeting with the introduction of the New Hampshire 2.0: A Blueprint to Scale Competency-Based Education Across a P-20 System.

The event is around six strands: Competency-Based Education, Community Engagement, Co-Teaching, Data Literacy, Early Childhood Education, and STEM. Several folks who are part of the CompetencyWorks network are leading sessions, including Anthony Kim, CEO of Education Elements; Rose Colby, consulting superstar; Jonathon Vander Els, Principal of Memorial Elementary School, Sanborn Regional School District; Scott Marion, the Center of Assessment; and Joe DiMartino, Executive Director, Center for Secondary School Redesign. Other presenters include Lindsey Lapointe, Epping Middle School and Monique Temple, Maple Street Magnet School (emphasizing inquiry-based and project-based learning). I wish I could go to every session!

3 pm ET

Here are a few highlights so far:

Building a Big Voice: Bill Duncan, member of the NH School Board, spoke to the need to tell families, community members, and political leaders from the most local to statewide positions about their experiences in the classroom in an effort to build out a big voice to support schools and teachers. We need to get to the people who know and can influence those who have the decision-making power to stay the course.

From Improving the System We Have to Creating the One We Need: Virginia Barry kicked off her discussion with a video giving voice to teachers and students who are using extended learning, project-based learning, and place-based learning. There was an interesting story about a class in Surry Village Charter School using their own community to learn about the civil rights movement, finding a local leader, Jonathon Daniels, who was murdered while trying to register African-American voters in Alabama. (more…)

Have You Made Plans for the iNACOL Symposium Yet?

August 25, 2015 by

AirplaneAs you may know, the only place to network with all your competency education colleagues from across the nation is at the iNACOL Symposium on Online and Blended Learning coming up on November 8-11 in Orlando, FL. iNACOL organizes an entire strand on competency education, highlighting approaches and issues for districts and schools that are already moving towards blended learning as well as those that are making the conversion without the help of technology.

I’ll be highlighting the competency education strand in the next couple of weeks. However, we wanted to let you know that there are two pre-conference workshops on November 8th just in case you are thinking about your travel plans.

In the morning on the 8th, you can find an advanced session on Expert Seminar on Standards (Data, Content Metadata, Technology) for Competency Education starring Liz Glowa, iNACOL; Jim Goodell, Quality Information Partners, Inc.; and Brandt Redd, SmarterBalance. The description is below:

Competency Education operates at the crossroads between achievement standards, student information standards, technical standards, systems of assessments and content metadata. An understanding of the landscape of education data and technology standards will help organizations select and build technology solutions to support their competency initiatives. CEDS, system integration and data transfer options and challenges, interoperability and the role of metadata in relating learning content to learning maps will be discussed.

This workshop will bring together leaders in designing and delivering competency education to discuss the ecosystem of technology needed to support competency education and how the parts fit together to make a successful whole. To deliver competency education, we need:

  1. information about content,
  2. information about learners, and
  3. information about learner interactions… with content (e.g. assessments/activities) and with other people (teachers/peers)

NOTE: This session is for participants who have an advanced understanding of education data and technology standards.

(more…)

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