CompetencyWorks is an online resource dedicated to providing information and knowledge about competency education in the K-12 education system. Drawing on lessons learned by innovators and early adopters, CompetencyWorks shares original research, knowledge and a variety of perspectives through an informative blog with practitioner knowledge, policy advancements, papers on emerging issues and a wiki with resources curated from across the field. CompetencyWorks also offers a blog on competency education in higher education so that the sectors can learn from each other and begin to align systems across K-12, higher education and the workplace.

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10 Elements Towards Eliminating the Batch-Print System

May 24, 2012 by

Competency-based learning (or standards-based or performance-based if you will) is based on two important ideas:

  1. Students should meet learning expectations—passing kids along with a weak foundation means they will never achieve higher level knowledge and skills and will be excluded from the idea economy.
  2.  Students should show what they know—it’s not about turning work in, earning point, or showing up to class, they should demonstrate in several ways that they have mastered important knowledge, skills, and abilities.

For most people that sounds logical and for twenty years we’ve been saying “it’s about learning not time” and “learning is fixed and time is variable.” Only it’s not—it’s all about time and the structures we’ve ensconced with policies, budgets, and contracts.  (more…)

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RTT Gets Personalized

May 23, 2012 by

Just in case you missed it, the draft of the next Race to the Top competition was released yesterday.  The first Absolute Priority is Personalized Learning Environment.  They are looking for comments by June 8th. ( Ann Whelan walks through the proposal for RTT at 14:15 on the video.)

It looks like ED is merging the concepts of personalized learning and competency education (the concepts are mutually reinforcing but not exactly the same).   Jim Shelton facilitated a panel to explore what personalized learning means. (Jump to 25:20 on the video) which refers to mastery and progress upon mastery several times.

What are ways that the RTT proposal can be strengthened? We will be a lot more successful in getting constructive changes if we use common language and build on common points.  As you think this through please share your ideas in the comments section, write a post, or just send me an email so I can pull your ideas together.

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A Rubric for Competency Education

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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…)

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Competency-Based Education: Learn From My Follies

May 21, 2012 by

I had a conference with a parent this morning. I love meeting parents and talking with students, and I try to avoid the typical rhetoric that goes along with these interactions in favor of rawness.

(more…)
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Measure What Matters

May 18, 2012 by

Teachers need to make sure that they are measuring the right elements of student work. Teacher training places a lot of emphasis on curriculum, but not a lot on assessment. The result is that we teachers become comfortable, invested even, in the materials that we design for instruction. We share lesson plans and ideas, but there is little discussion about what we are measuring.

Those of us who routinely create rubrics for our students’ lessons are moving in the right direction, but we need to make sure that we are actually measuring competencies. Too often, our rubrics are nothing more than quantitative lists that don’t really articulate the complex thinking skills that students are being asked to learn. (more…)

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Art and Science of Designing Competencies

May 17, 2012 by

Greetings everyone!  We just wanted to let you know about our first working paper — the working title is the Art and Science of Designing Competencies.  Our goal is to quickly capture knowledge through a short briefing paper, wiki resources, blog posts and a webinar.  We do not want to duplicate efforts  so if you now about resources that already tackle this issue, please let us know immediately! If you have resources that you think can be useful, please send them our way so that others can draw on them as well.

We have a great group of people willing to share their knowledge — Kim Carter, QED Foundation; Rose Colby from New Hampshire; Gloria Pineda, Diploma Plus; Steve Kossakoski, Virtual Learning Academy Charter School; Kari Webb from Iowa. Thank you to all of them and others who will be reviewing our work to make sure it will be helpful to schools and districts tackling competency education for the first time. (more…)

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Mastery – Putting Learning Before Grades

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I work with a team of people that submitted a letter of intent to the New Mexico State Department of Education to create a health careers high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It will be the second in a series of schools dedicated to serving young people who have not been well served by traditional high schools—and there are a lot of those kids in my home town. Nearly 40 percent of all high school students drop out and if you are a young person of color and poor it’s more like 50 percent. This mass of more than 25,000 young people is served in incredibly complicated schools that are incapable of the complexity and sophistication to be successful. About a year and a half ago I helped create ACE Leadership High School, an Architecture Construction and Engineering high school in my home town to get at this sticky problem. We are an outward facing institution that is ambitious about its own development and we incorporate lots of ideas from different disciplines. (more…)

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Autonomy, Apples, and Oranges

May 14, 2012 by

What have you learned about how to work with districts in introducing competency-based schools–and what district leaders can do?

I have been working since 1985 on competency-based education (CBE) models to better serve over-aged and under-credited  students, first as the Education Director of Jobs for Youth High and later as the founder of Diploma Plus and more recently Schools for the Future.

The following lessons learned for how to establish strong working relationships with districts are generalized for CBE.  (Click here for a checklist) However, anyone working with marginalized students, especially those that are over-age and undercredited, will need to negotiate upfront the expectations of the population you want to serve and how students will gain admission to the school (first come; lottery, application; placement). (more…)

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Is a Standard a Competency? (Part 2)

May 13, 2012 by

Read Part 1 or take a look at New Hampshire’s ELA and Math Competencies

Following up on the first post on this topic, I go deeper in looking at the relationship between standards and competencies. I facilitated work for the NH DoE whereby groups of  Math and ELA teachers wrote competencies to the Common Core, so I will use it as an example:

Competency:  Students will demonstrate the ability to analyze structure in expressions.  (note that the ‘verb’ is at Level 3 in the DOK.)

The performance indicators that would be used as formative or summative tasks in the demonstration of mastery of this competency are the CC standards.  So, as students move through these ‘I can” performance indicators, it should build understanding for the bigger concept of structure in expression. (more…)

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Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

May 11, 2012 by

Are we all talking about the same thing when we say competency-based education?  This question first occurred to me this past December when I had the opportunity, as West Wind Education Policy’s program associate, to work with REL Midwest and the Iowa Department of Education to organize the Research to Action Forum on Competency-based Education in Des Moines.  The conference included national experts, teachers, administrators, students, higher education representatives, policy-makers, and Iowa Workforce Development.  You can watch videos of the event and learn more about what is happening in Iowa as districts explore CBE at the online professional collaboration site we created. (more…)

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