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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Public Reflection as Professional Development

September 28, 2012 by

One of the most dynamic public discourse underway in competency education right now is the research and reflection occurring in Iowa. In May, Iowa state policymakers opened up the door to competency education innovation while also offering a mechanism to build vision and strategic direction with its Task Force.

With the use of blogs and a public Forum on Competency-based Education, Iowa educators are openly reflecting and discussing what it means to commit to all students’ learning by focusing on competencies and flexible resources (including time).

  •  There is a principal in Nodaway Valley, asking What If?
  • There is constant reflection and sharing of resources at the Forum on Competency-Based Education.
  • There are bloggers on CompetencyWorks sharing their questions and reflections as they move forward including Justin Ballou,  Mandi Bozarth, Shawn Cornally,  Jason Ellingson,  Josh Griffith and  Kari Webb. (more…)
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Early Investments in Engagement?

September 26, 2012 by

From Adams 50 website

Over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations with district and state leadership about introducing competency education through different entry points and roll-out strategies. There are certainly many strategies – looking for natural leadership, as in Muscatine, Iowa; transforming credits from time-based to competency-based, like in New Hampshire; or opening the door to credit flexibility, like in Ohio. And many opportunities—improving graduation rates, educating over-age and under-credited students, and online learning.

What’s missing from these conversations is the opportunity for communities, educators, and parents to learn about competency education and decide for themselves whether it is the way they want to go. It’s hard to balance district and state leadership with an empowered process in which communities are part of the decision-making. Usually we depend on getting “buy-in,” which is essentially a marketing strategy rather than an engagement strategy.

That’s not the case in the districts described in the case studies available at the Center for Best Practices at the Maine Department of Education. These districts invested heavily in engaging educators, parents, and the broader community. Educators even had the chance to vote whether or not their schools would embrace competency education. According to the case studies, this unleashed the full creativity and determination of school personnel to shape very dynamic processes in which students were much more empowered.

Adams 50 also invested heavily in community engagement. They were able to sustain a leadership transition because community leaders, parents, and educators understood the value of the competency education reform, even when they weren’t yet seeing results. (Check out the Adams 50 website that describes their Competency-based System.)

So I’m left wondering: Is engaging educators and community the first step that we need to take in every community to build the environment for effective and sustained competency education?


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Alberta Breaking Down the Boundaries

September 20, 2012 by

Some of our friends across our northern border are experimenting with seat-time flexibility as well. Jonathan Oglesby from iNACOL just sent an article about Mother Margaret Mary Catholic High School’s experimentation with flexible time. It’s an interesting pilot as it works around the margins of seat-time providing students with weekly opportunities to design their own schedules.

It’s part of Alberta’s High School Flexibility Project aimed at increasing high school completion. They did a nice piece of work in their planning phase where they started to name and describe the different techniques related to credit flexibility. This is just the beginning list of the infinite design choices we have in front of us. Looking at this list, it’s probably time for us to make an easy to use tool to help us think strategically about these design choices as they are bound to grow as the boundaries of the traditional school system loosen up. (Please add others in the comments section so we can get a good list going in order to save time having to start from scratch every time).

Courses and Credits

  • Self-Directed Learning Modules: Portions of, or entire courses, that are made available to students to work through at their own pace.
  • Condensed Classes/Compacting Curriculum: Providing less than 25 hours per credit for classes. Such a practice requires a review of the traditional delivery of courses in order to “compact” the program outcomes into less time.
  • Expanded Classes: Providing more than 25 hours per credit for classes.
  • Credit Recovery: Making allowances for students who have not successfully completed a course to continue their coursework beyond the time scheduled. (more…)
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Vergennes, Vermont Kicks Off Competency Education

September 19, 2012 by

Beth Miller, Director of Research and Evaluation at Nellie Mae Education Foundation just let me know that  Vergennes Union High School is in the news. VUHS is one of the Profiency-based Pathways grantees (a report will be released next month).

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

In the article, Kristine Kirkaldy of VUNHS said, “It’s about learning how to learn. The better you are at it, the better you are able to acquire the skills such as critical thinking, reasoning, problem-solving.”

Even though it’s not in the news article, I think it’s worth mentioning VUHS’ mission. It’s a powerful one, and for all the districts and schools re-thinking their mission and purpose, I thought it was worth sharing.

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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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Competencies Build Better Assessment Practices

September 13, 2012 by

Competencies have the potential to truly shift assessment practices in the classroom. If you took a sampling of the current assessment practices, including gradebooks, you would see a variety of systems in place. From elaborate weights and point systems, to standards-based and rigorous, assessment practices run the gamut. With a competency-based assessment system, we have the opportunity to create exemplary, equitable assessment practices for our students.

Objective Targets – Competencies are hinged on targets in the content area. When designed well, they are aligned to state, national, or common core standards, and explain clearly the evidence needed to demonstrate mastery. The competency promotes evidence of learning, regardless of how the learning is shown. Because of this, students are allowed to show learning in a variety of ways, because the competency isn’t hinged on the product of learning, but rather what needs to be in that product. Teachers who use competency-based grading system must truly understand what evidence of that learning is. In other words, the target must be clear. When teachers are creating assessments, they aligned to objective targets, not subjective products. With this, we can be confident that the assessment is accurate and objective, regardless of product. (more…)

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Competency Education Strand at VSS

September 12, 2012 by

For all of you who are attending the Virtual Schools Symposium in NOLA next month, there is a great series of workshops on competency education. In addition to the pre-conference workshop, Pathways to Mastery-based, Personalized Student Learning with Susan Patrick, Laura Shubilla and Kim Carter, you can go to the following sessions:

• The Art and Science of Designing Competencies with Kim Carter, Q.E.D. Foundation

• Mastery for the Masses: 4 keys to leveraging mastery based education to improve student outcomes in ANY school with Mary Esselman, Education Achievement Authority

• Using PBL to Meet Multiple Competencies Rose Colby and Andrew Miller

• Learning Maps, Common IDs and the Common Core with Brandt Redd, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

• Personalizing Education for the Planet with Jessica Shabin, Knewton

• Proficiency-based Study: How 150 Teachers Disregard Calendar, Clock, & Curriculum to Develop a Proficiency-based Teaching & Learning Framework with Diane Smith, Business Education Compact

• Implementing a Response to Intervention Program Through Blended Learning and Digital Tools with Amy Bray, VOISE Academy High School

• Standards Based Education with Targeted Online Learning Modules with Ron Mayberry, Internet Academy

Off the Clock: Moving Education from Time to Competency with Rose Colby.

See ya there!


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Cracking the Credit Hour

September 6, 2012 by

Cracking the Credit Hour from the New American Foundation is a fascinating read.  It outlines exactly why higher education needs to make the leap to competency education. It points out the standard unit is in fact not standard at all. It explains why competency education has become such a hot issue in higher education policy circles.  It’s a must read.

The Birth of the Credit Hour: The report explains the emergence of the Carnegie unit, “American secondary schools expanded dramatically around the turn of the 20th century, swelling the ranks of high school graduates. That meant a commensurate rise in the number of students applying to college, which created a dilemma for college admissions officers. It was hard to know what level of preparation, knowledge, and skill was really represented by all the new high school diplomas. In the late 1800s, the National Education Association endorsed the concept of a “standard unit” of time that students spent on a subject as an easy-to-compare measure.” This later became the Carnegie unit as higher education adopted the time-based framework for itself spurred on by Andrew Carnegie’s efforts to establish pensions for college faculty.

By 1938, the Carnegie Foundation had already realized the mistake that had been made. And here we are 74 years later still locked in by an education response to an increase in demand over 100 years ago. (more…)

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Student Learning Objectives: Insights into Using Competencies as a Growth Model

September 4, 2012 by

I’m a TQM-freak. I admit it. I think Total Quality Management and continuous improvement is just the best management practice ever developed. So I distinctly remember the moment ten years ago when I realized the power of competency education when the great team at the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School walked me through their management reports.

By tracking the progress of students mastering learning objectives in their management information systems, YWLCS could generate two powerful sets of reports. In addition to individual learning progression for each student, YWLCS would generate:

Exception Reports: By knowing which students haven’t yet mastered specific competencies, YWCLS can organize groups of students to work with specialists in the classroom or afterschool or Saturday programs for extra help. This allows teachers and the school to organize supports and opportunities during the semester rather delaying interventions. (more…)

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Did I Mention That It’s Hard?

September 3, 2012 by

If you are considering having your district or school move towards competency education, then find an hour to dive into the recently released The Long Conversation or, “It’s hard, but worth it. Did I mention that it’s hard?”

This case study on Kennebec Intra-District Schools, better known as RSU 2, commissioned by the Maine Department of Education, really is a must-read for anyone starting to think about implementation.  It’s chock full of lessons and insights that can help you leap over the hurdles you are bound to encounter.

Setting a Vision:  The process used by RSU 2 under the leadership of Don Sivisiki, now at the Maine Department of Education and its vision for student centered learning can be helpful to think about how to shape a process to engage school board, educators and community members. (more…)

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