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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Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #15: Develop Processes for Ongoing Continuous Improvement and Organizational Learning

December 27, 2018 by

This is the sixteenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #15 Develop Processes for Ongoing Continuous Improvement and Organizational Learning on page 96. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

I think that one can argue that every school, whether it is a traditional school or a personalized, competency-based one, should have processes for continuous improvement in place. It only makes sense that any organization should be in the process of improving. However, traditional schools and school systems are highly bureaucratic in nature. The emphasis is much more on compliance than it is on an organizational drive toward excellence.

Our schools operate in an environment with layers and layers of policy, regulation, and reporting. These layers and layers of governance often create cultures of fear and mistrust. Thus, creating a strong continuous improvement and organizational learning culture, structure, and processes requires leadership. It may be the personal leadership of a teacher who uses formative assessment data to improve his own skills in learning how to help students develop the metacognitive and emotional skills to self-regulate their thinking and behavior. It may be the departmental leader who looks deeply at the data to identify that there are gaps in the domain-specific instructional approaches of teachers. Or it may be the organizational leadership of the principal or the superintendent who takes the courageous stance that they are going to do what’s best for students and manage the compliance requirements as needed.

The point is: In a bureaucratic world, truly engaging in organizational learning and continuous improvement can’t be separated from leadership. (more…)

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Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #14: Increase Organizational Flexibility

December 21, 2018 by

This is the fifteenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #14 Increase Organizational Flexibility on page 92. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

This structural quality principle about Organizational Flexibility goes hand-in-hand with the pedagogical Principle #9 Responsiveness. It comes down to this: We can’t expect teachers to be able to be responsive to meet students’ needs based on where they are unless the school has been designed to be flexible. For example, in today’s traditional environment, teachers have to purchase many of their own learning resources because the budgeting policies and practices are rigidly run by the district. If teachers are going to be able to respond to where students’ wonder, curiosity, and intellectual passions take them, they are going to need resource allocation operations that can turn on a dime. (more…)

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Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #13: Invest in Educators as Learners

December 20, 2018 by

This is the fourteenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #13 Invest in Educators as Learners on page 87. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

Competency-based education believes that all students, with the right supports, can learn. Similarly, advocates of competency-based education believe that all educators, with the rights supports, can learn the skills needed to help each and every student to learn. (more…)

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How Competency-Based is New Zealand?

December 19, 2018 by

This is the final article in the CompetencyWork series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand. Links to the full set of articles are at the bottom of this page. You can find more about New Zealand at LearningEdge.

When I returned from Aotearoa New Zealand, I was frequently asked, “How competency-based is New Zealand?” It was never an easy question to answer because we’ve created a working definition and ten distinguishing features of competency-based that may or may not be the right ones. Furthermore, there are at least three core drivers or bar-raising policy goals that are shaping our understanding of competency-based education:

  • Redesigning schools and learning experiences around what we know about how children learn rather than continuing to operate upon a set of out-of-date beliefs and mindsets that form the traditional system.
  • Responding to changes in society and the economy that require a system that develops a broader set of knowledge and skills for student success: academic knowledge and skills, transferable skills (deeper learning and higher order skills), and lifelong learning.
  • Creating a more equitable system that monitors both growth and achievement to ensure that every student has opportunity to discover their potential and have doors opened for them upon graduation.

(more…)

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Insights from Aotearoa New Zealand: NCEA

December 18, 2018 by

This is the twelfth article in the series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand, which highlights insights from a totally different education system about what is possible in transforming our education system. Read the first article here.If you are going to New Zealand, be sure to read NCEA in Context. There are other resources at NZQA and NZCER that will be valuable as well.

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is not a high school diploma. It is a certificate of achievement that indicates the level of achievement that students have learned at their completion of school. NCEA certificates of achievement aren’t received. They are earned. Time in the seat doesn’t matter. What matters is demonstrating learning.

The NCEA is a very sophisticated system with intentional thought given to ensuring that it is meaningful to students, schools, and the tertiary system. I’m going to do my best to translate the NCEA to our American education system by highlighting features of the system in bold. (more…)

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Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education

December 17, 2018 by

Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher begin Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education (2016) with a bold and inspiring statement: “Teachers are brain changers” (p. 1). Thus begins their exploration into how teachers can leverage Mind Brain Education (MBE) strategies to design enhanced learning experiences for students. Early on, Whitman and Kelleher, both teachers at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland, make a powerful analogy between teachers and doctors to relate the importance of keeping up on research and innovations in practice. As medical patients, we would not choose a doctor whose only treatment plan consisted of the use of leeches, as this would indicate both an impoverished ‘tool kit’ and a lack of knowledge (although leeches are still used in innovative ways). Likewise, the authors of this book argue that we would not want teachers working with our students who are not keeping up with pedagogical advances. It is simply not good enough to do things the we always have just because it has worked for us in the past. (more…)

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The Best Academic Schools in Tennessee Feature the Best Character Program in the Country

December 14, 2018 by

This article originally appeared at Education Week on December 11, 2018. It was posted on Vander Ark on Innovation.

“Teaching has to change. If I never tap into your truth, if I never validate your truth, I’ve failed you as a teacher,” said Valor College Prep HS teacher Matthias McNeal. About the morning meeting, McNeal adds, “Circle is getting to the root of what makes you so special.”

The best academic secondary schools in Tennessee feature the best character development program in the country.

Valor Collegiate Academies has been in the top 5% of Tennessee schools on growth and achievement every year since it started in 2014. But we visited Valor (seven miles south of the Country Music Hall of Fame in suburban southeast Nashville) because of the well regarded Valor Compass, a holistic human development program. (more…)

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In Reflection: The Challenges and Opportunities Before Us

December 13, 2018 by

This article is the final in a three-part series of my final reflections on the field of competency-based education before I depart CompetencyWorks. You can find more about how to move from traditional to modern schools, including a series on what it means to modernize your schools to include competency education, at LearningEdge.

In this final article, I’m going to make some suggestions on what we can do about some of those hand-wringing problems facing us and then wrap up with the opportunities that bring me hand-fluttering excitement.

Facing Up to the Challenges

I honestly don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer when I talk about hand-wringing problems. I just firmly believe that we need to deal with problems that are both emerging and currently facing us, or at least have well-laid plans in hand. Otherwise, they really could be our downfall; the movement will start to dissipate and we’ll have to wait for the next cycle that will re-introduce the ideas of personalized learning and competency-based education under a new name. (more…)

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In Reflection: Eight Lessons Learned Over the Past Decade

December 12, 2018 by

This article is the second in a three-part series of my final reflections on the field of competency-based education before I depart CompetencyWorks. You can find more about how to move from traditional to modern schools, including a series on what it means to modernize your schools to include competency education, at LearningEdge.

I feel like I’ve been in “the zone” for eight years. Honestly, I’ve been in the flow that is just as exciting as the crazy high of swimming among 30 whale sharks in the Yucatan. Constantly learning, readjusting the internal framework I use to cluster ideas, checking out new insights to work out whether they are partial, conditional, nuanced, or something that holds generally true. Below are just a few of the big A-HA!s I’ve had over the years. What insights and lessons learned have you had in your work? Wanna share? We all benefit by hearing from each other.

1. Student Agency is Much More Than Voice and Choice (more…)

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In Reflection: Can We Stop Ourselves From Slipping and Sliding Sideways?

December 11, 2018 by

This article is the first in a three-part series of my final reflections on the field of competency-based education before I depart CompetencyWorks. You can find more about how to move from traditional to modern schools, including a series on what it means to modernize your schools to include competency education, at LearningEdge.

Each summer, the CompetencyWorks Advisory Board has a conversation about where we are and where we are going: we call it the “strategic reflection.” This year, the conversation was focused on how we keep our field and the movement toward personalized, competency-based education from slipping sideways.

States have created enabling policy for personalized, competency-based education with waivers, innovation zones, and pilots. Some have fully embraced it as their future. Yet, effective implementation and high quality examples of personalized, competency-based education are not expanding as quickly. Policy is outstripping practice. (more…)

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