Tag: assessment

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

August 2, 2017 by

What's new! star graphicAlison Hramiec, Head of School at Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA), penned at three-part blog series on school culture:

  1. The Crucial Factor in School Success is School Culture (Part 1 of 3)
  2. Creating a School Culture Where Students and Teachers Both Flourish (Part 2 of 3)
  3. Hiring: The Very First Step to a Flourishing School Culture (Part 3 of 3)

Here is another article on how ‘last-chance’ schools like BDEA prove to be the best chance to help struggling students.

Addressing Concerns and Misconceptions

There are more concerns being raised about personalized learning and competency-based education. Some concerns are grounded in misconceptions and not fully understanding what the concepts mean to students and their learning. Here is an example of an article that opposes competency education, but demonstrates misconceptions about the premise and goals of competency-based education.

Other concerns are focused on responding to state expectations, rather than focusing on what students need in order to succeed. We share these with you so that leaders in competency-based education have an opportunity to think about how to respond to these misconceptions and concerns upfront, and to make sure that you are addressing them in design and implementation.

Social Emotional Learning

English Language Learners

This Forbes piece highlights the International High School at Langley Park as a shining example of a school that serves immigrant and refugee students and is achieving notable success. Here are a couple articles on other schools within the International Network of Public Schools:

iNACOL released a new report, Next Generation Learning Models for English Language Learners: Promising Practices and Considerations for Teaching and Learning, which highlights promising practices and trends in personalized learning and competency-based education for English language learner (ELL) students. This paper shares case studies and examples from schools and programs that are currently creating personalized, competency-based learning environments for ELL students. (more…)

Red Flag: Converting 1-4 to 100 Point Scale and then Averaging

July 31, 2017 by

We have a problem. More and more districts and schools are supposedly converting to competency education, but they are doing so without committing to the big idea that we want to make sure every students succeeds. Committing to the big idea is essential — some might call this demanding excellence, others equity. In competency education, it really becomes the same thing.

At CompetencyWorks, we’ve realized that it isn’t going to help to keep talking about the exemplars (from districts that are able to show that students are benefiting) and the “look-fors” (what we think are effective practices based on visiting so many schools) that we include in our case studies of districts and schools. We also need to talk about the red flags (a sign that something isn’t working right) and missteps (either problematic design or implementation) to help districts identify potential problems sooner.

This morning I read an article about a community in Maine that may be taking a misstep with their new diploma system. The article focuses on the issue of grading, and it appears that they are missing the concept of why 1-4 scoring is more valuable than A-F grading. It’s not clear what else they may have or are planning to put into place – so I’m not referring to their overall plan.

              From the article: An initial draft of the proficiency based diploma was introduced at the May 15 School Committee meeting. Using the new proficiency based learning system, the draft stated that students are evaluated on a 1 to 4 scale, with 1 corresponding to “does not meet proficiency” to 4 which is “exceeds proficiency.” The initial draft took the proficiency grades (1-4) and converted them into numerical grades (100 point scale)… An example from the Proficiency Based Learning and Diploma Implementation Proposal: A student earns a 77, 85, and 88 (out of a 100 point scale) on three assessments for a graduation standard. The average of these three is 83. Therefore, the numeric grade is 83; the proficiency score for that graduation standard is 3.0 (a.k.a. proficient).

From what I can tell, it looks like the district shifts from A-F (which is usually based on a 100 point scale), turned it to 1-4, and then turned it back into the 100 point scale. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency-Based Education?

June 30, 2017 by

What's new! star graphicSchool Designs

  • Pittsfield School District shares their story of transformation toward student-centered learning in this video.
  • Chicago’s CICS West Belden embarked on a journey to implement personalized, competency-based learning. Learn more about their model here.
  • Navin Elementary School in Marysville Exempted Village School District is committed to personalized learning and doing what’s best for kids. Read an article and watch a video explaining their model.
  • Amidst opioid addiction and plummeting morale, learn how this one elementary school reinvented itself.
  • Some schools use changes in grading to begin shifting the focus on helping all students reach proficiency. Here is a story from North Carolina.

Assessments

Teacher Perspectives

  • When first learning about competency education, teachers often have a host of questions: “Do I plan a different lesson plan for each child?” “How do I manage all the levels?” This article addresses these questions about the practicalities of teaching in competency-based learning systems.
  • A D.C. teacher laid out a bold vision to improve poor student performance in this article. Educators and readers of Washington City Paper have since agreed and believe personalized learning should replace traditional schooling.
  • A high school English teacher penned a response to a recent article in The Federalist which warns against competency education.

Thought Leadership

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Building a Comprehensive Set of Equity Strategies

June 10, 2017 by

This is the fourth blog in a series leading up to the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. We are focusing on four key areas: equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy. (Learn more about the Summit here.) We released a series of draft papers in early June to begin addressing these issues. This article is adapted from In Pursuit of Equality: A Framework for Equity Strategies in Competency-Based Education. It is important to remember that all of these ideas can be further developed, revised, or combined – the papers are only a starting point for introducing these key issues and driving discussions at the Summit. We would love to hear your comments on which ideas are strong, which are wrong, and how we might be able to advance the field.

Districts and schools will need to design equity strategies based on their student population and data on student learning and achievement. However, there are a number of core strategies that can benefit all students and have been developed based on helping historically underserved students learn. We organized the ideas into four categories: data; instruction and assessment design; lifelong learning skills; and supports and opportunities.

The Power of Data

For competency-based schools and districts (and any school, for that matter) to take responsibility for students to be successful, educational leaders must use data within a short-term response to students who are struggling and a long-term continuous improvement cycle. The power of data cannot be underestimated in seeking out pockets of inequitable practices and spotlighting areas where educators, schools, and districts can learn and grow.

Within the traditional, top-down systems, data is often considered something that you send on to the next higher level of governance rather than something that can be acted upon. In competency-based education, data is also a tool to change practices, reduce bias, and test our equity strategies to discover which are the most effective. Seeking to uncover pockets of unmet need, unidentified talent, and bias (both personal and systemic) starts with asking questions such as:

  1. In what ways may we not be meeting the needs of groups of students?
  2. Are there trends or patterns that suggest that equity strategies are needed (from the perspective of state, districts, school, professional learning communities, or individual teacher)?
  3. What is preventing us from achieving greater equality?
  4. What equity strategies are needed (learner-based, belief-based, systemic) to improve the quality of education for students who appear to be under-achieving and/or underserved?

Multiple sources of data, including qualitative interviews and surveys, can help identify where inequity may be undermining programming and/or where stronger equity strategies are needed.

Instruction and Assessment Design

  • Creating learning environments using the principles of Universal Design for Learning.
  • Incorporating techniques of cultural responsiveness.
  • Providing transparency about student performance levels and progress.
  • Customizing additional instructional support and coaching in response to student needs.
  • Empowering students through individual or personal learning plans in which students set goals and make plans for accomplishing those goals, as well as reflections with educators, students, and parents on accomplishments and where there is need for greater attention.
  • Teaching literacy strategies across the entire curriculum.

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National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education Recommended Reading

May 24, 2017 by

We are now in high gear to get ready for the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. I continue to be both amazed and grateful for the collaborative spirit of the competency education field. I wanted to share with you the incredible list of resources that the Summit participants have suggested as the best reading and resources in the field right now. A bunch of them are new to me – so I better get reading!

Online Resources for Competency Education

Introducing Personalized, Competency Education

Case Studies

Accountability

(more…)

Connecting the Dots: Aligning Efforts to Support Teachers and Students in New Hampshire

May 8, 2017 by

Making the shift to a competency-based and personalized model of education is a process that can be daunting to educators, especially those who work in a very traditional system. Last July I made the move from being the principal of a nationally recognized Professional Learning Community at Work school and competency-based learning environment to the executive director of the New Hampshire Learning Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to seeding and supporting innovative efforts in New Hampshire schools. I had been fortunate to be engaged in a number of the innovative efforts in New Hampshire while I was a principal, and I understood all too well that many educators did not see how the work that we were doing was connected. Anytime a school or district’s next steps are seen as “another initiative” the work is doomed to fail. I set out to connect the dots for as many as I could in my new role.

New Hampshire is quite well-known for an innovative assessment effort called PACE, but it is truly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the greater ecosystem of personalized learning in New Hampshire. The Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) is the only assessment and accountability waiver approved by the U.S. Department of Education. The results from PACE continue to surprise national experts in assessment, but not the educators directly involved. The results, when compared with SBAC, demonstrate high levels of inter-rater reliability, as well as growth for students in various cohorts, suggesting that opportunities for deeper learning are having a positive impact regardless of where a student is on his/her learning progression. This has been due to a number of factors, but what it comes down to is this: Our teachers, when provided the opportunity to learn deeply, reflect, and collaborate, really know their stuff, and when students are truly given the opportunity for deeper learning, they rise to that level of rigor.

But there was, and is, a piece of our balanced system of assessments that we continue to work on developing. The integration of skills and dispositions into curriculum, instruction, and assessment is an integral component of a competency-based system. There is a growing body of research supporting the absolute necessity of these non-curricular cognitive competencies to success in careers. Employers are identifying these skills as the ones critical to success in the workplace. In New Hampshire, these skills and dispositions are referred to as Work Study Practices (WSP). Our teachers, starting in the PACE schools, took on this challenge over the past two years, and the learning has been monumental. Through the facilitated and guided practice through modules created by 2Revolutions and support through MyWays tools, New Hampshire educators have the opportunity to delve into their own learning, then develop and implement tools and resources within their own classroom environments to integrate these all-important competencies into learning opportunities for students. Teachers from across the State of New Hampshire are then brought together for a facilitated opportunity to share their learning and resources with each other. The number of teachers involved in this effort has doubled over the past two years as educators recognize the importance of these competencies to preparing our students to be successful in today’s world. (more…)

Assessing for Equity

April 14, 2017 by

Assessment for Learning Project (ALP) is one of the most interesting, well-designed, and, based on the convening I just attended this week, best-managed initiatives I’ve seen. Kudos to NGLC, 2 Revolutions, and Center for Innovation in Education!

ALP was designed to fund a wide-ranging set of initiatives about assessment as we begin to unlock it from accountability, where it has been held hostage for several decades, and return it to its rightful place in the learning process. The initiative is driven by a learning agenda that allows a series of very different projects to inform and inspire us – all exploring different aspects of assessment.

ALP Learning Agenda

The ALP Learning agenda is based on the following five questions:

  • How can assessment support a broader definition of student success?
  • What assessment practices most effectively empower students to own and advance their learning?
  • How can we most effectively build educator capacity to gather, interpret, and use evidence of student learning to enhance instruction?
  • How does assessment for learning inform broader contexts of accountability, policy, and system design?
  • How can we pursue equity through assessment for learning?

Each of these questions alone could be a full-blow learning agenda; together, they force us to take us a step back and really think about our assumptions underlying assessment. In listening to the conversations at ALP, a few ideas that have been percolating in the back of my mind jumped forward.

  • Assessment really does have a foot in both the cycle of learning and any efforts related to understanding the effectiveness of the education system itself (i.e., external accountability). The trick is to maintain its integrity within the cycle of learning while informing external accountability.
  • We talk about assessment as a noun when I’m becoming convinced it should be used as a verb. We should really be focusing on assessing as a process that students and teachers do to reflect on how students are learning and what needs to happen next. When we think of assessment as a noun it keeps us thinking about the tools of the trade, such as tests, when our primary need right now is to build our skills and clarify the processes used in gaining insight regarding what students understand, what they can do, and where there might be gaps, weak understanding, and misconceptions that need to be addressed.

Assessment for Equity

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Beyond Test Scores: Introducing the MCIEA School Quality Measures

April 3, 2017 by

James Noonan

This post originally appeared at the Center for Collaborative Education on January 30, 2017.

Ask anyone who loves a school what exactly makes it special, and you are liable to hear a wide range of opinions: competent and caring teachers, a diverse and appropriately challenging curriculum, access to cutting edge technology, a variety of extracurricular activities, availability of special education support services, an established track record of academic performance; the list goes on. And yet, measures of school quality—largely based on student standardized test scores—have long remained disappointingly narrow, unable to capture the full complexity of school quality.

Beginning in 2014, in an effort to move school quality “beyond test scores,” a team led by Dr. Jack Schneider from the College of the Holy Cross, worked with district and city leaders in Somerville to produce a more holistic picture of school quality. Together, they developed a framework now being revised and piloted by a consortium of six school districts across the state (Attleboro, Boston, Lowell, Revere, Somerville, and Winchester).

Convened by CCE, the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment (MCIEA) is committed to more authentic ways of assessing student learning and school quality, addressing the shortcomings of current measurement systems by collecting data that is both broader in scope and deeper in substance. In so doing, MCIEA hopes to demonstrate that collecting better data can produce better outcomes for schools, students, and families.

Broadly speaking, the work of MCIEA is happening across two strands. At the classroom level, teacher-designed and curriculum-embedded performance assessments offer teachers a more nuanced and authentic way to assessing student learning, one that could over time replace standardized testing. At the school and district levels, the School Quality Measures (SQM) project aims to better model the diverse perspectives and experiences of a range of school stakeholders when assessing school quality.

The School Quality Measures project aims to describe the full measure of what makes a good school. Drawing on a close reading of public polling research and empirical research on factors related to school quality, and engaging in conversations with teachers, students, families, principals, and district administrators, we have identified five categories – the first three being essential inputs and the last two being key outcomes – and over 30 unique measures to capture the nuances of schools:  (more…)

Put Us In the Room Where It Happens: Teacher-Driven Shifts To Mastery

February 13, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Center for Collaborative Education blog on January 4, 2017. 

I wanna be in the room where it happens.

This line from the Broadway hit Hamilton is one I refer to often when thinking about how we can effectively bring students and teachers in to create honest and equitable systems of assessment.

Our little school in Queens, New York, has worked tirelessly to create and maintain a teacher-created system of mastery-based grading. I’m thirteen years into my middle and high school English teaching career, but the school I have had the privilege of being a part of for the past six years is The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria. Our school is grades 6-12, public, all-girls, and Title I.  On average, 98% of our graduates are accepted to and attend college, and we have been a mastery-based school for the past seven years.

CK1

Christy conducting a coaching session.

Our mastery work began when our founding principal shared a paper with her then-staff, “Removing Structural Barriers to Academic Achievement in High Schools: An Innovative Model” by Camille A. Farrington and Margaret H. Small.  The gist of the paper addressed the dropout rate as a “structural problem” connected to traditional systems of determining final grades and course credit. It was a call to action honoring “differential learning rates”. For our founding teachers, this was an issue of social justice-being able to provide multiple opportunities for students to achieve mastery of skills over time was simply more equitable. Our through line was, and remains, educational equity.

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