Tag: assessment

Recognizing Outstanding Student Achievement in Competency-Based Schools

July 8, 2019 by

Student in CornfieldCompetencyWorks recently received this inquiry from an administrator of a school that was working to deepen its competency-based learning practices:

One question we are thinking about is how to honor academic achievement and progress in proficiency-based grading/reporting. We are finding, for instance, that naming students to an “honor roll” for Quarter 1 is a difficult fit for a system that intentionally honors growth over time. Are there new or different ways of honoring academic achievement and progress that are emerging as schools transition to proficiency-based systems?

This is an important question that many people in the field are grappling with. The challenge is in part because “honor roll” feels like a vestige of the ranking and sorting mechanisms of traditional grading systems. At the same time, competency-based systems are developing ways for students to achieve and demonstrate deeper learning, as well as ways to recognize these achievements. The field doesn’t have a single way of approaching this, but there are some emerging strategies and ways of thinking about it.

The following quotation from Steve Lavoie, written while he was principal at Richmond Middle/High School in RSU2 in Maine, recognizes the tensions in transforming between traditional and competency-based practices. He wrote on CompetencyWorks,“Decide what issues are critical and that you’ll ‘go to the wall for.’ You will be faced with questions that tie to the traditional system. Expect them and decide ahead of time whether or not you are willing to ‘die on that hill’ prior to the question being asked. Questions relating to GPA, class rank, Top Ten, and honor roll should be anticipated. Your stakeholders may believe they are important components that should be retained. Issues like these feel like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, but they are not critical issues that should interfere with the implementation of the big picture. They can be made to fit your program. Be prepared to give in on some issues but stand firm on the critical ones like your core belief that all students need to demonstrate proficiency on all standards required for graduation. That would be the hill to die on.”

In the CompetencyWorks Issue Brief, Progress and Proficiency: Redesigning Grading for Competency Education, Chris Sturgis wrote, “It’s unlikely that the need for ranking will ever be absolutely obsolete.
Highly selective colleges and those who want to attend them are going to want to be able to identify the ‘best students’ through some mechanism that recognizes distinction.” In the same issue brief, Brian Stack, principal at Sanborn Regional High School in New Hampshire, asks, “Why not instead set a bar that you will use to distinguish an ‘honor graduate,’ and any student who is able to reach (or exceed) that bar gets the distinction at graduation. From year to year, the number of honor graduates will change, but the standard never would. Every student would have the opportunity to be considered an honor graduate, provided they meet the requirements.”

Here are a few examples of schools that use honor rolls within CBE systems: (more…)

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…)

Insights from Aotearoa New Zealand: Defining Lifelong Learning

December 7, 2018 by

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This is the ninth 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.

Day by day, I am developing a deeper understanding about the Building Blocks for Learning (a 16-part comprehensive framework that includes everything from self-regulation to self-direction), their relationship to modern pedagogy based on research on learning, and the ultimate goal of ensuring students are powerful lifelong learners. The Building Blocks also have implications for school design, teaching, and how learning experiences (i.e., curriculum) are designed. (more…)

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #11: Establish Mechanisms to Ensure Consistency and Reliability

December 5, 2018 by

This is the twelfth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #11 Establish Mechanisms to Ensure Consistency and Reliability on page 77. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

In the midst of writing all the papers for the Summit, a colleague said to me, “Pick consistency or reliability but not both.” I thought about it for a bit, but after looking up the definitions, I ended up feeling that both were actually important. (more…)

How Can States Transition to Student-Centered Learning?

October 22, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at ExcelinEd’s EdFly blog on August 14, 2018 and has been updated to include links to the first three briefs.

The proliferation of innovative, personalized and mastery-based models in schools, districts and states across the country demonstrates that completely prohibitive policy barriers, thankfully, do not exist. Our work has shown us that most states already have policies in place, (e.g., waivers) that can help schools implement new models—though we have also seen these opportunities remain largely underutilized or misunderstood. (more…)

Position and Power of Students in a Mastery-Based System

August 29, 2018 by

This article originally appeared on Springpoint’s blog The Launch Pad as part of Mastery Assessment Week. (See the original here.) It was prepared as part of Mastery Assessment Week.

Assessment in a mastery-based system helps students know where they are on their journey toward graduation. A formative approach to assessment—which promotes transparency, feedback, agency, relevance, and, ultimately student success—builds a structure in which students are true partners in their own education, empowered to engage their learning facilitators in conversations about their learning targets and individual goals. Good mastery-based systems contain assessment practices that emphasize continual growth and development of skills. But great mastery-based systems contain opportunities for student voice to play a role in those assessment practices. (more…)


August 27, 2018 by

Building on last year’s Mastery Week, Springpoint Schools and their partners are launching Mastery Assessment Week (#masteryweek)from August 27 – 31. This is a chance to focus in on what it means to have a mastery assessment system (including transparency about where students are in their learning based on specific learning objectives; opportunity to apply and demonstrate learning with common assessment criteria and performance-based assessment; multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning when a student is “not yet” there; and multiple ways to demonstrate learning).  You can hear from your colleagues around the country and share your ideas as well.According to Springpoint the week will unfold with the following activities:

Monday – What can assessment look like in a mastery-based system?

Springpoint will open the week with a welcome post that explains the mechanics of the week and highlights resources and examples around creating and refining mastery assessment practices. (more…)

What if Educational Policy Was Shaped by the Learning Sciences? (Part 2)

May 10, 2018 by

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

Continuing from the first part of this topic on the implications of the learning sciences for policy, let’s start by looking at three research findings. This is my first cut on this topic and early exploration. In fact I would call these ideas half-baked but I have to start somewhere. It would be a fun collaborative project to draw on lots of great minds. (FYI: I apologize that this is a bit general. To get specific, I’d have to put it in the context of the specifics of policies in a given state.)

Learning is an activity that is carried out by the learner.


What’s New: Assessment

April 13, 2018 by

There has been so much on assessment lately that I thought it best to dedicate a What’s New just to this one topic.

The most important (if you haven’t seen it yet) is 10 Principles for Building a High-Quality System Of Assessments (Jobs for the Future). This report offers important guidance on how states, districts, and our nation can bridge from the current status of assessments to high-quality systems that advance college and career readiness, equity, and student-centered learning.

The Assessment for Learning Project has a potpourri of different projects on assessment. They’ve produced a paper A Movement Towards Personalized Professional Learning on microcredentialing. Two other projects are highlighted in the resources below: (more…)

Redesigning Systems of Assessments for Student-Centered Learning

February 21, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on January 24, 2018.

Assessment is essential for understanding what students know and for providing transparency and fairness when it comes to certifying mastery of knowledge and skills. Assessment can provide timely feedback to educators on where students are in their learning and to inform the supports that they need to succeed. It also plays an important role for educational leaders to evaluate the effectiveness of learning models, on achievement and for policymakers to understand the effectiveness of policies and use of public funding. In redesigning systems of assessments, state policymakers should consider what is needed to make assessment more meaningful and integrally-linked to student learning.

The challenge ahead for policymakers is to rethink assessment policies to enable student-centered teaching and learning. This will require creating balanced systems of assessments to: (more…)

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