Tag: assessment

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…)

Sign on to the 10 Principles of Building a High Quality System of Assessments

February 16, 2018 by

Today, Jobs for the Future, iNACOL, and other national organizations released the report 10 Principles of Building a High Quality System of

Assessments. The report lays out “a vision for systems focused on continuous improvement and the full array of knowledge, skills, and behaviors needed for each student to succeed beyond high school, in the workplace, and throughout life.”

Please note: This isn’t just any old report. It’s also a call for action. If you agree with the 10 principles highlighted to the right, think about adding your organization to the vision outlined in this report.

4 Threshold Concepts for Policy to Tackle in the Long Term to Support Competency Education

February 15, 2018 by

This is the sixteenth post in the blog series on the report, Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education.

What ideas does state policy need to address in the long-term to create the conditions for a transformation to competency-based education systems designed to ensure equity, so all students can be truly ready for success? We intend to push current thinking beyond the assumptions that perpetuate root causes of inequity and the structural issues that perpetuate injustice. We are focusing on a strategy for policy to support systems change over the long haul toward competency-based systems that ensure mastery for all students and equity for all. We hope to inspire new ideas and launch dialogue among communities and state policy leaders.

Threshold Concepts: Key Issues for Policy to Tackle for the Long-Term

Threshold concepts are important concepts for policymakers to understand so that they drive better policy and address structural gaps in our education system. Threshold concepts are “core concepts, that once understood, are needed to transform a given subject.” They can help us think differently about what is possible in an equitable future education system where all students succeed, and how to address deep-seated systems design flaws across K-12 education. Threshold concepts are not policy issues, but they deeply impact policy. In this blog, we discuss our thinking around the core, or threshold concepts, that state policymakers might think about addressing for a long-term, sustainable shift to personalized, competency-based learning.

Threshold concepts to understand before we address action steps for policy-making are: (more…)

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

January 22, 2018 by

What's new! star graphicA Must Read: Check out this article by Beth Rabbitt on Personalized Learning called Analysis: Teaching, Technology, Transformation — 5 Ways to Talk (and Think) About Personalized Learning

New Resources


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

November 8, 2017 by

What's new! star graphicA Must-Read: The Hewlett Foundation Assessment for Learning Work Group released Principles for Assessment Design and Use to Support Student Autonomy.

Thought Leadership


  • This article examines the ways in which we assess students’ high school experiences and the impact this has on their eligibility for college.

Recruiting and Supporting Educators


  • The Colorado Education Initiative released a new strategy that includes Competency-Based/Personalized Learning, and states that CEI is intensifying their efforts to help districts build systems where students advance based on demonstrated readiness and educators tailor learning for each student’s strengths, needs, and interests.
  • Colorado’s Thompson School District is launching a “Seeing Is Believing” Tour as a type of professional learning where practitioners across 10 secondary schools work across buildings to showcase their classrooms, share success stories, and to unite as a district to do what’s best for students.The Donnell-Kay Foundation embarked on a journey across Colorado schools to examine how schools that have transitioned to a four-day school week are leveraging the fifth day. Here’s an update on their journey and learnings.



Steps Toward Maturity: Introducing the Concept of Student Autonomy (Part 2)

November 7, 2017 by

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

In the first part of this series, I call for us to be strategic in how we communicate the concepts related to student agency to the general public while also building a more precise understanding of what it means and how to help students develop the mindsets, maturity, and skills to be lifelong learners. In this article, the concept of student autonomy is defined as well as the implications for building a system of assessments.

In the previous article, I suggest that study groups on concepts related to student agency could help the field. I’d start with the newly released paper Principles for Assessment Design and Use to Support Student Autonomy, developed by the Hewlett Assessment for Learning Working Group and available at the CIE website. It is a must read. This paper introduces design principles to help build student agency through assessment for learning practice and is a launching pad for much deeper conversations in our field. Below are a few highlights to consider:

Student Autonomy

The paper uses the term autonomy to refer to two concepts: student agency and self-regulated learning (beware the confusion that could happen with SRL and SEL).

Student Agency: According to a recent report from Harvard University, agency is “the capacity and propensity to take purposeful initiative—the opposite of helplessness. Young people with high levels of agency “do not respond passively to their circumstances; they tend to seek meaning and act with purpose to achieve the conditions they desire in their own and others’ lives” (Ferguson, Phillips, Rowley & Friedlander 2015, p. 1). Indicators of student agency in school include a sense of efficacy, a growth mindset, a goal-orientation to learning, and higher future aspirations (Ferguson et al., 2015).

Self-Regulated Learning: Self-regulated learning (SRL) is one aspect of the broader skill of self-regulation (NRC, 2012). SRL involves employing strategies such as goal-setting, developing plans to achieve goals, monitoring progress toward goals, and upon reflection adapting learning approaches to move closer to desired goals (e.g., Boekaerts & Cascallar, 2006, Pintrich, 2000, 2004; Zimmerman & Schunk, 2011). SRL applies not only to cognition but also to motivation and overt behavior, for example, removing distractions from a learning situation, effective time-management, and the focused exertion of effort (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2007). (more…)

Quality and Equity by Design

October 20, 2017 by

Today, iNACOL and CompetencyWorks released the paper Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education. This paper is the culminating product and set of ideas from the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. In this paper, four key issues – equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy – are explored and guidance is offered on how to engage more deeply in each. There is also a set of recommended actions for the field as a whole to consider. This paper will be followed by a revised paper on each of the key issues based on the feedback and insights from the Summit participants. (You can find the four draft papers on each of the key issues here.)

In writing this paper, I became more and more appreciative that each of the four key issues is actually a lens into the issues challenging our field. By looking at elements of competency-based education through the different lenses, it becomes possible to have much more depth of understanding. It is as if the paper brings a multi-dimensional understanding to bear. Certainly, the overlap between quality and equity is profound and requires more thought and study as we go forward. It’s important to consider the ideas and frameworks in this paper as ways to open discussion. I am sure there will be other convenings, papers, and resources that will help to further our work together.

My recommendation is to read the paper in bite-sized pieces – one issue area at a time. Then come back and read the next, reflecting on the capacity and strategies used by your organization, district, and school. We welcome contributions to CompetencyWorks that highlight your understanding and efforts related to these key issues and we doubly welcome challenges to these ideas. It is only by strengthening our capacity to be critical friends to each other that we can truly find our way to implementing high quality, equitable competency-based systems in schools across our nation.

For those of you who are interested, a webinar, Charting the Course for the Next Phase of K-12 Competency-Based Education, is scheduled for November 8, 2017, 2-3 PM ET. Register here. Susan Patrick, Nina Lopez, and I will share highlights from the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education, walk through the four key issues, and review the recommendations for what is most important to move competency education forward.

School Consortium Proposes a Better Transcript

October 2, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on September 14, 2017.

For 125 years we’ve recorded the high school experience as a series of courses and grades. It’s a record of activity but not a very good measure of knowledge, skills and dispositions; it doesn’t capture experiences or work products that provide evidence of growth and accomplishment.

Scott Looney, head at the Hawken School in Cleveland since 2006, is an advocate for advanced student-centered and authentic learning. He knew there was a better way to signal student success but realized it was both a supply and demand problem–high schools needed to update the transcript and colleges needed to agree to accept the new evidence of learning.

Looney launched the Mastery Transcript Consortium (@MastTranscript) in 2017. The new nonprofit started by defining the problem: current transcripts mark time not learning–they value information regurgitation over making meaning, disciplines over integration, extrinsic over intrinsic rewards, and encourage grade inflation. The whole charade is based on the premise that grades are replicable, validated and meaningful.

Looney quickly assembled 17 co-founding schools excited about building a common transcript and selling the idea to HigherEd. Since its launch, 120 more non-profit independent schools have joined the Consortium. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

August 22, 2017 by

What's new! star graphicThis VUE article, written by Scott F. Marion, Jonathan Vander Els, and Paul Leather, looks at how New Hampshire’s new performance assessment system focuses on reciprocal accountability and shared leadership among teachers and leaders at the school, district and state levels.

Grading and Transcripts

  • This article poses the question, what if your high school transcript didn’t include grades?
  • School District 51 is phasing out valedictorian and salutatorian recognitions for high school graduates, starting with this year’s ninth-grade students. The students who graduate in 2021 will receive recognitions similar to the Latin honor system used in colleges and universities — cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude. School districts across the country are considering the change or have already gotten rid of valedictorian and salutatorian recognitions to focus less on grading and more on broader definitions of student success.

A Spotlight on Pittsfield Middle High School

Updates in New England


  • 100+ educators and administrators from 25 schools participated in Thomas College’s conference to innovate for the future of Maine’s education—an example of higher education responding to the changing needs of the K-12 system.
  • According to The Heartland Institute in Illinois, competency-based education is gaining ground nationwide.
  • Districts are recognizing the importance of teachers having time to learn, plan and collaborate.
  • This article shares promising findings from the recent RAND report analyzing Next Generation Learning Challenges schools’ implementation of next gen learning models.


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