Tag: assessment

What Kids Tell Us About Why Competency Matters

July 10, 2012 by

Ask a student about how they learn. You will get many different responses as every child is different.  From a high school student, “I want to have a choice in studying what interests me.” Other kids say, “I want to get extra help from teachers when I need it and move ahead when I am ready, not wait for everyone else.” How  do we give them different pathways to learn?

From a student in Colorado: “What if school could be more like video games? You advance when you master a level, then move to the next level.”

This last student was in a competency-based learning environment – where students can move on when they demonstrate mastery and move at their own pace.  This is how the student communicated “competency education” to adults, “what if school could be more like video games?” (more…)

Assessment at the Center

July 9, 2012 by

Student-centered instruction must be built around the feedback and assessments that are given to students while they are learning. Unfortunately, almost all of us have been raised in learning models that focus exclusively on what students do while they are in the classroom and fail to incorporate effective feedback and measurement. We’ve experienced this model as students, and in our teacher training.

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The vast majority of teachers spent years being taught how to write lessons. Single content lessons were at the heart of what we were expected to produce for most of our education courses. Assessments and tests that were to be delivered at the end of a unit of study were usually included in our lesson plans, but learning to write lessons was the core of our training. The result is that we are comfortable with lessons. We even feel a sense of ownership and personal identity about the lessons that we write. Our misplaced attention means that we don’t learn how to develop routine, formative assessments that provide students with feedback, and that provide us with the information we need to provide targeted instruction. Instead, we stick with what’s comfortable, and our colleagues, who have been trained just like us, reinforce the focus on lesson plans. (more…)

Competency-Based Education: Learn From My Follies

May 21, 2012 by

I had a conference with a parent this morning. I love meeting parents and talking with students, and I try to avoid the typical rhetoric that goes along with these interactions in favor of rawness.


Measure What Matters

May 18, 2012 by

Teachers need to make sure that they are measuring the right elements of student work. Teacher training places a lot of emphasis on curriculum, but not a lot on assessment. The result is that we teachers become comfortable, invested even, in the materials that we design for instruction. We share lesson plans and ideas, but there is little discussion about what we are measuring.

Those of us who routinely create rubrics for our students’ lessons are moving in the right direction, but we need to make sure that we are actually measuring competencies. Too often, our rubrics are nothing more than quantitative lists that don’t really articulate the complex thinking skills that students are being asked to learn. (more…)

Mastery – Putting Learning Before Grades

May 17, 2012 by

I work with a team of people that submitted a letter of intent to the New Mexico State Department of Education to create a health careers high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It will be the second in a series of schools dedicated to serving young people who have not been well served by traditional high schools—and there are a lot of those kids in my home town. Nearly 40 percent of all high school students drop out and if you are a young person of color and poor it’s more like 50 percent. This mass of more than 25,000 young people is served in incredibly complicated schools that are incapable of the complexity and sophistication to be successful. About a year and a half ago I helped create ACE Leadership High School, an Architecture Construction and Engineering high school in my home town to get at this sticky problem. We are an outward facing institution that is ambitious about its own development and we incorporate lots of ideas from different disciplines. (more…)

Juggling Frogs

May 10, 2012 by

Read the first post on Spaulding High School.

Organizational change is always a case of juggling frogs. As I continue to reflect on my visit to Spaulding High School in April, I’m increasingly humbled by the enormous change they are involved in and the amount of respect and thoughtfulness that the administration, teachers, and students offered one another. Here are a few more insights into the competency education practices being introduced at Spaulding High School.

Competencies and Staff Cohesion: A number of different issues emerged as we talked about the scheduling of courses and their design. Spaulding is using Understanding by Design to help them design courses. (more…)

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