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Tag: online and blended learning

Education Innovation Fellowship: Key Learnings from Some of Detroit’s Competency-Based Learning Models

May 7, 2014 by
Posted on April 29, 2014 @ blendmylearning.com.
detroit learning-fellows

The CityBridge-NewSchools Education Innovation Fellows for 2014.

For the past four months, the 19 public and public charter school teachers in the CityBridge-NewSchools Education Innovation Fellowship have engaged in an in-depth study of the most promising practices in blended and personalized learning, traveling the country and hearing from the leaders in the field. Recently, the fellows spent part of their spring break on a whirlwind tour of four public schools in Detroit that are budding laboratories in personalized learning.

Educators in Detroit’s public school system face a tough reality: Detroit Public School students are last in the nation among urban students proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and fifty-seven percent of Detroit children under the age of 17 live in poverty. Many public schools in Detroit are addressing this reality by measuring academic credit over mastery of specific competencies (also known as “competency-based learning,”) as opposed to the traditional practice of fulfilling seat-time hours. In all four public schools we visited, teachers leveraged competency-based learning models to meet the needs of their students, many of whom are years behind where they need to be academically.

How do teachers keep kids on pace after abolishing the traditional nine-month pacing guide? How do they challenge all students, and give them the freedom to work at their own pace? The key is to foster a strong sense of ownership in student work. Below you will find my key takeaways about how to make that happen: (more…)

Building a Bridge Between Blended Learning and Competency Education

April 25, 2014 by

A big light went on during a conversation with Anthony Kim of Education Elements:bridge

WHAT IF… The process used by districts that already use blended learning to transition to competency education is different from the process used by districts with little ed-tech that start with competency-based in their journey to personalization?

Blended-first districts that have infused their curriculum, instruction and assessment with all that technology can do, are turning to competency education as a natural progression from the self-paced nature of adaptive software and online learning. There are specific aspects that competency education can provide – empowering students to own their education through transparent expectations, ensuring students can apply academic skills, focusing attention on habits or lifelong learning competencies, and strengthening college and career readiness by building the capacity among teachers to assess competencies/skills. And most importantly, creating the structure to support students  — students that are not yet proficient, students that are performing at academic levels 2+ years behind their grade levels and students ready to leap forward in their studies. (more…)

How a District Ended Student Dropouts with Personalized Learning

April 22, 2014 by

This post originally published on EdSurge. Author Roger Cook is the Superintendent of the Taylor County School District in Campbellsville, Kentucky.

1(1)Imagine, if you can, a school where students do not have specific teachers assigned to them, nor do teachers have specific students on their roster.

Imagine a school where students come each day with a list of standards to work on and accomplish–right when they walk in the door. They can go to the teacher of their choice in order to accomplish the completion of these standards. Or, they can do them on their own in any setting they wish, as long as they maintain accomplishing the minimum amount of standards in a minimum amount of time. Some students, for example, may work individually in the media center not having to go to any classroom.

And last but not least, imagine a district at large where the dropout rate is at zero percent.

In this type of environment, students would come and go as they please, but would be required to prove the successful completion of work and pass assessments to demonstrate understanding.

Sound crazy? Not to educators in the Taylor County School District in Campbellsville, Kentucky. In fact, that is our district’s ten-year plan. (more…)

What Does It Look Like: Student Ownership, Voice and Choice in a Competency-Based School

November 22, 2013 by

belfast1As more districts become curious about competency education, they want to see what it look like in the classroom. Of course competency education doesn’t look one way — it varies based on the degree schools are using blended learning, how they are personalizing education, how student-centered, how project-based the school is, and the design and culture of the school . However, you can certainly get a feel for what is possible by watching videos, listening to students and teachers reflect upon their experiences. So we’ve pulled together a few — most of these schools emphasize student-centeredness or personalization.  You can find other videos and blog posts about competency education In the Classroom on the wiki.

Overview

Unpacking the Standards and Learning Targets

Optimizing Personalized, Blended, Competency-Based Schools

November 21, 2013 by

It is a mouthful, — personalized, blended and competency-based learning. And I assume that someone out there is going to come up with an acronym or create a name for it. Before they do, I hope problem-based or project-based will be included in that list as well since kids need the opportunity to use deeper levels of knowledge (as well as being downright fun most of the time).

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I’ve made the case why we need to continue to understand each these characteristics separately as we are in such rapid stages of learning. We need a way to break it down when we talk to each other. When I ask a school in New Hampshire “how do you use blended learning?” I expect to hear about the adaptive software students are using, the online courses and competency recovery that is available through Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, how teachers are learning to organize their curriculum in units on the web so that students can advance more quickly, and how they are using tablets for those students that do not have internet access at home so they can download what they need and take it home with them.

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When I visit a school in Maine to learn about their competency-based model they will tell me about their proficiency-based schools. I might hear about the transparency of the measurement targets and learning targets based upon standards, how their learning management system Educate allows teachers to track progress and principals to monitor pacing across the school, about their school-wide system of supports including daily Flex hour and reading specialists that work with individual students as well as building capacity of their teachers, their grading scheme based on depth of knowledge that targets proficiency at Level 3 (i.e. application of knowledge and skills) and how they are developing assessments for Maine’s Guiding Principles or what might others call lifelong learning competencies. (more…)

Takeaways and New Questions from EAA School Visits

October 31, 2013 by

Lessons Learned pictureIf ten of us went to visit the same school we would come away with 10 different insights. It’s why I believe so strongly in joint site visits as a method of knowledge transfer – you learn together in a way that taps into previous knowledge as well.  So here are my insights, and you can read what  struck Tom VanderArk about EAA in his Ed Week column.  I encourage you to take the time to put a team together or even a cross-district or cross-state team to go visit Nolan Elementary, Phoenix Multicultural, Brenda Scott Academy for Theatre Arts, and Southeastern Technical High School sooner than later. Michigan and Detroit have a lot of volatile political dynamics (i.e things change), and I’d hate for people to miss the chance to see what can happen when you integrate personalized, mastery-based, and blended into a “student-centered” model of learning.

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1) Reaching the Outliers: A teacher at Nolan and a teacher at Brenda Scott told me just about the same thing: I can reach many more kids. Before, I had to teach to the middle, but now I can use blended learning so that outliers are fully supported as well. Without blended learning, I don’t know if this would be as possible. I’ve been wracking my brain, have we ever had a reform that was meaningful for students who are way behind, those chugging along at teacher pace, as well as those that get placed in gifted and talented?  Could this actually be a universal reform that works for all children? Seems too easy – I want to dig harder about what the implications are for the students at the margins.

2) We Can’t Have Student Voice Without Having Teacher Voice: Mary Esselman, Deputy Chancellor of EAA, related one of her lessons learned.  They realized they couldn’t expect teachers to create environments for students to have voice if they didn’t have it themselves.  So professional development became an experiential experience with reflection and presentation. Teachers use Buzz — they don’t just learn about Buzz. After they’ve finished the initial stage of professional development, they prepare three minute videos – Who am I as an EAA educator? (more…)

Student-Centered Learning at Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority

October 22, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 3.18.26 PMLast month, I had the opportunity to visit three schools in Detroit run by Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority (EAA). I’ll be sharing what I saw and learned on CompetencyWorks over the next couple of weeks.

Background:  The EAA is a local education agency with the authority to reinvent Michigan’s Priority Schools, previously called Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools.  The EAA is charged with transforming the five (5) percent PLA schools across Michigan by providing increased flexibility and autonomy at the local school level and eliminating the barriers that impede student performance. They are getting results — in Detroit, all of the EAA K-8 schools were in the top twenty schools for growth in achievement.

EAA established a specific model to be implemented with 12 schools initiating the turnaround in 2012  with another set starting implementation in 2013.  The model is described as student-centered and is a dynamic integration of mastery-based and blended learning topped off by a no-excuses leadership mentality. In order to implement EAA had to secure a seat-time waiver from the state. EAA is led by John Covington and Mary Esselman. They, their team, and the leadership in the EAA schools are definitely people to watch.

EAA Model: The EAA describes their approach as student-centered (you’ll see and hear SCL referred to throughout the schools) in which “pedagogy, assessments, support systems and culture are refocused to facilitate student progress organized around mastery instead of age and seat time.”   Students learning experiences are personalized through the use of blended learning, and Buzz a powerful teaching and learning platform.

EAA’s model is built upon five pillars:

  • Students are grouped by readiness, not by grade. Teachers and students refer to levels. There are about two levels for each age-grade. Students are assessed using the Scantron Performance Series when they enter school to assign them their levels in each subject area.
  • Students create and assume ownership for their respective personalized learning and success paths and are able to communicate their progress relative to their individualized learning goals. In addition to Buzz that tracks progress, you’ll see several rituals in the classrooms in which students mark their progress as well as let teachers know how they are doing. (more…)

I’m So Dizzy….

October 9, 2013 by

csbouldersmallUpdate September 2015: I’ve noticed a lot of people have been reading this blog lately. I think we have moved beyond this stage of confusion. In the paper Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning we tried to explain the difference between a personalized system (as compared to factory model), competency-based structure, personalized learning as an approach, and online/blended learning. I think this might be a much more helpful reading at this point.

I’m so dizzy…my head is spinning. Does personalized learning equal competency education equal blended learning equal student-centered learning? I think not…but the recent Student First report “A Personalized Future for Education” really tipped me over the edge.  I can’t go on any longer without making sense of it all.

Now we know that we have a language challenge in competency education because each state has developed their specific terms. That makes sense to me – this is a local reform that is rapidly advancing across the country. New Hampshire and Iowa are “competency-based”; Maine, Oregon, and Colorado are “proficiency-based”; and Connecticut and Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority are mastery-based. That’s why we created the working definition– to provide some cohesion to the field.  That’s how Diane Smith in Oregon and Sandra Dop in Iowa can have meaningful conversations without confusion, even though they may use different terms.  We call it a “working” definition, so if we need to update it to reflect best practices, we can do that.

However, the confusion between the terms competency education, personalized, student-centered, customization, and blended is awesome. The Student First report is a great example of this. In the report, they lead with personalization, and then write, “Personalized learning is a student-centered approach to education that allows each student to advance through academic content at his or her own pace. In a personalized model, also known as a competency-based education (CBE)…” and continue to introduce the competency education working definition.  They then go on to explain, “Thanks to an influx of choice and entrepreneurship in public education, personalized learning is popping up in all different shapes and sizes across the country. Since competency-based strategies provide flexibility in the way that students earn academic credit, states are exploring many different ways to personalize learning for their students. Some strategies to personalize learning include: blended learning, online schools, dual enrollment, project and community-based learning, and credit recovery. Blended learning and online schools are two of the fastest growing forms of personalized learning.” Once they started to describe blended learning in detail, I totally lost it – who wouldn’t think that personalization = competency education = blended? (more…)

Competency-Based Education and Blended Learning: Worlds Apart or Just Two Sides of the Personalization Coin?

October 1, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 12.03.06 PM

This post was originally published by Clayton Christensen Institute on September 18, 2013.

At the Clayton Christensen Institute, we often talk about blended learning and competency-based education in the same breath. That’s because we see both as necessary features of accomplishing personalized learning at scale. A competency-based system allows students to move at their own pace upon mastering concepts, rather than being forced to move beyond material they don’t fully understand or being held back when they are learning at an advanced pace. You can imagine this highly individualized model in a traditional classroom with extremely low teacher-to-student ratios. But to operate personalization at scale, we believe technology must play a part. Software tools in a blended classroom stand to provide a mix of content, assessment, and meaningful real-time feedback that can help teachers move each student along an individual learning pathway at his own pace.

Although this theory sounds quite tidy, the reality on the ground is a bit messier. I keep asking myself: are practitioners and policymakers in blended learning and competency-based education coordinating their efforts? Both, from different angles, are building toward a vision of personalized learning. This common vision, however, does not always yield as natural a synergy as you might imagine. As Chris Sturgis of CompetencyWorks pointed out in her blog a few weeks back, competency-based education models could benefit from taking greater advantage of blended learning, particularly to lend extra support to students who have gaps in understanding or are falling behind. And although many edtech products describe themselves as “mastery-based,” these tools are not always customized to competency-based education classrooms’ needs to track students’ progress against discrete competencies and provide multiple pathways to learning.

There’s not really animosity between these two camps, if you can call them that. Proponents of competency-based education are certainly not luddites, nor are blended-learning entrepreneurs and educators gripping onto time-based policies. But at this point, it’s easier to find models that are either blended or competency-based, rather than both. I have a few working hypotheses of why these worlds aren’t always aligned, or why we aren’t seeing a lot of blended competency-based models yet. (more…)

Competency Moves Beyond Courses

September 16, 2013 by
Sarah Luchs

Sarah Luchs

As a recipient of Next Generation Learning Challenge’s (NGLC) most recent wave of investment, New Hampshire-based Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS) is getting some much-deserved buzz (most recently in Forbes and Ed Week). VLACS will redesign its current online model to move beyond course-based competency measures and toward an entirely competency-based design for learning.

The new model, called Aspire, is free of all the conventional dictates. Learning is not confined to a class, a building, a set block of time, or a subject-bound course. In the journey to personalizing education, this is a giant step forward, in my opinion. Up to this point, course structures (and the content that defines them) have disproportionately shaped the competency discussion and available options. I’m not opposed to learning in a course per se and the course experience itself is being revolutionized by new technologies–  also good. I just think the Aspire model creates some new possibilities that are long overdue and fundamentally exciting. Let me tell you what I mean.

Competency Reflections: Past and Present

I spent over a decade of my career prior to joining NGLC working for the Ohio Department of Education and state level policymakers. In Ohio, we created a provision known as Credit Flexibility that afforded students the option to earn credit for demonstration of previously learned knowledge and skills and/or to determine the means of their learning for any graduation requirement. Long story short, it didn’t benefit as many students as intended, in part because the system wasn’t built to implement this kind of flexibility, and schools, districts, and states still lacked the tools to enable it. It’s been my hope that NGLC—which funds innovative school models like VLACS-Aspire as proof points to demonstrate what’s possible, and shares knowledge in order to accelerate the adoption of new practice—will help position education systems to embrace and support innovative provisions like Credit Flexibility and benefit many more students. (more…)

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