Tag: communication and community engagement

Enjoying Learning or Completing Tasks? How Do You Explain Competency-Based Education?

October 9, 2018 by

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

What is competency-based education? It seems that it is harder to explain than it should be. Or perhaps we haven’t put enough energy into trying to make it easily understood. The problem is if we don’t become better able to explain it, then communities across the country will think it is just about a self-paced curriculum, a jazzed up outcome-based model, or a new system of grading. They’ll only implement a sliver of what is, in fact, a major rehaul so that the education system is designed to support and sustain effective teaching and powerful learning.

The problem is further complicated in that the reporters at local newspapers are highly influential in how competency-based education is described. Take this article in the Courier Express for example. Competency-based education is described as: (more…)

What’s New

May 11, 2018 by

Math, writing, and executive function! Learn about the search for new breakthroughs in The Gates Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Want Your Ideas On The Future Of Education.

US Department of Education is highlighting personalized learning in the Education Innovation and Research grants.

Must Read: I’ve just read the following two papers and think they are must reads! We all need to know the research on learning sciences. Seriously, everyone in the education field, from a person designing a new application to the U.S. Secretary of Education, needs to dive into the learning sciences if they haven’t already. Two relatively recent papers are really helpful as they summarize the research across fields:

These aren’t simple papers, so I suggest engaging colleagues to read and discuss the sections of the papers that relate the most directly to you and your work. We need similar papers that summarize what we know about instruction in each of the content areas, as well.

What’s Happening in the States

Local media is a great way to get a sense of what is going on in a region. It’s a clue that grading has been introduced too early when there are letters to the editor in support of A-F grading. (more…)

What’s New: Three Great Resources

May 8, 2018 by

What’s the relationship between self-advocacy skills and self-determination? (Click image to enlarge.)

There are so many valuable reports and books being produced it is definitely hard to keep up (and CompetencyWorks is adding to the challenge, as we are releasing one report per month through June – each one rich with ideas and insights).

In this What’s New about Competency-Based Education, we are highlighting three resources very much worth your time to read or at least skim.

1. Agents of Their Own Success: Self-Advocacy Skills and Self-Determination for Students with Disabilities in the Era of Personalized Learning by the National Center for Learning Disabilities

2. From Vision to Reality: Personalized, Competency-Based Learning for All Kids by Virgel Hammonds and Jesse Moyer, KnowledgeWorks

3. Communicating Personalized Learning to Families and Stakeholders: Terminology,Tools and Tips for Success by Karla Phillips, ExcelinEd, and Amy Jenkins, Education Elements

Agents of Their Own Success: Self-Advocacy Skills and Self-Determination for Students with Disabilities in the Era of Personalized Learning is a must read for two reasons. First, it helps to make the connection between the concepts of self-advocacy and self-determination in the world of supporting students with disabilities, with the language of student agency used frequently in personalized learning and competency-based education. (more…)

Personalized Learning: Lessons to Get the Message Right

May 2, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on April 8, 2018 and ExcelinEd on April 4, 2018.

Interest in personalized learning continues to surge all across the country. However, not everyone understands what personalized learning looks like or the changes it will necessitate, and people are often wary of what they don’t understand. So how we talk about personalized learning can either engage families or push them away. (more…)

Personalized Learning Won’t Work without Personalized Supports

April 30, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on March 21, 2018.

Last week’s New York Times Fixes column highlighted the enormous promise of PowerMyLearning, a framework and tool that connects teachers, families, and students. The approach marks a departure from run-of-the-mill family engagement strategies like infrequent parent-teacher conferences or once yearly back-to-school nights. Instead, as the article outlines, PowerMyLearning deliberately integrates efforts to engage families with efforts to improve academics by regularly looping families into collaborative homework activities and opening online, data-driven communication channels between teachers and families. (more…)

McComb’s Strategic Planning Begins with the Community

March 19, 2018 by

Multiple stakeholders involved in strategic planning. Image from McComb website.

This is the third post on a series about McComb School District in McComb, Mississippi. Start here.

In 2014, McComb developed a strategic plan that would guide them toward a personalized system. This article has three sections: engaging the community, developing the strategic plan, and highlights of the strategic plan.

Engaging the Community (more…)

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

December 13, 2017 by

What's new! star graphicThe Barr Foundation announced eight grantees redesigning their New England high school model to transcend the school walls and blend the lines between school, college, career, and the community in order to help all students develop the competencies required for a 21st-century definition of student success. Grantees include:

Thought Leadership

Videos to Engage Stakeholders

Equity and CBE

  • KnowledgeWorks published a blog on how competency-based education systems can lead to more equitable classrooms.
  • Marcos Lucio Popovich of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation writes about understanding the root causes of inequities. Nellie Mae is inviting districts from New England to respond to a request for proposals that asks them to identify the systemic and school level barriers that perpetuate gaps in college and career readiness based on race, language, special education status, and income, and target interventions that appropriately address such barriers. To learn more about the grant fund, read through the request for proposals.

(more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

September 27, 2017 by

What's new! star graphicSummit Public Schools published The Science of Summit, which describes the research and design choices made in Summit Public Schools. Chris Sturgis considers this a must-read. Someday every school will have a paper on the science of their school that describes the research, beliefs and values that are the foundation of their school design and instruction.

Social Emotional Learning

  • CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, is leading an effort to improve measurement of social emotional learning.
  • Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development is releasing its first case study today, Putting It All Together, which discusses showing how schools and school districts across the country are enhancing learning when they teach a curriculum that simultaneously build students’ social, emotional, and academic skills.

Thought Leadership

Personalized Learning

  • In the blog “Let’s Put Personalized Learning in its Proper Place,” Andy Calkins explores personalized learning as part of a larger whole.
  • This article shows how personalized, competency-based education allows for deeper learning and gives students the freedom to follow their passions.
  • Atlanta educators reflect on lessons from their personalized learning initiative.

Grading

  • George Couros wrote an article advocating for a greater focus on mastery over grades, holding the same high standards for all students.
  • Kristy Louden, a teacher, wrote this blog on ways to get students to read and reflect on feedback through delayed grading.
  • A Parents website article says mastery-based learning could become the new standard, and that A-F grading could be eliminated.

Diplomas

  • Tom Vander Ark outlines a proposal for an Innovation Diploma in this Education Week article.
  • Learn about the Mastery Transcript Consortium, which is 54 independent schools that have banned together to rethink the high school transcript and change the college admissions process.

(more…)

What to Read to Learn about Competency-Based Education

September 7, 2017 by

I’ve been getting a lot of emails recently about how to learn more about competency-based education. Here are a few ideas to get you started based on my discussions with educators and what I know is available. It seems that more is being produced every day. As you know, CompetencyWorks is dedicated to learning from the cutting edge. So if you have resources that have been effectively used in your district or school, please let us know about them. Even more helpful is to know how you used them and what question prompts you used to spark discussion and reflection. Send them to chris at metisnet dot com.

Why Change?

Competency education is gaining attention. Some of this may be authentic, arising from educators and communities that are frustrated with the traditional system and how it is designed to produce inequity and lower achievement. Some attention may come from people who are interested in competency education because it helps them advance the ideas that they feel strongly about. Some may be required by state policy. And some may see that it is trending and want to make sure they are in the know.

Communities and districts that decide to make the change to competency education usually take the time to understand The Why: why do we want to make a change at all? Converting to competency education requires too much work if you are doing it because you have to or think you should. The districts that are successful in the conversion to competency education feel urgency because the world has changed around us and they need to change their schools. They also feel a moral imperative once they realize that the system is designed to underserve students.

In interviewing district leaders over the past six years, there is a pretty common set of books they have used to engage school boards, their staff, and community members about the reasons there needs to be a change. You can learn more about the process communities use in the section on Ramping Up from Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems. (Please let us know if there are materials you have used successfully to help people engage in The Why.)

What is Competency Education?

The next question then becomes, “What is going to be better than the traditional system?” The following resources should be helpful as the basis of discussion. (more…)

Competency Education and the Complicated Task of Communicating

August 17, 2017 by

Did you see that competency education (the same as mastery-based education) was mentioned in the New York Times? In some ways it is a very helpful article to introduce people to the idea of competency education, highlighting students taking ownership, students engaging more, the opportunity for students to really learn or master the skills and content before moving on, and the focus on growth.

Yet the article also includes examples of the difficulty we are facing in communicating what competency education is about, what it means to have a high quality competency-based school, and the noise from some of the critics. Below is a sample of the conversation I had with the author (in my mind, of course) while reading the article.

Instruction

One of the issues we are facing is that although competency education is primarily a cultural and structural shift, it also has implications for instruction. We know that instruction matters – it matters a lot. You can have strong instructional practices or weak instructional practices in a school. You can have some teachers with strong professional knowledge or some with weak professional knowledge in a school.

What competency education does is creates a structure by which teachers are talking with each other about what it means to have a student become proficient, aligning their assessments and instructional strategies, and exploring what is working and what isn’t working to help each and every student reach proficiency. Competency education, when well implemented, should be igniting the professional learning of the educators.

Competency education does introduce a few important implications for instruction and assessment:

  • Students need to be active learners with opportunity to apply their learning to new contexts (this is what makes it about competencies and not just standards). This means there also need to be assessment strategies that assess students at higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (i.e., performance-based assessment).
  • Instructional strategies need to meet students where they are. Yes, we want to think about grade level standards AND we want to think about where students’ performance levels are and where they have gaps. Then using their professional knowledge and taking into consideration the needs of other students and resources, educators work with students to develop strategies that will help them progress.
  • To the degree possible, summative assessments should be aligned with the depth of knowledge and the learning goals of the students. This may mean organizing assessments to be “just-in-time” with students bringing forward evidence of their learning. A student who has completed a unit at the beginning of the week and believes they have fully learned the material shouldn’t have to wait until the end of the month to move on to higher level work. In other learning experiences, there is going to be value in students working on a large project all with the same due date. But when the curriculum can be organized into more modular units, it opens the door to more flexibility for students.

When I see something like “students work at their own pace through worksheets, online lessons and in small group discussions with teachers” I get worried that either the school isn’t offering enough applied learning opportunities or we aren’t communicating what is happening instructionally in the classroom. First of all, students should know where they are on their own learning paths. Second, teachers are offering instruction through several methods, including individual and small groups, online videos they have made, or perhaps online instruction. In most, most but not all, of the classrooms I have visited, students talk about the use of online adaptive programs as how they practice. Most will say they prefer to learn about new material from their teacher or from a video their teacher made. Third, there will often be choices about how students practice and then demonstrate their learning. Worksheets might be one of them, and I’ve seen students playing games to practice and build math and vocabulary fluency, working on projects, writing essays, and engaging in large, inquiry-based projects that will wrap-up with a presentation. (more…)

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