Tag: communication and community engagement

In Real Life: Designing Outcomes Aimed for Equity

January 28, 2019 by

Cynthia Green, Executive Director of Secondary Programs and Pathways, Madison Metropolitan School District; and Karyn Stocks Glover, Principal, Capital High

This article is the third in a nine-part “In Real Life” series on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Because competency-based education (CBE) systems expect all students to reach mastery on all competencies, how those competencies are defined (and who gets to define them) becomes critical. For district and school leaders aiming to promote equity in their systems, this question is only heightened. How inclusive and representative are vision-setting and decision-making processes? How can leaders garner support from various stakeholders and help reconcile differing perspectives on what equity means or how to achieve it?

To better understand how competency-based school systems reckon with these fundamental questions, I sat down with Cynthia Green, Executive Director of Secondary Programs and Pathways for Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), and Karyn Stocks Glover, Principal of Capital High in MMSD.

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In Real Life: Who Gets to Decide Which Student Outcomes Matter?

January 21, 2019 by

Dianne Kelly, Superintendent, Revere Public Schools

This article is the second in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

One tell-tale feature that sets a competency-based education (CBE) system apart from a traditional school system is the naming of competencies – specific sets of knowledge, skills, and abilities – that each and every student must master in order to move from one stage to the next. Inherently, this feature can also be one of the most controversial.

At first glance, the idea may not appear unique. Every school system in America has education standards, adopted in part by states and added to by districts and schools, to help ensure consistency in what students are learning. Standards shape lessons and tests, and students must do well enough to pass their classes and receive a diploma. We are all familiar with this traditional notion of standards.

In CBE systems, competencies often represent bigger-picture ideas when compared to traditional standards, and they often differ in one other important way: every student is required to master all of them. Because the competencies are designed to represent sets of knowledge and skills that are essential for postsecondary and lifelong success, insisting on mastery is one way CBE systems ensure that every student graduates ready for the next phase.

It is this insistence on mastery that has tremendous implications for how the competencies themselves are defined, and in particular, for the process through which the competencies are decided. Who gets to say what knowledge and skills are so important that every single kid must master them? Whose opinions are consulted? Are these decisions being made by parents and local communities through democratic processes, or are the competencies determined by outsiders with little input from local communities?

To better understand how competency-based school systems reckon with these fundamental issues, I sat down with several practitioners including Dr. Dianne Kelly, Superintendent of Revere Public Schools in Massachusetts.

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Pt. England Primary: The Cherry or the Orchard

December 6, 2018 by

This is the eighth 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.

As I wrapped up the conversation with Russell Burt, principal of Pt. England Primary in Auckland, I mentioned that the U.S. was building up capacity around school design. Burt immediately suggested that our focus is too narrow. He explained, “If you cherry pick, which is what happens with many charter schools, you will, no doubt, bless the cherry, but you probably won’t bless the tree, and its most unlikely that you will bless the orchard. We need to work in such a way that we bless the orchard. In other words, we want to see the whole community improve with ‘all boats rise on a rising tide.’” (more…)

Pt. England Primary: Gifting Language

December 4, 2018 by

This is the seventh 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.

What a gift it was to enjoy a morning with Russell Burt at Pt. England Primary in Auckland. Burt and his wife Dorothy have spent their adult lives seeking ways to improve the lives of students and families who are most marginalized from mainstream society. They embrace the cultures of the families they serve. They dig deep into the research on the science of learning, instruction, and assessment to figure out how to pull the pieces together to optimize learning. They are on a continual search for a way to organize classrooms, schools, and communities that will help every student thrive and discover their fullest potential. (more…)

Mapping out the Terrain of Competency-Based Education Implementation

November 6, 2018 by

One of the greatest inventions of the last twenty years has to be mapping services like Mapquest or Google Maps. Not only can a mapping service help you navigate to any location, it can also use real-time traffic and road conditions to help you avoid long delays during transit. Our research on K-12 principals’ perceptions of the facilitators and barriers to competency-based education implementation is intended to act like a Mapquest or Google Maps of sort. Let me explain.

Many states, districts, and/or schools around the United States are transitioning to a competency-based approach to education. This means that state policymakers as well as school and district leaders find themselves searching for the most efficient roadmap to help their communities and other stakeholders move from a traditional system of education to a competency-based system. Many advocates have written about quality design principles and other characteristics of competency-based systems, which can serve as a basic roadmap for policymakers and practitioners as they start along this journey. What is less known, however, are the traffic and road conditions that can occur along the way to either speed along or hinder the journey, depending on the context and real-time adjustments. (more…)

Competency-Based Education: The Break from Tradition that Our Schools Need

October 22, 2018 by

At this year’s iNACOL 2018 Symposium, I will have two opportunities to share my thoughts and experiences after spending a decade leading a New Hampshire high school through a transformation from a traditional to a competency-based system. The first will be in a Sunday morning pre-conference session entitled “Learning from School-Based Practitioners: Building a Successful Competency-Based Education System in your District/School.” There, my colleague Jonathan Vander Els and I will share resources and tools from our 2017 Solution Tree book entitled Breaking With Tradition, the Shift to Competency-Based Learning in PLCs at Work. On Tuesday morning, Jonathan and I will join our good friends: competency educational specialist Rose Colby and Ace Parsi of the National Center for Learning Disabilities for a breakout session entitled “Leveraging Competency Education to Promote Equity for ALL Students by Prioritizing Academic and Personal Competencies Supported by Effective Leadership, Personalization, and PLCs.” (more…)

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…)

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