Tag: competency education, competency-based learning

New Metrics and Student Engagement System

August 4, 2017 by

It is definitely time for the competency education innovators in K-12 and higher education to be learning from each other.

One of the opportunities for learning from each other is in thinking about information management systems that support student learning and collect what students know and are able to do in some form of a transcript. For example, in skimming the case study on the University of Wisconsin Flexible Option, I found two ideas that can push our thinking forward in K-12.

Metrics on Pace

In the Metrics Framework, the University of Wisconsin identifies three elements of pace:

  • Measuring rate of assessment completion within each subscription period (time) to reach personal educational goals
  • Assessing rate against student’s planned rate
  • Measuring nature of student’s engagement with curriculum

For aggregated student level data, University of Wisconsin is “aggregating average (mean, mode, median) pace through a program. This aggregate should be measured from student matriculation to completion (or other reason student leaves program). Aggregate pace can also be measured yearly. Aggregate pace can also be analyzed by types of students including demographics, professional interests, etc.”

Student Engagement System

(more…)

Iteration in Action: Eagle Academy

August 3, 2017 by

This post and all pictures first appeared at Springpoint on January 11, 2017. This is the second in a series on iteration in school design. 

At E3agle Academy, a public high school in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, students support one another in mastering rigorous, college-ready standards. With a personalized approach and a focus on social justice, students are encouraged to connect classroom content to their experience in the real world, and to move at their own pace along a sequence of clear benchmarks.

Principal Lennox Thompson describes the school’s approach as fundamentally student-centered. “I want to give students benchmarks so they can track how they are progressing. This lets them stay on top of their work so they don’t fall behind and then get overwhelmed,” he says. To facilitate this, E3agle places students into groups of 10-12 to form “advise-aeries” (an aerie is an eagle’s nest). Advisors deliver students’ personalized schedules, and serve as a hub for messages to and from students’ core subject teachers.

On a recent visit, students were learning about proportions in a co-taught immersion math class. A teacher was leading a lesson on body image, anchored in an activity measuring Barbie’s body proportions. Students broke into groups and measured their own body proportions before presenting on their findings: How do normal body proportions compare to Barbie’s, and what does that say about body image? The activity gave students an opportunity to develop mastery of math and social studies skills—first in a group setting, and then individually.

E3agle’s underlying belief is that young people—even those who are entering high school with significant gaps in skills and knowledge—know themselves and can be trusted to make positive choices about how they use their time and energy. Teachers and administrators understand that for many students, the structural mechanisms of promotion between freshman and sophomore years must be more fluid, and that some students will take more time to finish courses than others. For students, the awareness that mastery of content—rather than “seat time”—is what matters has compelled them to take charge of their learning like never before.

Supporting mastery-based learning

To drive home the message that learning—rather than class standing—is what matters most, E3agle combines freshmen and sophomores in some courses like English and Social Studies, where the gradient of skills is more fluid. Recently, on a recent afternoon in an English class, freshmen helped sophomores analyze song lyrics to find evidence of characterization. When asked, nearly every student could articulate the exact competencies they were working toward. They knew the end goal and how they would work toward it.

English teacher Eleanor Salzbrenner describes a student named Marco*, who struggled in his first year, to manage his time and coursework. This year, says Salzbrenner, with attention and support from his teachers—and lots of opportunities to continue to work toward his mastery goals in each of his classes— “he’s almost chasing [us] down the hallway, saying ‘I need to get this done!’” (more…)

Equity for ELs: Learning English in a Competency-Based System

August 2, 2017 by

Laureen Avery

Across the country, educators and policymakers are coming to the same conclusion: the structure of the traditional system is a barrier. The premise of competency education is that the traditional education structure, which is designed to sort students, can be replaced with one that is designed for every student to succeed. When we design for ensuring mastery, we have to build around equity and draw upon the research that informs us about how students learn best.

Chris Sturgis, 2017. In Pursuit of Equality: A Framework for Equity Strategies in Competency- Based Education.

Public education (and public educators) has made a promise that every student will have the opportunity to learn and develop the skills and competencies needed for success beyond high school. It is clear that traditional, established structures have broken this promise for many students, and it is imperative that the developing models of education address these past inequities as core elements in their fundamental structures and design.

English learners (ELs) are one of the groups that fared poorly under the traditional models. Next generation education models (personalized learning, blended learning, competency-based education, and others) are slowly developing an understanding of how to translate beliefs and values into actual practices that transform the core experience of education for English learners. Creating new models that work for English learners must move beyond the need for cultural awareness and into a deep knowledge of how to nurture proficiency in academic language.

iNACOL recently published the results of a broad-based information collection activity in “Next Generation Learning Models For English Language Learners” (Natalie Truong, June 2017). One of the promising practices highlighted was the use of language progressions to support students in a personalized, competency-based system. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

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What's new! star graphicAlison Hramiec, Head of School at Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA), penned at three-part blog series on school culture:

  1. The Crucial Factor in School Success is School Culture (Part 1 of 3)
  2. Creating a School Culture Where Students and Teachers Both Flourish (Part 2 of 3)
  3. Hiring: The Very First Step to a Flourishing School Culture (Part 3 of 3)

Here is another article on how ‘last-chance’ schools like BDEA prove to be the best chance to help struggling students.

Addressing Concerns and Misconceptions

There are more concerns being raised about personalized learning and competency-based education. Some concerns are grounded in misconceptions and not fully understanding what the concepts mean to students and their learning. Here is an example of an article that opposes competency education, but demonstrates misconceptions about the premise and goals of competency-based education.

Other concerns are focused on responding to state expectations, rather than focusing on what students need in order to succeed. We share these with you so that leaders in competency-based education have an opportunity to think about how to respond to these misconceptions and concerns upfront, and to make sure that you are addressing them in design and implementation.

Social Emotional Learning

English Language Learners

This Forbes piece highlights the International High School at Langley Park as a shining example of a school that serves immigrant and refugee students and is achieving notable success. Here are a couple articles on other schools within the International Network of Public Schools:

iNACOL released a new report, Next Generation Learning Models for English Language Learners: Promising Practices and Considerations for Teaching and Learning, which highlights promising practices and trends in personalized learning and competency-based education for English language learner (ELL) students. This paper shares case studies and examples from schools and programs that are currently creating personalized, competency-based learning environments for ELL students. (more…)

Iteration in Action: Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design

August 1, 2017 by

This post and all pictures first appeared at Springpoint on January 11, 2017. This is the first in a series on iteration in school design. 

On a typical day at the Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design (DSISD), groups of four or five students are reading different novels in ELA class. They discuss the characters and plots of their books, record standards-based observations and respond to questions on their Chromebooks. One group is predicting a protagonist’s next moves, and another is using context clues to infer the definitions of key words.

The curriculum, designed by English teacher Stephanie Price, allows students to move through the course in two distinct, yet intertwined, paths—some are in AP English and others are in Intro to Lit (the equivalent of a standard ninth-grade English curriculum). Students can opt into whichever path they want, and rather than being in the same path for an entire year, they have an opportunity to move between them at the beginning of each trimester. If a student wants more of a challenge or is improving quickly, she can opt into AP English after just a few months. To read more about Ms. Price’s classroom design, see here.

Student-driven design decisions

When DSISD opened, it didn’t feature this kind of deeply integrated differentiation. Originally, students spent the majority of their time working individually to master online course material. The curriculum was mastery-based, but—according to students—it wasn’t engaging. Alex, a student who chose DSISD for its emphasis on student agency, thought there should be more time for direct instruction. So Alex, along with a few other student leaders, took action. As Alex describes it, they “held the principal captive” to discuss “how students are learning. Not necessarily what they were learning, but how.”

Principal Daniel Medved remembers the conversation differently. Because his team had designed a space for student leaders to share their feedback on the model, they were comfortable articulating their desire for more direct instruction. In response to their concerns, Medved adjusted DSISD’s model to support teachers in rewriting their lessons to incorporate more direct instruction alongside personalized projects. The shift gave students the tangible instructional benefits they asked for, but it also sent a powerful message: As one student said, “if you [have feedback] and you talk to Principal Medved about it, and it’s reasonable, then he will do everything he can” to make a change.

DSISD students feel that they’re part of a dynamic community that responds rapidly to their needs and gives them room to grow. According to another student, “I used to have the mindset that once I turned in a paper and got a grade, it was done. The greatest thing about this school is that you can always make yourself and the grade better.” (more…)

July 2017 CompetencyWorks Catch-Up

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Here are the highlights from July 2017 on CompetencyWorks. Happy reading. And let us know if you have questions you want us to delve into!

 

SITE VISITS AND CASE STUDIES

Cleveland Metropolitan Schools

 

ASSESSMENT

Converting 1-4 to 100 Point Scale and then Averaging

 

HIGHER EDUCATION

What’s New in Competency-Based Higher Education? by Natalie Abel

 

EDUCATOR RESOURCES

CBE Across America: What’s New in 2017 (Updated)

 

AROUND THE WEB

Center for Collaborative Education

Christensen Institute

EdSurge

Getting Smart

New Mexico Center for School Leadership

Students at the Center Hub

Red Flag: Converting 1-4 to 100 Point Scale and then Averaging

July 31, 2017 by

We have a problem. More and more districts and schools are supposedly converting to competency education, but they are doing so without committing to the big idea that we want to make sure every students succeeds. Committing to the big idea is essential — some might call this demanding excellence, others equity. In competency education, it really becomes the same thing.

At CompetencyWorks, we’ve realized that it isn’t going to help to keep talking about the exemplars (from districts that are able to show that students are benefiting) and the “look-fors” (what we think are effective practices based on visiting so many schools) that we include in our case studies of districts and schools. We also need to talk about the red flags (a sign that something isn’t working right) and missteps (either problematic design or implementation) to help districts identify potential problems sooner.

This morning I read an article about a community in Maine that may be taking a misstep with their new diploma system. The article focuses on the issue of grading, and it appears that they are missing the concept of why 1-4 scoring is more valuable than A-F grading. It’s not clear what else they may have or are planning to put into place – so I’m not referring to their overall plan.

              From the article: An initial draft of the proficiency based diploma was introduced at the May 15 School Committee meeting. Using the new proficiency based learning system, the draft stated that students are evaluated on a 1 to 4 scale, with 1 corresponding to “does not meet proficiency” to 4 which is “exceeds proficiency.” The initial draft took the proficiency grades (1-4) and converted them into numerical grades (100 point scale)… An example from the Proficiency Based Learning and Diploma Implementation Proposal: A student earns a 77, 85, and 88 (out of a 100 point scale) on three assessments for a graduation standard. The average of these three is 83. Therefore, the numeric grade is 83; the proficiency score for that graduation standard is 3.0 (a.k.a. proficient).

From what I can tell, it looks like the district shifts from A-F (which is usually based on a 100 point scale), turned it to 1-4, and then turned it back into the 100 point scale. (more…)

CBE Across America: What’s New in 2017

July 27, 2017 by

Snapshot

This is an updated version of the original list, published here. All new case studies in 2017 have been highlighted in yellow. 

We recently updated the map of competency education because so many states – including Idaho, Florida, Ohio, and Utah – have taken steps forward for state policies to enable and invest in competency-based education. In reflecting upon how competency-based education is developing, we pulled together all the “case studies” we have done based on site visits and interviews in seventeen states. As soon as we can, we want to visit Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, Wisconsin, and we just heard about a district in Mississippi.

For those of you trying to learn more abut competency education, we are hearing that some districts are using the case studies as discussion tools. Everyone reads about one school and then talks about what is challenging, how their understanding of the traditional system is changing, and what ideas they think might be valuable. It’s just a warm-up to embracing the values and assumptions that are the roots of competency education.

Alaska

Chugach School District (2015)

Chugach School District: A Personalized, Performance-Based System

Part 1 – Explorations in Competency Education

Part 2 – Driven by Student Empowerment: Chugach School District

Part 3 – Chugach School District’s Performance-Based Infrastructure

Part 4 – Chugach Teachers Talk about Teaching

Part 5 – Ownership, Not Buy-In: An Interview with Bob Crumley, Superintendent Chugach School District

Part 6 – Chugach School District: Performance-Based Education in a One-Room School House

Part 7 – Teaching through the Culture: Native Education in a Performance-Based System

Part 8 – Performance-Based Home Schooling

Highland Tech Charter School, Alaska (2014)

Part 1 – Highland Tech Charter School – Putting it All Together

Part 2 – Advice From Highland Tech Students

Arkansas

Springdale School District (2015)

Innovation Springing Up in Springdale

Student-Focused Learning in Springdale (2017)

Part 1 – Springdale, Arkansas: A Tradition of Innovation and Future of Opportunity

Part 2 – Building Learning Momentum at Springdale’s School of Innovation

Part 3 – Finding Time and Providing Support for Student-Driven Learning

Part 4 – Encouraging Learning Risks and Growth

California

Lindsay Unified High School  (2015)

Part 1 – Six Trends at Lindsay Unified School District

Part 2 – Preparing Students for Life….Not Just College and Careers

Part 3 – An Interview with Principal Jaime Robles, Lindsay High School

Part 4 – An Interview with Brett Grimm: How Lindsay Unified Serves ELL Students

Part 5 – It Starts with Pedagogy: How Lindsay Unified is Integrating Blended Learning

Colorado

District 51 (2017)

Part 1 – Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51

Part 2 – Building Consensus for Change at D51

Part 3 – The Vision of Performance-Based Education at D51

Part 4 – Holacracy: Organizing for Change at D51

Part 5 – Growing into the Framework: D51’s Implementation Strategy

Part 6 – Laying the Foundation with Culture and Climate

Part 7 – Supporting Teachers at D51: A Conversation with the Professional Learning Facilitators

Part 8 – Creating a Transparent Performance-Based System at D51

Part 9 – New Emerson: Learning the Effective Practices of the Learner-Centered Classroom

Part 10 – Transparency and Trust

Part 11 – Lincoln Orchard Mesa: What Did You Notice?

Part 12 – Performance-Based Learning in a Dual Immersion School

Part 13 – R5 High School: Abuzz with Learning

Part 14 – The Teacher Association Perspective on Performance-Based Learning

Part 15 – A Journey of Discovery at Broadway Elementary

Connecticut

Overview

Superintendents Leading the Way in Connecticut

New Haven (2016)

Creating Meaningful Instruction through Mastery-Based Learning in New Haven, CT

New Haven Academy: Pedagogy Comes First

Windsor Locks Public Schools (2016) (more…)

These Red Flags Signal Competency Education’s Three Biggest Misconceptions

July 26, 2017 by

This post was first published at EdSurge on June 13, 2017. It has been slightly revised from the original version. 

I’ve continued to go back to Tony Wan’s piece, Why There’s Little Consistency in Defining Competency-Based Education. I’m thrilled he wrote it, as I think it holds up a mirror to all of us working in the world of competency-based education about where we can do better. However, I think the title may be a bit misleading.

I actually find that there is a medium amount of consistency: It could certainly be better, but there is much more consistency about competency education than about other ideas that have been introduced into the world of education. (After the 21st Century Community Schools were created, for example, I was traumatized as a program officer at the Mott Foundation by the hours and hours of cross-talk about the similarities and differences between a community school, an after-school program, and a youth program in the community.)

I do agree wholeheartedly that there are a few places where misconceptions are getting in our way. We’ve discovered that the five-part working definition of competency education developed by 100 innovators six years ago hasn’t protected us from misunderstandings. People are quite comfortable picking the first of the five parts—students advance upon demonstrated mastery—and focusing on pace rather than helping every student successfully learn.

If you don’t understand that the traditional system of education is designed to rank and sort students, then it’s really hard to understand competency-based education. States, districts, and schools that are transitioning to competency education are redesigning the system to respond to each and every student so that they master the skills they need for higher level school work—and for their futures. Think about it as designing for success, rather than ranking and sorting.

Here are the three red flags that indicate to me a misunderstanding of the overarching goal and structure of competency education:

1. “Our school has flexible pacing. Students can go as fast or slow as they want.”

One, two, three red flags go up when I hear this.

Allowing students to keep working on things that they don’t quite understand or haven’t gained fluency in—rather than moving on to the next topic—is important. So is enabling students to advance above grade level. However, that’s not the reason that competency education is valuable.

The big difference is that in competency education, districts and schools are building internal accountability: Schools commit to providing instruction and support until the student masters skills and content. In the traditional system, schools don’t do much if students don’t learn what is required; most students are going to get promoted anyway.

The second red flag is the idea that teachers don’t have any role in helping students progress at a pace that is moving them toward graduation. I actually find the idea of self-pacing to be bordering on silly. Sure, some students are going to zip through the material. But there are plenty of students who are going to need help in thinking about timelines and progress benchmarks.

Students are also going to require opportunities to reflect with teachers or advisors on their pace of learning and what can be done if they aren’t making progress. They need opportunities for reflection as well as coaching in order to build on the lifelong learning skills they are going to need after graduation. These skills include understanding the power of a growth mindset, the habits of work and learning, and the ability to manage their emotions.

Remember: Advance upon mastery isn’t about pace, it’s about schools taking responsibility for making sure students are learning.

2. “Some of our students are faster learners and some are slower learners.”

(more…)

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