Tag: curriculum and instruction

Pt. England Primary: Making Sense of the New Zealand Curriculum

November 8, 2018 by

Principal Russell Burt

This is the third 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.

Soon after Russell Burt, principal of Pt. England Primary in Auckland, and I met, he was taking out the New Zealand National Curriculum. “You’ve seen this, right?” he asked. “This is the bible for schools. Like the bible, there are two parts, and they don’t always go together that easily.”
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CBE Problems of Practice: Attendance Requirements

October 3, 2018 by

This is the second in a series on problems of practice. (Check out the article on grading.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

2. Removing attendance requirements. A few district leaders have argued that attendance requirements in a competency-based school are not necessary. They are wrong. Competency-based education is much more than making “time a variable” or “self-paced.” Its also about schools taking responsibility (accountability if you will) to make sure students fully master the skills and knowledge they need to be successful as thay make the transition to college, careers…and life.

Thus, districts that have removed attendance requirements in early stages of implementing competency education are missing some of the core concepts of competency-based education. We want to measure learning, not the amount of time students were in school. However, time is a variable doesn’t mean students don’t need to come to school. Time is a variable means that the effort to learn and the necessary instructional support will vary which may require more time and more resources. (more…)

Missteps in Implementing Competency Education: Introducing Grading Too Early

September 24, 2018 by

This is the first in a series on problems of practice. (Get started by reading the introduction.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

1. Insisting on moving to a 1-4 grading scale too early. Many, many districts moved to adopt the 1-4 grading scale almost immediately. This decision initially draws public attention — but it ends up focused on grading not learning. And it fails to help people understand “why” schools need to change. Furthermore, early grading changes have continued to create problems because they are poorly implemented. (See the article about what needs to be in place before you introduce standards-based grading.) The result is that parents are raising concerns about standards-referenced grading as a form of communicating how their children are doing in school.

On top of poor implementation problems, although higher education has been supportive many scholarships across New England still ask for and require letter grades (and these are far too numerous to get at all of them), and the NCAA, while entirely supportive, requires A-F reporting. At the end of the day, it is a large draw down on a district or schools political capital to make this shift and only a small philosophical victory. FYI, in those states advancing comepetency education through state policies changes in grading are not required.

Getting Implementation Right: There are three lessons from higher quality competency-based schools across the country: (more…)

What Not To Do: Six Problematic Practices in the Transition to Competency Education

September 17, 2018 by

Implementation mistakes cause harm in both the short run and the long run. In the short run, students may be receiving mixed messages that can impact learning, engagement, and motivation or result in inadequate support. In the long run, it harms the competency education movement.

There are always going to be concerns raised by those who oppose competency education based on an ideological or political standpoint such as anti-standards, a wish to return to covering content, and an enduring fear that communism may rear its head if we hold high expectations for all students. However, the larger threat to advancing competency education is shallow or one-off implementation and failure to not address problems of practice . (Please see David Ruff’s article Six Fixes for Proficiency-Based Learning.)

The risk of poor implementation is that competency-based education becomes defined by the problems in the field rather than a definitional, aspirational, or research-based approach. Can you imagine describing the field of medicine, journalism, or agriculture by the errors, missteps, or bad actors? This is why building a field with an agreed upon working definition, design principles, and quality standards is important. Otherwise we leave ourselves to being defined, as in this case, by poor practice.

The Critics Are Our Friends

The fact of the matter is when our critics comment on problems of practice they are often right to do so. We need to take these types of critiques seriously and correct them. These practices are likely to be problematic unless a highly developed model is in place. (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: How New is a New School Year?

September 14, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on September 11, 2018. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

The new year is underway. New classes, new teachers, new supplies, new buildings (for some). But how new should the new year be in a learner centered proficiency based environment? Is it really a clean slate, a fresh start, a brand new year of learning? Maybe the start of a new school year should be thought of more as a resuming of the learning rather than a new start of learning. (more…)

Six Fixes for Proficiency-Based Learning

August 28, 2018 by
david ruff

David Ruff

Two realities almost always arise when we engage in systemic change. First, while the change is framed as universally beneficial, it’s almost always disruptive and frequently gives rise to new and additional concerns. Second, implementation never goes as smoothly as planned. This certainly has happened in Maine as the state has embarked on a courageous journey to shift from an unfair and inadequate learning system to one that is equitable and just.

It is very good news that as this shift has been underway, Maine teachers have remained steadfast in their commitment to better learning for students. Early indications from this change are all good as four-year high school graduation rates in Maine have increased from 80% to 87% over the past seven years, college enrollment rates have increased from 60% to 64%, and college persistence rates have increased from 75% to 77%.[1]

Having noted this, we have to face a reality of the current K-12 public education system in America—it is unfair and designed to inequitably rank and sort students. The US public education system inequitably favors students who start better prepared, who have additional external support, and who are not impinged by non-school demands on their time. In the face of these and other significant obstacles, teachers make heroic efforts every day to treat students fairly and provide myriad learning opportunities to overcome these concerns. While many student success stories result from these significant efforts, these daily acts of heroism fall short of what is needed to close our pernicious equity gaps and ensure each and every high school graduate is well-prepared for the rigors of college and work, and the privileges and opportunities of civic life. (more…)

Tips for Teachers

August 24, 2018 by

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

Courtney Belolan, Instructional Coach at RSU #2 in Maine, is a frequent writer about the practices teachers can use in the classroom to personalize, motivate, and engage students. She writes from her teacher background for teachers. Her weekly tips focus in on one practice, one challenge, or one question at a time. She’s covered a lot of ground over the years, and I thought it might be helpful for teachers if they could access them more easily.

2012

Target Practice

Dancing Out Front

Be Reasonable!

Application of Learning: It Doesn’t Have To Be An Outhouse

Exceeding Is More Complicated Than Adding Glitter and Flash

Testing Myths

Understanding Formative Assessment Using the Teaching and Learning Möbius Strip

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Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Planning to Hold onto the Learning

June 8, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on June 5, 2018. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

It is easy, almost natural, to see these last few weeks of the year as an end, something that needs to be tied up neatly. In some ways it is. But what would happen if we stopped thinking of the last weeks as the end, and started thinking of it as something else? Instead of closing the books and cleaning out the lockers, what if we found a way to keep the books open, so to speak? I’m not talking about summer work, I’m thinking a little differently here. (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Yes They Can

May 18, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on April 30, 2018. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

Do you remember hearing, perhaps back in your teacher prep program, about the study where a teacher was given a group of Special Ed students but was told that they were Gifted and Talented students, and then the learners performed at the same level as the Gifted and Talented learners would? Well, it is a thing. And it is real. (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Three Ways to Bring More Learner Voice into Learning Opportunities

March 30, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on March 19, 2018. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

Including learner voice and choice is a central principle in learner-centered proficiency-based practices, and here in RSU2. For the most part, learners have ample opportunities for choice in our classrooms and schools. Learners are choosing seminars. Learners are choosing topics. Learners are choosing final products. Learners are choosing input resources, and even practice activities in some cases. Including learner voice, on the other hand, is more complicated and happens in an authentic way less often. (more…)

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