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Tag: districts

Pittsfield Rethinks Adult Roles

March 3, 2014 by

(This is the third part of a series on Pittsfield: See Part 1Part 2 and Part 4.)

One of the big questions that we have barely begun to tackle is how do districts have to be transformed within a personalized, competency-based environment?

Supt. John Freeman

Supt. John Freeman

In preparing to transform the Pittsfield Middle and High School to a personalized, competency-based school, Pittsfield School District established a five-part logic model that included “redefine adult roles”. (Read more about Pittsfield’s competency education infrastructure, personalized approaches, and implementation insights.)

Organizational Changes: Superintendent John Freeman explained that they needed a flatter or more distributed organizational management structure.  Even in a small district, silos existed, with the elementary schools and Pittsfield Middle and High School operating very independently. More people are reporting to him now, allowing him to ensure that the core values are at the heart of implementation decisions.

In looking at the job requirements of the principal, PSD confronted one of the issues we all know to be true – the job of principal requires an enormous set of expertise and skills.  The instructional knowledge and skills are distinctly different from those of operating a facility. So PSD has replaced the principal positions with two deans – the Dean of Instruction and the Dean of Operations.  In addition, they created the position of Director of College and Career Readiness (DCCR) to direct more attention to the preparation and transition of students for graduation. The ELO coordinator and counselors report to the DCCR

Using Data:  Data is used increasingly to help guide decisions at PSD, building upon the work of Paul Bambrick-Santoyo. Given that PowerSchool has yet to make the necessary changes for a personalized, competency-based district to monitor student progress, there is a limit on how much real-time data can be used to help PSD improve their services. PSD’s small size is an advantage, however, as teachers can identify students who are struggling or not making adequate progress and engage the students other teachers as needed.

Revisiting Job Descriptions:  With the support of William Bryan, PSD began a process of revisiting jobs.  In an inclusive process, they agreed upon the purpose of the position, success measures, critical interdependencies, contact priorities, and a position description that includes basic and advanced knowledge, skills and talents, and performance measures.  Here are some of the expectations of a PMHS teacher: (more…)

Strengthening the Field

February 11, 2014 by

Robert Marzano

I received two emails today that indicate that the “field” of competency education is strengthening.  First, Marzano Research Laboratory (MRL) announced that it is acquiring the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (RISC). MRL and RISC have a long-standing relationship. The acquisition will strengthen RISC (Rick Schreiber will continue as executive director) and expand MRL’s capacity to provide technical assistance related to competency education.  It also indicates that there is enough momentum in competency education for MRL to see this as a new market niche.

The press release quoted Dr. Marzano, ” “I am thrilled at the opportunity to take this relationship to the next level. The RISC model puts together all the critical components that we’ve known for years are important to school reform. What’s nice about it is, it has them all and it has them in a framework where they all interact and they are all very concrete. And the best part about it is that there are actually districts that have implemented the model that are demonstrating results in terms of student learning and student achievement.  This is a pretty powerful model. It’s got some strong evidence that it works.”

The second email was an announcement of a webinar with Dr. Robert J. Marzano and Richard A. DeLorenzo, Cofounder of the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (RISC), Former Superintendent of Chugach School District on February 18, 2014 1:00-3:00 pm MST. (Register Here)The goals of this webinar include: answering the question “What is competency-based education?”; addressing misconceptions about the role of standards in a competency-based school system; sharing current and existing research about competency-based education; and sharing experiences and challenges in implementing competency-based school systems.

The expansion of competency and high quality implementation has been constrained by limited technical assistance providers. This is an incredible step forward for all of us.


Lindsay Unified — Design Elements

June 17, 2013 by
Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 11.52.03 AM

from LUSD website

We often think of innovation as an urban phenomena, a natural outgrowth of concentration of an industry, strong peer networks, and competition driving toward excellence.  However, Lindsay, California shows us that innovation can take place anywhere, even in a town of 12,000, beribboned by orange groves at the edge of California’s Central Valley.

The Lindsay Unified School District is well on their way to transforming their entire system to a personalized, performance-based system.  The conversations among district management teams vibrate with how they can fully implement a system in which all students are able to achieve.  Students are part of the process – taking advantage of the new possibilities and helping to solve problems as they pop up. The high school began implementation in 2009 and they are now beginning to roll it out to middle and elementary schools.

This case study will be in two parts. This initial post will be on the design elements and the second part will be on the big take-aways from my site visit.


Design Elements

Lindsay is partnering with the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC), so many of the design elements will be familiar to those who have visited Maine or Adams 50.

Overarching Design: LUSD describes their system as performance-based: “In a performance-based system, students work at their performance level and advance through the curriculum when they have demonstrated proficiency of the required knowledge or skills.” LUSD identifies the following benefits of a performance-based system. Note they use the phrase “learner” instead of student and “facilitator” instead of teacher. (more…)

Teachers: The Engine of Change

February 22, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2012-11-21 at 9.22.12 AMI remember the first time I heard a principal explain, “We try to run our school through dialogue not memo. I work hard to make sure that very few things are communicated through memo.” Trained by the Industrial Areas Foundation in relational organizing, this principal was describing what it takes to operate within a distributed leadership model. I keep thinking about this as competency education expands because I’m not convinced we can make the transition to competency-based instruction by memo. The thing that keeps me up in the middle of the night is seeing competency education corrupted by a compliance-oriented, fixed mindset.

So you understand why I was fascinated by the section on leadership in Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education. I’ve read it a couple of times and it certainly resonates with what I’ve seen in my site visits around the country.

Hear how Grey-New Gloucester school district are engaging educators on the February 28th webinar.

The authors highlight the dynamics in which “Teacher leadership provided considerable momentum in the institutionalization of competency education practices.” (Interestingly in Section Five they highlight the leadership role of students as well.) The tuning process at Vergennes High School in Vermont in which teachers work together to clarify the benchmarks and what proficiency looks like is described in the report: (more…)

Whole District Reform – Oh My!

February 15, 2013 by
Bruce Beasley

Bruce Beasley

I’ve never seen anything like this in all my days of visiting schools and districts — whole district reform designed around a shared vision, similar practices, and such a high degree of transparency.  Of course we have a growing number of competency-based schools generating innovative practices, but my visits to Maine and Lindsay California have convinced me that the power of competency education is through aligning all the schools!

You’ll have a chance to hear about how a district is making this shift at our next webinar on February 26th at  3:30 – 4:30. Register here.

Superintendent Bruce Beasley and  Karen Caprio, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development from MSAD 15 or Gray-New Gloucester, Maine will be joining us to take us through their journey.

·      Why did MSAD15 decided to embrace a proficiency-based model?

·      What was the pre-implementation process?

·      What is the overall structure or approach you use in proficiency-based education?

·      What were the major issues that developed when you first began to implement proficiency-based education?

·      How does your approach vary across elementary, middle and high school?

·      What were the major issues that developed in implementation in high school?

If you want to do some background reading before the webinar, MSAD 15 is highlighted in Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education .

Getting Started

January 8, 2013 by
From Maine Ctr for Best Practices

From Maine Ctr for Best Practices

I’ve been getting increased requests from districts and schools looking for consultants or resources to help them get started in the transformation from a time-based to competency-based system.  So I’ve put together a short list of some of the resources that are available to help folks get started (and I’ll keep adding to the wiki as more resources become available). One thing to pay attention to — all the districts that I know about that are getting results were participating with the Reinventing Schools Coalition at some point.

Strategic and Action Plans

Portability and Access

July 6, 2012 by

David Domenici at the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings has been visiting state juvenile justice leaders this spring exploring how they are providing educational services in youth detention facilities.  He has been identifying barriers to ensuring young people who are in the juvenile justice system have access to education, an absolutely critical component for reducing recidivism.  In last month’s newsletter he describes the time-based Carnegie unit’s “especially pernicious impact of this framework on young people in the juvenile justice system, who are older and significantly credit deficient.”

In this month’s newsletter David goes on to highlight two challenges young people face when they are transitioning back from secure settings: (more…)

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