Tag: equity

How Do We Ensure Equity and Prevent Tracking: Holding All Students to the Same High Standards and Expectations

October 17, 2014 by
Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick

To ensure equity in new learning models that are competency-based, holding all students to the same high academic standards is critical.

Giving students choices and agency on how, when, where they learn is key – so that students have access to online resources, tools, digital content, online courses and modules with robust feedback loops to help them learn any time and everywhere.

Standards, world-class knowledge, and skills are critical as the floor (not the ceiling) of expectations for each and every student.  From the report, Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education: “Standards set the benchmark foundation for student success. We must ensure robust competencies and high standards for all students. (more…)

My Personal Journey Coming to Grips with White-Skinned Privilege

September 23, 2014 by

Image 1I frankly don’t know where to begin. I was asked to write a blog because I am supposedly one of the few white people in the field of education reform who has successfully diversified their education reform organizations. First of all, I hope this is not true and that there are many white leaders with wonderfully diverse boards and staff. Secondly, while I would agree that I was able to help diversify my organization, the Center for Youth Development and Education within the Commonwealth Corporation, the word “successfully” begs for more explanation.

So here goes.  While I considered myself a radical educator at the time, I frankly had no real clue about white-skin privilege or the reality of racism that people of color face daily in this country. I was the head of a group of approximately twenty professionals in the Boston area, which included four black and brown people.  When I left, the numbers were about 11-11.  But just counting the demographic breakdown doesn’t begin to surface the heart of the issue. (more…)

Three Insights on “Self-Directed Learning”—and How to Aim for Equity

September 4, 2014 by
Julia Freeland

Julia Freeland

Originally posted Sept. 3, 2014 by the Christensen Institute

Last week, FSG Consulting’s Matt Wilka and Jeff Cohen released a case study, “Self-Directed Learning at Summit Public Schools,” as part of a Dell Foundation-sponsored effort to catalogue Summit Public Schools’ model. It’s a good up-to-date look at some of the new efforts afoot in the Bay Area-based charter management organization. The authors do an excellent job showing how shifting from a teacher-driven to a student-directed model impacts students, teachers, parents, and administrators respectively.

Given its overlap with blended, personalized, and competency-based education, I personally am still trying to understand exactly how we should define “self-directed learning” in a manner that will be useful to the field. I worry that deployed irresponsibly, a “self-directed” approach could suffer some of the same pitfalls in terms of equity that online and competency-based education may suffer: that is, students who can take advantage of greater flexibility or ownership can sail ahead, leaving other students in the dust. Luckily Summit Public Schools maintains an unwavering commitment to closing the achievement gap, so if anyone can square self-directed learning and equity, it’s them. With that in mind, here are three of my takeaways from the new case study: (more…)

Reflections on Ferguson: Why We Need to Increase Racial Diversity in the Field of Competency Education

August 22, 2014 by
Chris Sturgis

Chris Sturgis

The courageous people of Ferguson have been standing up for their young men as well as forcing all of us to face the crisis that threatens African American boys’ survival, ability to graduate high school, get a job, and be actively engaged as fathers to their children.  However, there is no reason that they have to be standing alone. It’s up to all of us to eliminate the patterns of structural racism and implicit bias that reinforce inequity and threaten the lives of African-American young men.

All of us in the field of competency education want all children to succeed.  Our intentions are good. However, how can we really be sure that we ourselves do not carry some bias deep in our minds when the leaders in our field are almost all white? If we are committed to equity in our schools, how can we build the capacity in our organizations to be able to systematically address structural racism and bias?

I think that we have evidence that we do have a bias problem in our field. The leadership in the field and our organizations for the most part are very white.  Our success in advancing competency education is threatened if we fail to correct this situation by increasing the racial diversity of our leadership. First, many people see lack of diversity as a sign of organizational weakness. If you can’t figure out how to have diversity on your board and staff, how can you effectively train others or develop policies that don’t reinforce racial equity? (more…)

Five Reasons Competency Education Will Improve Equity

July 15, 2014 by
Chris Sturgis

Chris Sturgis

Why do we think that competency education is a better strategy to serve our lowest achieving students, including low-income students, minority students, English language learners, and those with special educational needs? Here are my top five reasons:

  1. Competency education is designed to identify and address gaps in knowledge and skills. We will always have students with gaps in knowledge, whether because of poverty-induced mobility, recent immigration, military transfers or health issues. When we identify and address gaps, students have a better chance at progressing.  As Paul Leather, NH’s Deputy Commissioner of Education, has pointed out, “We learn by connecting concepts and building expertise over time. If we do not learn a concept, new learning cannot be built on it.” (from Necessary for Success)
  2. Transparency and modularization is empowering and motivating. They are the ingredients for student ownership. Success begets success, as students see short-term gains and clearly marked next steps. Transparency also challenges bias and stereotypes that may contribute to lower achievement. (more…)

Next Stop, Level 4

March 24, 2014 by

elevator buttonsDepending on which knowledge taxonomy you use, the highest level with the deepest learning is either Level 4 or Level 6. As we think about equity in a personalized, competency-based world, how do we ensure that all students – even those who entered school at an earlier point on the learning progression than their peers and are on a steeper trajectory – have the chance to deeply engage in learning? How do we make sure that students who want extra challenges but want to stay with their peers can continue to grow without advancing to the next level of studies?

The granularity of standards may be too fine to have students trying to do Level 4 for each one. Learning progressions organized around anchor (power) standards and essential understandings will lend themselves more easily to knowledge utilization. Still, we know that incorporating projects, designed by teachers, students or together, takes time, planning, resources and flexibility. So how are schools managing to create Level 4 opportunities and ensuring that all students have a chance to dive deep into their learning?

Schools are using a variety of techniques: (more…)

Where Things Can Go Wrong

March 1, 2013 by

csbouldersmallIn the last three days, in three different meetings, I’ve been asked to summarize what I’m learning about competency education. In yesterday’s meeting with RTT districts I shared the following list of things people starting off in competency education need to think about earlier than later in their process…i.e. this is a place where implementation can go wrong.

1) Start With The Students:  We think a lot about college and career readiness, Common Core curriculum, and what we expect students to know and do.  If we want to get students there then we need to start with where they are.  This means when students enter your school, doing assessments to understand where they are on their learning progression and what gaps they have is essential. Teachers will need to do pre-assessments when students enter their classroom to understand how they are going to need to differentiate, group/regroup.

This is one of the game-changing dynamics of competency education. At today’s meeting with Race to the Top districts this kicked off a huge conversation. Once you do this we can no longer ignore the fact that some students are 2,3, 4 or 5 years behind or don’t have the prerequisite skills they need to do the grade-level curriculum.  Scott Benson, Gates Foundation referred to this as the “design and accountability challenge of our time “.  I call it the Elephant that we’ve been successfully ignoring for decades.  There are many ways of trying to accelerate learning…but we haven’t been systematic in researching this so that districts and schools can be sure they are deploying resources most cost-effectively. (more…)

What Happens Once a Student Reaches Proficiency?

January 2, 2013 by
from Making Mastery Work

from Making Mastery Work

During my travels in Maine last fall to three districts in the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning that are well on their way to fully implementing competency education, an interesting question popped up during conversations with students:  What happens once a student reaches proficiency? As I talked to students, they all had different responses to how they used the time that is built into the school day (reading The Learning Edge for more information about how districts are embedding support time):

Faster:  Amidst a gaggle of 7th grade boys, one student clearly liked to power ahead in math.  He emphasized it was only in math (his father was a math teacher) and that he was at “teacher-pace” in his other courses. If he had extra time in the class or in the day he would work on his math. Once he reached proficiency (usually described as a 3 or above), he would move on to the next unit as the learning targets, curriculum modules, and resources were available online.

Better:  In a conversation at a high school, two young women, self-described best friends, discussed how they have a competition among themselves.  They aim to get “4’s” on all assessments, in all classes, all the times.  If they have extra time in the day they work on whatever topics they needed to in order to demonstrate the application of their learning beyond what was taught in the classroom to their teacher.

Passion:  One young man, showing the slumped body language of disengagement, simply said that he does the minimum as he isn’t interested in school. He aims for a 3 at teacher-pace. With his art notebook always at his side, he uses an extra time to do the one thing he really likes – drawing.

Fun: A quiet young woman told me that it was doing the work to get a 4 that was the fun part of school. She felt that she could be creative, explore something new, apply the learning in a way that was meaningful to her.  From what I can tell, the option of a 4 was a door to the joy of learning.  (Check out the video The Box to see what this can mean for students).

(more…)

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