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Tag: federal policy

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

January 1, 2016 by

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AMThe Next State of Learning project, newly launched by the Innovation Lab Network (ILN) at CCSSO, aims to capture the stories of states who are scaling and sharing innovations within their districts. The project will capture the stories of how states in the ILN are scaling and sharing innovation within their districts.

Thought Leadership

  • Why do we continue to teach students grade-level standards based on their age when their skills are actually two, three, or more academic levels lower (or higher)? Chris Sturgis tackles this issue about reframing education and teaching students where they are in their learning (not where they “should” be).
  • Andrew Miller wrote an article providing teaching strategies to avoid “learned helplessness” in students and empowering students to be self-directed learners. These strategies include making learning resources available, asking questions “for” (not “about”) learning, not giving students’ answers and allowing for failure.
  • KnowledgeWorks outlines the essentials of competency-based education, including transparent learning outcomes, mastery rather than seat time, real and relevant assignments, and a community-based strategic design plan.
  • This story on Coyote Springs Elementary in Arizona describes the implications when schools make other important skills and competencies such as the 4 C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) a core part of the design of the school.

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Nellie Mae Education Foundation Statement on ESSA

December 19, 2015 by

Nellie MaeThis statement was released by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation on December 11, 2015.

President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act(ESSA) into law yesterday. This response to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – the 2002 rendition of the historic Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which first passed in the civil rights-rich 60’s, was long overdue. Our experience with NCLB made it clear that a rewrite was needed based on what we have learned about the limits of an approach to school improvement driven by high standards, measured by narrow assessments and provoked by mostly uninteresting, remedial consequences.

From our perspective at The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the new law holds great promise for advancing public education, as one of its explicit aims is to grow, spread and improve innovative, evidence-based, student-centered approaches to learning – where learning is personalized, competency-based, dependent on strong student ownership, and not limited to traditional classrooms or classrooms at all. This is good news.

We also believe that there are aspects of this new direction that demand vigilant attention. As we open up opportunities for creativity in terms of educational design, we must make sure that we organize for universal attainment of deeper learning outcomes and do not unintentionally leave more learners behind in the process.

If our nation is going to advance, we must be sure that creative learning designs are effective ones, including in our poorest communities. We must ensure that we are elevating the learning and readiness of graduates of all colors in all zip codes to combat the growing economic inequalities that are so pervasive across our country. While the move to state-owned responsibility and district-based accountability may be the way forward, as advocates of equity it leaves us uneasy, even as it replaces the untenable approaches to securing equity in NCLB.

ESSA mandates a big shift toward balancing shared responsibility, as the law moves significant decision-making about responses to low performance to the district level guided by state authority. However, the distribution of authority to the local level will demand capacity-building so that local communities can meet those responsibilities. Today most districts do not have the capacity to do so, as so much energy has been directed to a compliance-based framework. This is an issue any advocates of dramatic, equitable change and improvement will care about. It is one thing to open up opportunity. It is another to be able to fully, expertly and responsibly take advantage of the opportunity. Wealthy districts may be able to meet the challenge even if they do not need to, while those who must cannot without support.

On the positive side for student-centered learning advocates, the law includes opportunities for more states to follow the lead of what many in New England have been pursuing for years – personalized, competency-based approaches. It also allows for research supported approaches. This is no accident. One can see echoes of good, innovative work from Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and particularly New Hampshire in many passages of ESSA. New England should be proud. (more…)

Time to Tackle the Elephant

December 16, 2015 by

elephantWhy do we continue to teach students grade-level standards based on their age when their skills are actually two, three, or more academic levels lower?

In states and districts across the country, educators are frustrated and wondering why their students aren’t able to learn algebra as demonstrated on state accountability exams. There are conversations about redesigning the courses, more remediation, and even questions about whether the exams are too hard or the expectations too high. All of it assumes that algebra should be taught in a specific grade and that we will just keep teaching it to kids over and over again until they get it. What’s that saying about insanity – Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

Competency education suggests another solution: Ensure that students have all the pre-requisite knowledge and are able to engage in skills based on where they are, not where they should be. When we teach them in their “zone” of proximal development, it is personalized learning (or student-centered if you prefer that language). When we teach students based on their grade, we are using the batch method of the antiquated factory model. It may help some students just to have more time and instruction to learn algebra. But for some who may have been passed on to the next grade without becoming proficient or who may have missed concepts along the way due to lack of class attendance because of housing instability, being in the child welfare system, or suffering from poor health, they may need to work in their zone to build up the pre-requisite skills. (more…)

In Support of ESEA and the Innovative Assessment Pilot

December 1, 2015 by

SenateThe following letter regarding support of reauthorizing the ESEA with its Innovative Assessment Pilot has been sent to Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Education, and Labor, and Pensions; Senator Patty Murray, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Congressman John Kline, Chairman, House Committee on Education and the Workforce; and Bobby Scott, Ranking Member, House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Here is a link to the final bill language. Maria Worthen, iNACOL’s Vice President for Federal and State Policy, provided a quick summary of the importance of this bill to our work in advancing competency education: (more…)

iNACOL Applauds U.S. Congress ESEA Conference Committee Vote to Reauthorize Federal K-12 Education Law

November 23, 2015 by

inacolThis post originally appeared at iNACOL on November 19, 2015. 

Today, the United States House of Representatives and Senate Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Conference Committee voted overwhelmingly (39-1) in favor of advancing an agreement to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which would replace No Child Left Behind. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

September 9, 2015 by

A documentary titled “Most Likely to Succeed is premiering at the 2015 Sundance Festival. This trailer discusses grades, and this short video clip highlights students creating innovative projects and authentic assessments. Chris Sturgis provides commentary on this documentary in this blog post.

NewsScreen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AM

  • This article provides an overview of the information management tool called Slate, which provides data-driven support to teachers, powering them with the information to provide immediate supports to students in real-time.
  • Most conversations in the education sphere revolve around ensuring students are ready for college and career. This article flips the conversation and asks if our colleges are student-ready.
  • In Pittsburgh, digital badges find their niche through a community effort made possible through the support of Pittsburgh City of Learning. Five thousand learners streamed into 100 (mostly free) summer programs, including digital media programs, drop-in maker spaces, and paid internships, recording their work through badging.
  • California’s Lindsay Unified School District has eliminated grades and grade levels. This article provides an overview of Lindsay’s design, discusses the transition for stakeholders, and explores the changing grading system.

Movement in the States

  • Idaho is moving away from seat time and towards a mastery-based system through HB 110, which was signed into law on March 19, 2015 by Governor Otter, and the law took effect on July 1.
  • Ohio began the piloting process for competency education, made possible through HB 64, which allows five selected applicants to plan and implement competency-based programs during the pilot’s duration (2015-16 through 2018-19 school years).
  • This Op/Ed article by David Kelley provides a wonderful overview of the history of Vermont K-12 education, including bold initiatives toward revolutionary change through personalized learning plans and proficiency-based learning.
  • Nebraska’s State Board of Education started a new study committee on competency education. The first task assigned to the Board is to define competency-based education.
  • Connecticut passed legislation five years ago in an effort to boost high school graduation requirements, including higher standards in mathematics, science and foreign language, among others. Implementation has been delayed due to funding issues, and some say the legislation is now outdated because more credits does not equate to higher standards.

Helpful Resources

 

 

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