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Tag: grading and transcripts

Recognizing Outstanding Student Achievement in Competency-Based Schools

July 8, 2019 by

Student in CornfieldCompetencyWorks recently received this inquiry from an administrator of a school that was working to deepen its competency-based learning practices:

One question we are thinking about is how to honor academic achievement and progress in proficiency-based grading/reporting. We are finding, for instance, that naming students to an “honor roll” for Quarter 1 is a difficult fit for a system that intentionally honors growth over time. Are there new or different ways of honoring academic achievement and progress that are emerging as schools transition to proficiency-based systems?

This is an important question that many people in the field are grappling with. The challenge is in part because “honor roll” feels like a vestige of the ranking and sorting mechanisms of traditional grading systems. At the same time, competency-based systems are developing ways for students to achieve and demonstrate deeper learning, as well as ways to recognize these achievements. The field doesn’t have a single way of approaching this, but there are some emerging strategies and ways of thinking about it.

The following quotation from Steve Lavoie, written while he was principal at Richmond Middle/High School in RSU2 in Maine, recognizes the tensions in transforming between traditional and competency-based practices. He wrote on CompetencyWorks,“Decide what issues are critical and that you’ll ‘go to the wall for.’ You will be faced with questions that tie to the traditional system. Expect them and decide ahead of time whether or not you are willing to ‘die on that hill’ prior to the question being asked. Questions relating to GPA, class rank, Top Ten, and honor roll should be anticipated. Your stakeholders may believe they are important components that should be retained. Issues like these feel like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, but they are not critical issues that should interfere with the implementation of the big picture. They can be made to fit your program. Be prepared to give in on some issues but stand firm on the critical ones like your core belief that all students need to demonstrate proficiency on all standards required for graduation. That would be the hill to die on.”

In the CompetencyWorks Issue Brief, Progress and Proficiency: Redesigning Grading for Competency Education, Chris Sturgis wrote, “It’s unlikely that the need for ranking will ever be absolutely obsolete.
Highly selective colleges and those who want to attend them are going to want to be able to identify the ‘best students’ through some mechanism that recognizes distinction.” In the same issue brief, Brian Stack, principal at Sanborn Regional High School in New Hampshire, asks, “Why not instead set a bar that you will use to distinguish an ‘honor graduate,’ and any student who is able to reach (or exceed) that bar gets the distinction at graduation. From year to year, the number of honor graduates will change, but the standard never would. Every student would have the opportunity to be considered an honor graduate, provided they meet the requirements.”

Here are a few examples of schools that use honor rolls within CBE systems: (more…)

In Real Life: How do CBE systems support all students to reach mastery?

February 20, 2019 by

Alison Kearney, Assistant Principal, Noble High School, ME

This article is the seventh in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Since learners are met where they are in CBE systems and are supported to reach mastery at their own pace, what supports are needed to ensure everyone succeeds?

To better understand this question, I sat down with Alison Kearney, Assistant Principal at Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine.

A rural school, Noble High School serves roughly 1,100 students across three towns up to an hour bus ride away. Its students often come from rural poor backgrounds, influencing how the school has structured its student support system. Noble High’s proficiency-based system was profiled in a CompetencyWorks blog post in 2015.

(more…)

Insights from Aotearoa New Zealand: NCEA

December 18, 2018 by

This is the twelfth 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.If you are going to New Zealand, be sure to read NCEA in Context. There are other resources at NZQA and NZCER that will be valuable as well.

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is not a high school diploma. It is a certificate of achievement that indicates the level of achievement that students have learned at their completion of school. NCEA certificates of achievement aren’t received. They are earned. Time in the seat doesn’t matter. What matters is demonstrating learning.

The NCEA is a very sophisticated system with intentional thought given to ensuring that it is meaningful to students, schools, and the tertiary system. I’m going to do my best to translate the NCEA to our American education system by highlighting features of the system in bold. (more…)

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #11: Establish Mechanisms to Ensure Consistency and Reliability

December 5, 2018 by

This is the twelfth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #11 Establish Mechanisms to Ensure Consistency and Reliability on page 77. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

In the midst of writing all the papers for the Summit, a colleague said to me, “Pick consistency or reliability but not both.” I thought about it for a bit, but after looking up the definitions, I ended up feeling that both were actually important. (more…)

What to Do When the Field Goes “Mustard”

November 15, 2018 by

This is the seventh in a series on problems of practice. (Check out the articles on gradingattendancepace, individualized learning, granularity, and late work.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

What do we call the stage of field development when the so-called “experts” and expert organizations are providing inadequate, weak, or even bad advice? Several Google searches didn’t come up with an answer, so I’m going to call it the “mustard” stage… As in, we aren’t performing at the level needed to fully support districts and schools – in other words, we “aren’t cutting the mustard.” (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’s Happening with Competency-Based Transcripts and Rethinking College Admissions in the United States

July 2, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on June 11, 2018.

What are competency-based transcripts, and why are they important?

The New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) explains the main issue: “For more than a century, American high school students have earned ‘credits’ for passing courses. When they accumulate enough credits, they receive a diploma. The problem with this approach is that credits do not always equal competency.”

Competency-based transcripts provide colleges and universities with comprehensive information on a high school student’s knowledge, skills and performance upon graduation. They communicate what a student knows and can do in the transition from secondary to postsecondary systems of education based on actual mastery and offer a comprehensive record of achievement in a competency-based learning model. (more…)

Rethinking the High School Credential

May 25, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on May 4, 2018.

Most American youth don’t get what they need from high school. There are lots of reasons–some economic, some cultural, some educational. Two root problems are how we’ve defined the finish line (graduation requirements) and how we communicate success (transcript). (more…)

What’s New

May 11, 2018 by

Math, writing, and executive function! Learn about the search for new breakthroughs in The Gates Foundation and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Want Your Ideas On The Future Of Education.

US Department of Education is highlighting personalized learning in the Education Innovation and Research grants.

Must Read: I’ve just read the following two papers and think they are must reads! We all need to know the research on learning sciences. Seriously, everyone in the education field, from a person designing a new application to the U.S. Secretary of Education, needs to dive into the learning sciences if they haven’t already. Two relatively recent papers are really helpful as they summarize the research across fields:

These aren’t simple papers, so I suggest engaging colleagues to read and discuss the sections of the papers that relate the most directly to you and your work. We need similar papers that summarize what we know about instruction in each of the content areas, as well.

What’s Happening in the States

Local media is a great way to get a sense of what is going on in a region. It’s a clue that grading has been introduced too early when there are letters to the editor in support of A-F grading. (more…)

Mastery Credits? Mastery Transcript?

May 7, 2018 by

Image from the MTC website.

I had the opportunity to participate in a fascinating conversation as a member of the advisory council to Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) a few weeks ago. Lots of people I’ve never met. Lots of ideas that got me thinking. Here’s a bit of background about MTC, as we should all follow and support what they are doing, followed by some of my take-aways.

Background on the Mastery Transcript Consortium (more…)

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