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Tag: habits/lifelong learning competencies/college-career readiness

What I’m Learning About Student Agency

December 2, 2015 by

for agency postOn Thursday, December 3 at 7 pm ET the topic of the #NGLCchat series will be on student agency. Guests include Andrew K. Miller, who serves on the National Faculty for the Buck Institute and ASCD; Principal Michele Savage and teacher Casey Montigney from Shue-Medill Middle School in Newark, DE; and Dave Lash and Dr. Grace Belfiore, developers of the MyWays project.

In preparation for the discussion, I’ve pulled a number of blogs together that touch on student agency. These include blogs written on the topic, how schools are structuring and supporting students to have agency, classroom practices, and my personal reflections as I learn more about it. (more…)

Casco Bay High School: We Will Shape our School by our Learning

November 30, 2015 by
Casco

From the Casco Bay High School Website

This post is part of the series Road Trip to Maine. This is the fourth of a four-part look at Casco Bay High School. Read Tips and Takeaways (Part 1), Learning as Exploration (Part 2), The What and HOW of Learning, and We Will Shape our School by our Learning (Part 4). 

As is the case with everything at Casco Bay High School, the system of supports is designed around making sure every student can participate in support (i.e., access). It is designed to be meaningful whether you are a student learning English, have an IEP, are struggling to get a “meets” (i.e., proficiency), or are generating a 4.0 in the academic grades by constantly producing work that gets an “exceed.” Support doesn’t happen once in awhile – it is embedded throughout every part of the Casco Bay High School experience. (more…)

Casco Bay High School: Learning as Exploration

November 18, 2015 by

MapThis post is part of the series Road Trip to Maine. This is the second of a four-part look at Casco Bay High School. Read Tips and Takeaways (Part 1), Learning as Exploration (Part 2), The What and HOW of Learning, and We Will Shape our School by our Learning (Part 4).

FUN!

From start to finish of my day at Casco Bay High School, the overwhelming feeling was one of fun. Or perhaps it is really an all-out pervasive joy of learning. I saw it in the students gathering together in the Great Space before the start of the school day, the group conversations among students, the discussions with teachers, and the knock-me-over-I-was-laughing-so-hard game of Your Greatest Fan with the staff and visiting educators from Chicago at the end of the day. (You can get a taste of FUN at the video Movin’ On Up – the celebration when students get accepted to their first college.)

Before I dive into describing the proficiency-based system (remember Maine uses the term proficiency-based), it is important to understand the overarching design of Casco. It’s not easy, as Casco is what I described as an integrated model. The pieces all work together – take away one element and it will have direct implications on the rest of the model.

1. Size and Student Population

Sharing space with the Portland Arts and Technology High Schools, Casco serves, at its maximum capacity, 400 students with about 50 percent FRL. It is one of three public high schools in Portland and has a large number English Language Learners, many of whom are from the over ten African countries for which Portland serves as a refugee settlement city. With a waiting list, students are admitted to Casco based on a lottery weighted for Free and Reduced Lunch, special education, and ELL. Given that refugee families are in the midst of many changes as they create new lives, mobility is an issue. In addition, Casco accepts students in all grades throughout high school.

2. Expedition, Community, and Adolescent Development

Casco is an Expeditionary Learning school with an emphasis on achievement, character, and meaningful work. (If you haven’t visited it yet, check out the Illuminating Standards that has been developed by a partnership between Expeditionary Learning and Harvard Ed School.) Again, Casco is so integrated that any activity is designed to build on all three components.

Expedition: The concept of expeditions, or learning as an exploration, is constantly drawn upon throughout the school. Expeditions, all of which are interdisciplinary, can take place within the school, on Cow Island for outdoor learning, or in the community to look at topics such as sustainable foods. Each class has a major question guiding their year. This year, sophomores are exploring Africa Rising, juniors are looking at income equality, and seniors are learning about the Arab world with a final project of turning the school into a museum so others can learn as well. Freshmen and seniors have Quests, and the Junior Journey is a week of investigation, community service, oral histories, and video production on inequity in an American city such as New Orleans, NYC, or Biloxi. Here is a video about expeditions created by Edutopia in the Schools That Work series.

Another form for students to explore their passions, the world, and their own perspective on the world is through intensives. These week-long opportunities may include learning to swim, learning conflict resolutions skills, or embarking on career exploration. (more…)

8 Ways To Encourage Soft Skills (Core Dispositions) in our Children

September 8, 2015 by

This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on August 29, 2015.

In this post on soft skills I asked the question: What do we want our kids to be like? When it comes down to it, we parents want more than exemplary test scores and gold stars on papers, we want what will last. We want the kinds of character traits our kids will rely on to pull them through when we aren’t around, like optimism or grit. We want something at the core of who they are that will help them make the right decision when nobody’s looking: integrity. We want them to try one more time when they are ready to give up: perseverance. We want that irreplaceable feeling inside that grins from ear to ear when they accomplish something awesome without taking shortcuts or using cheat codes that only comes from intrinsic motivation and pride in their own efforts. We want them to see through the eyes of others and help those in need, feeling compassion and empathy.

itssofluffy_1

It’s so fluffy!

Parents and teachers alike agree this kind of personal growth and development matters, but these qualities still seem intangible, subjective, and hard to see and measure. I mean, what does (insert soft skill) look like? The very term ‘soft skills’ sounds pretty fluffy and doesn’t command the sense of importance it deserves.  So how might we, as parents, highlight and nurture these core dispositions in our children? (more…)

What’s Personalization Got to Do with It? On the Road to College and Career Success

August 26, 2015 by

I am delighted to have the chance to visit the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative in Hazard, KY and meet with educators in their Next Generation Leadership Academy this week. They are spending time reflecting on the different ways to think about college and career success. Below is my presentation on how we might begin to think about college and career success in a competency-based structure.

The districts that are part of the Next Generation Leadership Academy at the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative have been investing in many different ways to improve their schools. These include the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative to advance blended learning, efforts to raise student voice and leadership, personalized approaches to educator effectiveness, ways of approaching children wholistically, including early childhood health and trauma-informed services, and STEM.

What’s more even more impressive is that they are building their capacity to use design – enabling districts to begin to weave all these pieces together into the next generation districts and schools.

Slide 2

Designing anything always starts with having a clear idea of what you want to achieve. Sometimes, this is described as a problem you want to solve or something you want to improve, such as less expensive or more cost-effective. Or it may be described as your goal, the change you want to make happen in the world.

The question we have to ask ourselves in thinking about next generation education is what we want for our graduates of high school. We need to describe the change or, if you want to use a business lens, describe the product. However, there is also a big problem we are trying to solve that will shape every step of the design process. We haven’t yet been been able to figure out how to make sure all students become proficient in grade level skills, get a diploma, or are fully prepared for college. We need to think about the elements of a system that will be more reliable.

Today, we will spend sometime thinking about the goal, the system that would reduce inequity, and what it is going to take to get us from here to there. (more…)

Assessing Work Study Practices in a Competency Education School

July 19, 2015 by
Brian Stack

Brian Stack

Introduction

Five years ago, when my high school first implemented its competency education model, we as a faculty reached consensus on our purpose of grading. We believe that the purpose of grading is to communicate student achievement toward mastery of learning targets and standards. Grades represent what students learn, not what they earn. This helped us establish a common set of grading practices that every teacher agreed to use in their classrooms. They include things like the separation of formative and summative assessments (with formatives carrying no more than 10 percent weight for an overall course grade), the linking of summative assessments to performance indicators which link back to competencies in our grade book; the use of reassessment; the use of a 4.0 letter rubric scale for all assignments and assessments; and the separation of academics from academic behaviors. This article will focus on this last grading practice – from how we developed our academic behaviors to how we assess them and how we are using these grades to better prepare our students for their college and career futures.

At my school, we believe in the importance of separating what it is we want our students to know and be able to do (academics) from academic behaviors like working in groups, participating in class discussions, and meeting deadlines. While we firmly believe these behaviors are critical to academic achievement, comingling them with academic grades does not give us an accurate picture of the level of achievement our students have reached with their academic course competencies. When we first proposed this idea five years ago, separating behaviors was a big mind shift for many of our teachers who were accustomed to giving participation points as part of a course grade or taking points off of an assignment when they were turned in after a deadline. Early in our design phase we were charged with the task of finding a meaningful way to hold students accountable for these important work study practices without compromising the purity of our academic grades that we set out to establish. (more…)

Three Factors for Success: Agency, Integrated Identity, and Competencies

July 13, 2015 by

ydThere is growing interest – and I would also argue growing confusion – about all the skills and dispositions that aren’t academic content areas. They are often lumped together under the phrase “non-cognitive.” I fully agree with Andy Calkins that the term “non-cognitive” is problematic. In fact, I would say it is downright silly and makes us sound like we don’t know anything about learning and brain science when we suggest higher order thinking skills are not part of a cognitive process.

However, I don’t think the answer is in finding the right terminology, but in understanding how all these skills and dispositions relate to learning and to the development of young people into what we have called college and career ready. There is significant difference between dispositions such as grit or perseverance and skills related to self-knowledge such as self-control, not to mention skills used in projects and work such as collaboration and communication, and thinking skills such as analysis or evaluation used in almost every academic pursuit. I’m not quite sure where creativity goes at all …perhaps it is a category unto itself.

It’s important to understand these differences and think carefully about how they are nurtured, what they look like developmentally that might be structured as benchmarks, and how they are assessed. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating for formal summative assessments. It doesn’t make sense to me to try to have NAEP monitoring grit at this point in time unless we really understand how all these dispositions and skills fit together. And until we determine which ones, if any,  are important to measure. It’s much more important for us to figure out how schools and teachers, working with community partners, develop and assess as a cycle of learning and development.

The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research has just released an absolutely groundbreaking developmental framework that could help us on our way of understanding how these concept fit together. The report, Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework, provides a two-tier framework (captured in this infographic). The authors propose that young adults will be successful when three key factors are in place: agency, integrated identity, and competencies. According to the report, “These factors capture how a young adult poised for success interacts with the world (agency), the internal compass that a young adult uses to make decisions consistent with her values, beliefs, and goals (an integrated identity), and how she is able to be effective in different tasks (competencies).” Underlying the key factors are four foundational components: self-regulation, knowledge and skills, mindsets, and values.

The authors define these factors as:

Agency is the ability to make choices about and take an active role in one’s life path, rather than solely being the product of one’s circumstances. Agency requires the intentionality and forethought to derive a course of action and adjust that course as needed to reflect one’s identity, competencies, knowledge and skills, mindsets, and values. (more…)

Insights from ReSchool Colorado: Ensuring Quality and Equity

June 22, 2015 by

reschoolMy conversation with Amy Anderson and Colleen Broderick, the ReSchool Colorado team at the Donnell-Kay Foundation (see Thinking Way, Way, Way Outside the Box at the Donnell-Kay Foundation), has caused me a great deal of agitation. I just can’t stop thinking about how we ensure quality and equity as the education system is re-engineered around learning, pace, and progress rather than time, curriculum delivery, and sorting.

The ReSchool effort is aimed at creating a statewide system of multiple providers designed for learners from birth through young adulthood to allow them to bundle together their educational opportunities. Learners will have highly personalized pathways, which may or may not include learning together in a cohort over time, with a competency-based infrastructure providing the glue to the system. My brain goes a bit into overdrive trying to imagine this, but the overall concept seems sound (really different, but sound)…at least, until I start to think about how one ensures that students are getting what they need and in an equitable fashion. Then I think we need to have very intentional strategies to ensure quality/equity—such as advocacy to make sure students are getting the supports they need and calibration.

Donnell-Kay Foundation has been tackling one element of this through an inquiry process focused on advocates and advocacy. Advocates will play a central role in the ReSchool system (I assume because choice is a strong value undergirding the system they are designing, parents would select an organization or an individual that provides advocacy services), helping parents and students to bundle together the right mix of learning opportunities in support of their making progress within four competency-domains: academic preparedness, disciplined, socially aware, and a solution seeker. (more…)

Preparing Students for Life….Not Just College and Careers

March 10, 2015 by

LUSDThis is the second post in a series on Lindsay Unified High School. Click here for the first, third, fourth, and fifth posts.

Lindsay Unified School District has moved beyond preparing students for college and careers – they want to prepare their students for life. Chugach School District also thinks more broadly than the next step to college or careers. Focusing on the skills students will need for life is a good example of personalizing education, as the college/career goal is easily flipped to emphasize what our businesses and economy need for the future: the dynamic, ever-developing, wonderfully imperfect human beings who will shape the next generation of consumers.

Here are a few of the ways Lindsay is creating the capacity to prepare students for life: lifelong learning competencies, plans, projects, and transitional support.

Lifelong Learning Competencies

One of the big – perhaps I should say HUGE – advancements at Lindsay Unified School District is the effort they’ve put into clarifying the lifelong learning competencies they want students to develop before they graduate.

First, they’ve thought about the competencies developmentally with six phases: (more…)

Six Trends at Lindsay Unified School District

March 2, 2015 by
Tom Rooney

Tom Rooney

This is the first post in a series on Lindsay Unified School District. Read the second, third, fourth, and fifth posts here. 

If your district is thinking seriously about converting to competency education, you should definitely bring a team to visit to Lindsay Unified School District. When I was last there, they had forty-plus educators from two districts in California, seven from Colorado, and one from Florida. You can register here for a site visit. (For funders out there – it’s worth considering figuring out how to do a virtual tour, as more people want to visit than Lindsay can accommodate and it’s expensive for districts to send a team. Just think how we could also reduce our carbon footprint if videos were available.)

One of the highlights of the visit was Superintendent Tom Rooney’s opening talk. I’ve known Tom for several years but have never heard him as sharp, urgent, and impassioned. After watching the video Transformational Learning (available in Spanish, as well), Rooney talked about graduation day as a great day for students. “This is a great day for educators, as well. We are saying to the world, ‘We’ve had them for twelve or thirteen years and we’re sending them out into society. They are our product, our contribution to society.’” He then continued, “The reality for many of our graduates is that they soon find out they didn’t get what they needed. Some of the kids fall into deep despair when they realize they have been betrayed. They were told that they are ready, but they’re not.”

Rooney then told a story that occurred when Virgel Hammonds was a new principal at Lindsay Unified High School (Hammonds is now the superintendent at RSU2 in Maine). It was late spring and Hammonds was just getting settled into his office, when in walked a father and his son who had graduated the week before. The father took a newspaper off the desk and gave it to his son, asking him to read it. After a few minutes of silence, the young man looked up with his tears in his eyes. “Dad, you know I don’t know how to read.”

Betrayal indeed. This is a betrayal that occurs all across our country. (more…)

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