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Tag: leadership

Moving Toward Mastery Blog Series Conclusion

March 1, 2019 by

This is the final post in a series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

Over the past six weeks this site has shared nine posts about Moving Toward Mastery, a report focused on growing, developing, and sustaining educators for competency-based education. (See the bottom of this post for links to all posts in the series.) Each post has expanded upon a theme from the report and worked to translate ideas into practical actions for leaders. As the blog series comes to a close with this tenth and final post, I am compelled to share my own reflections on the vision, the process, and the possibilities ahead.

I have been working on Moving Toward Mastery for almost a year. From the outset it has been a profoundly collaborative effort—over one hundred people participated on the technical advisory group, I have interviewed over two dozen leaders, and I have connected with many people working in the field to turn the report’s ideas into practice. Before I write anything else, I need to write this: thank you to the community of passionate people who tuned in and turned out to make this project possible.

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ENTRY POINTS – First Steps Toward a Lifelong Profession

February 4, 2019 by

This is the seventh post in a ten-part series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in the Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education report accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

“A lifelong profession engages, develops and sustains educators over the course of their careers. Educators are supported and trusted as respected members of a respected profession. They are meaningfully and adequately prepared for the roles they will take on, they have opportunity to grow and specialize in their careers, and they are evaluated in ways that support improvement and promote advancement.” – Moving Toward Mastery, p. 51

Becoming a masterful educator does not happen overnight, or in a year, or in two. It is a continuous process of learning and growth. As Peter Senge wrote, “personal mastery is not something you possess. It is a process. It is a lifelong discipline.” Getting to equity for our students and families means finding, developing, and keeping exceptional people in the classroom.

Moving Toward Mastery paints a picture of teaching as a “lifelong” profession. But admittedly, of all the ideas in the paper, “lifelong” can seem the most abstract. Of course we want teachers to have powerful experiences in their preparation programs, to be able to learn and grow as educators, to be evaluated in fair and meaningful ways, and to stay in the profession while they develop mastery. But the changes needed to bring about these conditions can seem far away, especially for people working in schools or districts.

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ACTIONS – Ideas and Strategies for School Leaders

January 25, 2019 by

This is the fifth post in a 10-part series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

School leaders are closest to teachers, who in turn are closest to students. As a school leader, your daily actions, the values you model, and the decisions you make about resources like time and people have a direct impact on teachers and on the quality of education. Toward the end of Moving Toward Mastery I describe the leverage that school leaders have in their roles (page 69). But, I stop short of describing specific actions leaders can take. This post picks up where the paper left off, offering three big ideas and ten action ideas for school leaders who are trying to grow, develop and sustain educators for competency-based education. 

School leaders, my goal is not to tell you what to do — developing a change strategy is a very specific, local process. And, my goal is not to give you a lecture on what “should” be happening in your school. I recognize the complexity of the roles you play day to day. My goal is simply to offer ideas for actions that can serve as conversation points, entry points, or points of continuous improvement. (more…)

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #15: Develop Processes for Ongoing Continuous Improvement and Organizational Learning

December 27, 2018 by

This is the sixteenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #15 Develop Processes for Ongoing Continuous Improvement and Organizational Learning on page 96. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

I think that one can argue that every school, whether it is a traditional school or a personalized, competency-based one, should have processes for continuous improvement in place. It only makes sense that any organization should be in the process of improving. However, traditional schools and school systems are highly bureaucratic in nature. The emphasis is much more on compliance than it is on an organizational drive toward excellence.

Our schools operate in an environment with layers and layers of policy, regulation, and reporting. These layers and layers of governance often create cultures of fear and mistrust. Thus, creating a strong continuous improvement and organizational learning culture, structure, and processes requires leadership. It may be the personal leadership of a teacher who uses formative assessment data to improve his own skills in learning how to help students develop the metacognitive and emotional skills to self-regulate their thinking and behavior. It may be the departmental leader who looks deeply at the data to identify that there are gaps in the domain-specific instructional approaches of teachers. Or it may be the organizational leadership of the principal or the superintendent who takes the courageous stance that they are going to do what’s best for students and manage the compliance requirements as needed.

The point is: In a bureaucratic world, truly engaging in organizational learning and continuous improvement can’t be separated from leadership. (more…)

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #9: Ensure Responsiveness

November 30, 2018 by

This is the tenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #9 Ensure Responsiveness on page 66. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

We don’t blink if you are at the second-grade level when you are in the fourth grade. If teachers really understand the standards and the progressions that are needed to help students move, then we can bridge the gaps. We don’t pretend anymore that students can do higher level work if they don’t have the prerequisites. It makes teaching much more complex as we are teaching students, not just going through a curriculum. Jennifer Denny, Teacher, Red Bank Elementary School, Lexington School District, SC, 2016. (more…)

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #5: Cultivate Empowering and Distributed Leadership

November 15, 2018 by

This is the sixth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #5 Cultivate Empowering and Distributed Leadership on page 48. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted. For more on equity, see Designing for Equity: Leveraging Competency-Based Education to Ensure All Students Succeed.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to implement or sustain a personalized, competency-based system through top-down bureaucratic approaches. You can’t simply write a memo to tell schools and educators how to change their practices. You can’t tell people to change their beliefs and assumptions. The change process requires engagement. Engagement requires trusting relationships and time for dialogue and learning. Trust is developed and demonstrated by listening to, investing in, and respecting the ability of others to make strong decisions. Thus, districts and schools making headway in creating competency-based systems will usually refer to the importance of empowerment and distributed leadership that give schools and educators more autonomy. But autonomy doesn’t mean the individual makes all decisions. Rather, it refers to decisions being made closer to and involving the people who are being impacted. (more…)

The New School Rules

June 1, 2018 by

After reading in the The Culture Code about the strategy for creating high-performing teams by establishing a set of simple rules to guide complex decisions (heuristics), I decided to pick up The New School Rules by Anthony Kim and Alexis Gonzales-Black of Ed Elements. The six new rules for helping schools to become more responsive are:

  1. Plan for change, not perfection.
  2. Build trust and allow authority to spread.
  3. Define the work before you define the people.
  4. Aim for “safe enough to try” rather than consensus.
  5. Harness the flow and let information go.
  6. Schools grow when people grow.

These rules are for education leaders in the district office and schools, as well as anyone on teams. They are rules that can help shake off the bureaucratic behaviors, what Sal Khan refers to as “habits,” that make up much of the culture in traditional schools. (more…)

The Code of Culture: Establishing Purpose in Competency-Based Schools (Part 3)

May 16, 2018 by

This is the third and final article in an exploration of how to create a culture of learning, inclusivity, and empowerment based on the book The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. Start the series here.

The implementation strategies used by many of the districts and schools converting to competency education begin with a process of shared inquiry and building a shared purpose. Most leaders will emphasize that it is critically important to fully engage the community in the process of establishing a shared purpose. (See Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders.) (more…)

The Culture Code: Turning Connection into Cooperation in Competency-Based Schools (Part 2)

May 15, 2018 by

This is the second part of a three-part series on creating a culture of learning, inclusivity, and empowerment that are important principles for equity and quality of competency-based systems. Start the series here.

Once you have created a culture of safety, how does a leader draw on that to create a high performing team?

In exploring the second skill of Sharing Vulnerability, Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Code, describes cohesive teams with “moments of fluid, trusting cooperation.” Drawing on examples from Pixar and the Navy Seals, Coyle describes attributes of high performing teams that I don’t think I have ever seen in a district, school, or organization advancing competency-based education. These are teams that have evolved to be able to endure directness and candidness at very high levels. They can tolerate, and actually value, the vulnerability of facing up to and owning mistakes, weaknesses, and poor performance. (more…)

What Beliefs are the Bedrock of Your Competency-Based System?

March 9, 2018 by

We believe…Students need to learn academic knowledge, the skills to apply it, and the lifelong learning skills to be able to use it.

As you may know, iNACOL/CompetencyWorks has been using a collaborative process to build knowledge and ideals called the TAG. It’s short for Technical Advisory Group, but there isn’t much that feels technical at all – its just one giant swirl of learning going on for five days. The TAG that was working on developing a shared understanding of competency-based education and an updated working definition (stay tuned – the work continues and should be released by end of 2018) created a number of unanticipated products.

One of these products is a set of beliefs shared by the 30+ people in the TAG (see below). They worked hard at trying to create what you could call a set of guiding principles. Beliefs and guiding principles aren’t just something you co-create with a community. They can be used in multiple ways: to design surveys to find out if the culture in fact is embracing these beliefs; opportunity for discourse and reflection; and decision-making. (more…)

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