Tag: leadership

New Hampshire: Building an Integrated Competency-Based System

February 22, 2017 by

This is the fourteenth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

All children deserve and are capable of a rigorous learning environment where they demonstrate competence and confidence to move on when ready.
– NEW HAMPSHIRE’S STORY OF TRANSFORMATION

 

new_hampshireNew Hampshire’s move toward competency education started with the pilot of competency assessments in 1997, expanding from the original four high schools to nearly thirty by 2003. The pilots sparked conversation about the importance of measuring what students can do, not just what they know.

Even as one of the top performers in education in the country, New Hampshire knew they needed to do better to stay economically competitive. In 2005, they decided to redefine the Carnegie unit credit based on seat-time and replace it with a competency-based credit. Districts were charged with creating competencies and awarding high school credit based on those competencies by the 2008-09 school year. New Hampshire wanted credits to mean something.

In 2013, they took another step forward, revising the Minimum Standards for School Approval so that the structures of schools within the K-12 system would be designed for students to reach proficiency rather than allowing them to be passed on without addressing their gaps and weaknesses. The updated minimum standards made the expectations explicit that students should be able to access educational opportunities customized to their individualized needs and circumstances. Their boldest move of all was to believe so deeply in their teachers and their ability to create a system of calibrated, performance-based assessments that it opened the door to a new method of accountability.

New Hampshire’s Theory of Action

New Hampshire’s theory of action is two-fold. First, it seeks to create a culture of improvement based on support and incentives rather than blame and punitive techniques. Second, it assumes that state policy and local control must be balanced with formal processes for input or, whenever possible, co-designing. Even

though the Department Education has substantial administrative authority, it consistently uses collaborative processes to create a shared vision, reach consensus on major systems changes, and build capacity within districts and schools. The state consults with education associations and creates formal processes to enable those districts that want to roll up their sleeves to participate. (more…)

Maine: Making the Most of High-Leverage Strategies

February 20, 2017 by

This is the thirteenth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

Maine Definition of Proficiency-Based Education
Any system of academic instruction, assessment, grading, and reporting that is based on students demonstrating mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn before they progress to the next lesson, get promoted to the next grade level, or receive a diploma.

 

MaineMaine’s journey to a proficiency-based diploma can best be described as a bottom-up and top-down process. In 2007 and 2008, districts in Maine began the journey to personalized, proficiency-based systems. First, the Department of Education began to partner with the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC), now part of Marzano Research Labs, to provide training to districts on how to engage communities in creating shared vision, help teachers learn how to create the culture and practices for personalized learning, and convert to proficiency-based systems. The DOE then provided limited funding to those districts interested in creating more personalized learning experiences to continue ideas outlined by the RISC. When this funding was discontinued, vested districts created a professional community of learners, the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning.

With extensive district collaboration, the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning became a catalyst for personalized, proficiency-based learning in Maine. The MCCL districts played a powerful role as proof points when the Department of Education organized a statewide listening tour, followed thereafter by legislative tours that launched state-level conversations and informed the strategic plan Education Evolving. The result was the passage of LD1422, An Act To Prepare Maine People for the Future Economy by the state legislature in 2012.

LD1422 requires a standards-based education system that enables multiple pathways for pursuing and demonstrating learning, leading up to a proficiency-based diploma. It also requires the Department of Education to provide specific types of support and technical assistance to districts. The standards-based system is organized around the Maine Learning Results, established in 1997 and upgraded in 2011. Maine’s proficiency-based diploma policy requires students to be proficient in eight content areas – Career & Education Development, English Language Arts, Health Education & Physical Education, Mathematics, Science & Technology, Social Studies, Visual & Performing Arts, and World Languages – as well as the five cross-disciplinary Guiding Principles. (more…)

Teachers are Managers – So Let’s Give Them the Tools to Manage

February 16, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on January 24, 2017. 

julia-freeland-fisher

Julia Freeland Fisher

Good management is hard. Typically, employees grow into manager roles over time. In most industries, employees must first prove themselves effective at their own job; then, they may take on some administrative duties; and only much later do leaders oversee large groups of employees and become responsible for motivating, training, and retaining them.

But two major institutions buck this trend: our schools and our military. In both, newly minted young professionals are asked to take on management roles from the very start. And surpassing even the number of direct reports young military officers oversee, teachers must manage upwards of 30 people the moment they set foot in school: their students.

For any manager, numbers like these are daunting—and having the right systems in place to manage effectively can make all the difference. Good managers motivate and inspire; they move their charges forward toward individual and shared goals; they create structures that provide predictability; and they provide feedback that helps their employees improve over time. And amidst all of this, workplaces are changing and management practices have to adapt alongside them.

As theories of effective management have continued to evolve in the 21st century, teachers—some of our most unsung and overworked mangers—stand to benefit from developments in management science. This begs the question: how might teachers borrow from promising management practices in our country’s top companies?

In a new playbook out this week, our Adjunct Fellow Heather Staker tackles this question. “How to Create Higher Performing, Happier Classrooms in 7 Moves: A Playbook for Teachers” looks at vanguard management practices that are making their way into exciting new classroom models. The playbook summarizes findings from a yearlong pilot project in the San Francisco Bay Area. The project, led by Mallory Dwinal, David Richards, and Jennifer Wu, looked systematically at the structures and processes that high-performing managers at cutting-edge companies like Google, Zappos, and Geico have put into place to create their dynamic cultures. The researchers chose their target companies by consulting Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” list, case studies from Harvard Business School, and analyst reports.

What are managers at these firms doing right? (more…)

Growing into the Framework: D51’s Implementation Strategy

February 15, 2017 by

This article is the fifth in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Growing into the Framework

Superintendent Steve Schultz doesn’t ask “How are we going to implement?” Instead he thinks, “We have forty-four schools. How are they each going to grow into the framework?” The job of the district is to help learn, grow, and co-create with schools the new performance-based system (P-BL). The answer is through a more personalized approach that lets schools and educators start where they are in their current learning and move forward from there.

Five Phases of Implementation

Everything is in motion at District 51, and everyone is moving forward with the understanding that the different pieces will eventually need to be aligned. Thus, everything is draft and everything stays open until related work is done. Paul Jebe, Director of Educator Effectiveness, likened it to the whirling tea cups at Disneyland, bringing back that experience of loving every spin while simultaneously praying that it might be over soon.

Still in their first year of implementation, D51 has intensive activity in three of their five phases of work underway – so don’t make the mistake of thinking phase suggests sequence. There is a cohort of seven demonstration schools that are hungry to put the entire model into place as soon as it is ready. (When they sign up to be a demonstration school they are committing to demonstrating to others what performance-based learning looks like – it’s important to understand that they are not pilots.) The trick is that given the simultaneous development of many of the pieces, the demonstration schools might find themselves operating in the third phase even if they are missing some pieces from phases one or two. In a few more years, there will be efforts underway, schools and educators in all five phases as they continue to design, refine, skill-build, and engage.

D51 1

Remember, D51 describes the journey to transformation described in the previous article separately from the implementation strategy. Both are important – the journey captures the new conditions (strong learning culture, shared vision, collective ownership, personalized, transparency, and data-driven) that will shape the system (i.e., the paradigm shift), and the phases are how the work is being organized. Below is a quick scan of the phases and the different sets of work underway. (more…)

Massachusetts: Home of the Early Innovators

February 14, 2017 by

This is the twelfth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

We were evolving, with a greater range of learning opportunities for students. The question was how could we further institutionalize so that we offered a cohesive and consistent set of educational experiences that also allowed for personalized learning experiences? We think competency-based education is the answer.
– CYNDY TAYMORE , SUPERINTENDENT, MELROSE PUBLIC SCHOOL, MASSACHUSETTS

 

massachusettsThe Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the only state in New England that has not taken proactive steps toward introducing or advancing competency education statewide despite there being no significant policy obstacles beyond the end-of-year grade level accountability exams. Massachusetts has deployed a state exit examination as its high-leverage strategy to improve student achievement and ensure proficiency. Currently, students must score at a passing level on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System in English, math, and science.

As in other states, however, individual schools and districts often move ahead of the state leadership in building new approaches and working collaboratively around challenging issues. Massachusetts is home to two of the early models of competency-based education: Diploma Plus and Boston Day and Evening Academy. There are also a number of other schools across the state using rich, personalized learning strategies to engage students in their learning. For example, in Chelsea High School, a number of practices such as performance-based assessments and inquiry-based learning have deepened the learning opportunities. Plymouth high schools are creating more personalized approaches, including authentic assessments and involving students in leadership and decision-making. (more…)

Connecticut: Making Room for Innovation

February 9, 2017 by

connecticutThis is the eleventh post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

In Connecticut, superintendents are among the strongest advocates for a personalized, mastery-based system, as they believe it to be the best way to help each and every student reach college and career readiness. Across the state, communities are raising expectations; providing opportunity is no longer adequate, they want greater accountability that districts will fully prepare each and every student for college and careers.

In 2009, a group of Connecticut Association of Public Schools Superintendents (CAPSS) members realized that the traditional system was not designed to offer the level of personalization necessary to reach this goal, so they began studying the issues and creating the vision for personalized, mastery-based learning. They brought in experts, read articles, and began to outline their vision. In 2011, CAPSS issued its first report, NextEd: Transforming Connecticut’s Education System (2011), followed by A Look to the Future: Personalized Learning in Connecticut (2015), which was published in partnership with the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), and, most recently, with a series of recommendations in the 2016 NextEd: Next Steps.

These publications were a major impetus in creating the policy environment for the legislature to pass the 2013 Connecticut’s Act for Unleashing Innovation in Connecticut Schools. The legislation enabled mastery-based learning by giving districts the opportunity to use credits based on the demonstration of mastery. In 2015, with support from Great Schools Partnership (GSP) and the New England Secondary Schools Consortium (NESCC), the Connecticut Department of Education (CDOE) issued Mastery-Based Learning Guidelines for Implementation. The guidelines are organized in three sections – community engagement, policy, and practice – with suggested steps in each. The section on equity identifies several important issues and suggests mitigating steps. (more…)

Holacracy: Organizing for Change at D51

February 8, 2017 by

Holacracy1This article is the fourth in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Posted inside the conference space where many of the district-level meetings and gatherings of principals are held is a Managing Complex Change chart that describes the conditions for successful implementation. It identifies five elements to think about (vision, skills, incentives, resources, action plan) with five likely issues that might develop if any are not well-managed (confusion, anxiety, resistance, frustration, and false starts). Although the chart is very simple, it does provide language and concepts to jump start conversations to identify indicators that something isn’t working well. For example, in one meeting, I heard someone say, “I don’t want to false start them by putting them in a meeting that is too deep in the weeds,” to refer to not having a formal plan to introduce new ideas. In many meetings, attention was given to possible anxiety and angst if teachers don’t have the chance to access supports based on where they are in their own learning.

But how do you make sure that vision + skills + incentives + resources + action plan are all in place and all aligned to bring change? D51 knows, as pretty much any district leadership involved in the conversion to competency education knows, that top-down hierarchical structures aren’t helpful. They force decisions to the top when what we want is to create empowering, flexible organizational structures.

So what’s a district to do? D51 is testing out if holacracy will do the trick. (more…)

On Scaling Competency Education: Equity, Quality, and Sustainability

February 1, 2017 by

This is the tenth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

The early lesson from New England is that the scaling strategies for competency-based education require a combination of schools and districts that have the courageous leadership to convert to competency education and state leadership willing to commit to goal-oriented policies supported by long-term capacity-building strategies. Again, over time and as more states move forward, we are likely to learn about where there might be additional issues that need to be addressed. In particular, districts and states need to consider equity, quality, and sustainability.

Equity

amy-allen-quoteEven though equity resides at the very heart of competency-based education, it still requires an unrelenting commitment to challenge institutional patterns, individual bias that creates lower expectations, and strong management practices that can lead to much greater responsiveness. The focus on equity should be found in the accountability designs within school, district, and state systems and processes as well as the schoolwide instructional philosophies and strategies.

Although states are trying to increase responsiveness through embedding expectations that schools and educators respond to student needs, conversations with educators across New England suggest that courageous leadership is still needed. Under the pressure of the end-of-year accountability exams, too many schools and educators, even in the most developed competency-based districts, are still providing grade-level curriculum to students even if they have already learned the content or are lacking the prerequisite skills. In addition to leadership, we will need to engage a broad range of expertise, both practitioner and leadership, to identify the best ways to help students fill skill gaps without falling back into the trap of tracking.

Quality

The field is currently challenged by not having enough research and evaluation on the quality indicators for competency-based districts and schools to determine the elements that will lead to a high-quality model or effective implementation. This task is further complicated by what might be called waves of innovation that take place once districts become competency-based: As educators and schools become more intentional about what they want students to know and be able to do, there are efforts to build assessment literacy; build the capacity for performance assessments to support the development of higher order skills; develop stronger instructional strategies based on learning progressions; introduce practices that support student agency, voice, and choice; integrate more personalized learning practices; and introduce digital tools and online learning. Thus, schools and districts are taking different paths with different sequencing as they build the full range of capacities needed to operate a high-quality competency-based system. (more…)

We Have a Proficiency-Based Diploma. Now What?

January 27, 2017 by

This is the ninth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

rihs-diplomaThe trust in the conventional education system has been undermined by the tradition of awarding diplomas to students who do not possess the skills needed for college and careers. It has been possible in many districts to receive a diploma even though students are still reading at the elementary school level. In order to eliminate this practice of passing students on without the necessary skills, states are introducing policies that set the expectation that students will demonstrate proficiency at an agreed upon performance level in order to receive a diploma (i.e., a proficiency-based diploma).

The proficiency-based graduation policies developed in Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont appear to be high-leverage in terms of engaging districts; however, the diploma policy cannot stand alone. It is one thing to say that a diploma must be proficiency-based and an entirely different thing to create a system that will ensure students are making progress toward a diploma throughout each year of school. Even with proficiency-based diploma policies, states will find that they need to take additional steps to fully engage and support districts in ensuring that students can actually reach graduation-level proficiency.

First, there must be a strategy to engage all the districts beyond the coalition of the willing. For example, until Maine engaged districts through a self-assessment of their progress in implementation and offered flexibility in setting their own deadlines within state guidelines, there were many that had not yet demonstrated a commitment to change. Second, states may want to expedite the process by helping districts understand the elements of personalized, competency-based systems and/or the implementation process. Maine provided training opportunities early on and Vermont has complemented their policy with training for supervisory unions. Rhode Island used a more prescriptive approach in requiring secondary schools to implement a set of practices. (more…)

Putting the Pieces Together to Build a Competency-Based Statewide System

January 25, 2017 by

This is the eighth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

New England states have a variety of reasons for turning to competency-based education: higher expectations than ever before, the demand for skills that prepare students for an ever-changing world, and an understanding that the traditional system has become a stumbling block to the future of their children and the strength of their communities.

Below are a few highlights of the statewide system-building efforts that are taking place in New England.

  1. Proficiency-Based Diplomas

cross-curricular-skillsThe proficiency-based diploma policies developed in Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont appear to be high-leverage in terms of engaging 100 percent of districts; however, the diploma policies cannot stand alone.

One of the variations across states is the number and types of domains that are included in the diploma policy. Maine has specified that students must demonstrate proficiency within eight domains, while Vermont and Rhode Island only require six. All states have included set state-level cross-curricular skills and offered resources to districts to help them develop a structure and build capacity. (For more on proficiency-based diplomas, stay tuned for the next blog in this series.)

  1. Calibration

How can parents be confident that their children are making progress and becoming proficient in all the skills they will need to graduate ready for college and careers?

What needs to be in place within the system itself so that students, parents, college admissions, and employers can have full confidence in the diploma?

These are the types of questions that must be addressed in redesigning the education system. As discussed previously, one of the most important elements needed to create a competency-based system is to create mechanisms that can calibrate (also referred to as moderation or tuning) what it means to be proficient for specific standards and competencies and at specific performance levels. If teachers, schools, districts, and states do not have a shared understanding of what it means to be proficient, then variability and inconsistency will continue to corrode the reliability of schools and undermine efforts to eliminate the achievement gap. (more…)

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