Tag: policy

What’s New in K-12 Competency-Based Education?

November 8, 2017 by

What's new! star graphicA Must-Read: The Hewlett Foundation Assessment for Learning Work Group released Principles for Assessment Design and Use to Support Student Autonomy.

Thought Leadership

Assessments

  • This article examines the ways in which we assess students’ high school experiences and the impact this has on their eligibility for college.

Recruiting and Supporting Educators

Colorado

  • The Colorado Education Initiative released a new strategy that includes Competency-Based/Personalized Learning, and states that CEI is intensifying their efforts to help districts build systems where students advance based on demonstrated readiness and educators tailor learning for each student’s strengths, needs, and interests.
  • Colorado’s Thompson School District is launching a “Seeing Is Believing” Tour as a type of professional learning where practitioners across 10 secondary schools work across buildings to showcase their classrooms, share success stories, and to unite as a district to do what’s best for students.The Donnell-Kay Foundation embarked on a journey across Colorado schools to examine how schools that have transitioned to a four-day school week are leveraging the fifth day. Here’s an update on their journey and learnings.

Massachusetts

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Quality and Equity by Design

October 20, 2017 by

Today, iNACOL and CompetencyWorks released the paper Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education. This paper is the culminating product and set of ideas from the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. In this paper, four key issues – equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy – are explored and guidance is offered on how to engage more deeply in each. There is also a set of recommended actions for the field as a whole to consider. This paper will be followed by a revised paper on each of the key issues based on the feedback and insights from the Summit participants. (You can find the four draft papers on each of the key issues here.)

In writing this paper, I became more and more appreciative that each of the four key issues is actually a lens into the issues challenging our field. By looking at elements of competency-based education through the different lenses, it becomes possible to have much more depth of understanding. It is as if the paper brings a multi-dimensional understanding to bear. Certainly, the overlap between quality and equity is profound and requires more thought and study as we go forward. It’s important to consider the ideas and frameworks in this paper as ways to open discussion. I am sure there will be other convenings, papers, and resources that will help to further our work together.

My recommendation is to read the paper in bite-sized pieces – one issue area at a time. Then come back and read the next, reflecting on the capacity and strategies used by your organization, district, and school. We welcome contributions to CompetencyWorks that highlight your understanding and efforts related to these key issues and we doubly welcome challenges to these ideas. It is only by strengthening our capacity to be critical friends to each other that we can truly find our way to implementing high quality, equitable competency-based systems in schools across our nation.

For those of you who are interested, a webinar, Charting the Course for the Next Phase of K-12 Competency-Based Education, is scheduled for November 8, 2017, 2-3 PM ET. Register here. Susan Patrick, Nina Lopez, and I will share highlights from the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education, walk through the four key issues, and review the recommendations for what is most important to move competency education forward.

Strategic Reflection on the Field of Competency Education: Emerging Issues

August 25, 2017 by

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

In this fourth post on our annual strategic reflection, the focus will be on emerging issues. Click here for the discussion on our progress, the growing number of organizations and literature in the field, and our lessons learned. You can hear the entire webinar on this topic here.

As you probably know if you follow along on CompetencyWorks, we identified four important challenges that we need to fully understand and address if competency education is going to be fully effective and become the backbone of the new education system. These four issues – equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy that is fit for purpose – were deeply explored at the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education from January – June 2017 with revised papers to be released by the end of this year. You can also find articles on these issues starting here.

At the Summit, we also spent some time talking about emerging issues. Of course, what may be an emerging issue for one person may be a been-around-for-some-time frustrating issue for another. Furthermore an issue may be emerging in one place in the country, but others will have made significant headway (and are hopefully sharing their insights on CompetencyWorks). So it may be better to think of these as challenging issues.

What makes an issue challenging? I think they aren’t easily resolved because they are beyond our experience in some way. Either we don’t have enough knowledge (either research-based or implementation knowledge); they require us to be operating deeply within the new sets of values, assumptions, and beliefs when we still are wearing blinders that cause us to analyze situations through the traditional lens; or they are bigger than any one of us and require strategic collective action.

As you look at this list of challenging issues, do you have something to help understand the issue or resolve it? If so, please do let us know.

1. What Research and Evaluation is Needed to Advance Competency-Based Education? We need to make sure that we are operating on the best evidence about learning, systems, and implementation. What is known and what isn’t? What type of research and evaluation might help us improve competency-based models? What is needed to ensure that we are going in the right direction?

2. How Can Technology Best Support Competency-Based Education? Technology can be used in many ways to support students, parents, teachers, principals, and districts. How can technology can be used to support competency-based education? What is state-of-the-art in terms of student information management systems that support student learning? What are advancements in resolving interoperability challenges?

3. How Can We Build the Critical Elements in Building Balanced Systems of Assessments for Personalized, Competency-Based Education? We know that we need to re-orient systems of assessment to be contributing to the cycle of student learning and organizational learning (i.e., continuous improvement). What are the critical elements of what is needed in balanced systems of assessments that reflect the principles of personalized, competency-based education? What will it take, and who can we learn from in developing and implementing these elements?

4. What Do We Know about Changing Mindsets? If everyone needs to develop a new mindset that believes students and adults can all grow and learn, if everyone needs to shake off old beliefs about learning and learn to make decisions based on the learning sciences, are there ways that we can do this more quickly and easily? We need to share ideas and resources about how to help teachers, parents, students, and community members make the paradigm or mindset shift to competency-based education and personalized learning more easily. What is the wish list of tools, resources, and training to support districts and schools in this important step toward building a competency-based system? (more…)

Reflecting on The Field of Competency Education: Organizations and Literature

August 22, 2017 by

In the first part of this reflection, we focused on where we started and where we are now. One of the important areas we reflect upon each year is the strength of the field. Each year more organizations enter the field of competency education by adding it to the agendas of their meetings, investing in staff learning about it, and identifying leaders in their networks. Although the slide to the right is certainly missing organizations (and let us know if you want to be included as an organization building capacity around competency education), it gives you a good sense of the strength of the field’s capacity. The collaborative spirit, even with increased competition for resources, continues to be one of the strengths of the field.

One of the challenges in the field we all share in correcting is the lack of diversity in our networks and our leaders. We let a horrible thing happen when we allowed ourselves to have meetings that were all white – it was simply a pattern of white privilege that means we didn’t tap into our collective knowledge and failed to put equity, especially racial equity, front and center in our work. CompetencyWorks is dedicated to making a mid-course correction, but it is something that will require everyone to work together to make the necessary changes in our processes, values, and relationships.

One of the strengths of the field to date is that we have built a strong set of literature that allows people to learn about competency education from different perspectives. Our challenge going forward is to ensure that we refresh the knowledge as we learn more and that we focus in on the issues that are most challenging to ensure that we fill gaps in knowledge. The following slides are included for you in case you want to review the different reports and books that are available. Later this week I’ll continue the strategic reflection with a focus on policy, how our learning is deepening, and what we need to think about to advance competency education.

 

 

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Reflecting on The Field of Competency Education: Where We Started and Where We Are Now

by

Every summer, the CompetencyWorks team and our advisors reflect on the progress that is being made and the emerging issues that we see developing. This helps us know where to focus our attention in our daily work, and it is a leadership opportunity for all of us to hear from others from around the country and different perspectives about how competency education is advancing.

This article highlights some of the areas of our reflection and will accompany today’s webinar Competency Education: A Reflection on the Field and Future Directions. For those of you completely new to competency education, you might want to glance at What is Competency Education? as a starting point.

Where We Started and Where We Are Now

There are different starting points for how we tell the story of where we started. Several valuable reports provide slightly different starting points and critical stepping stones, although almost everyone will recognize Benjamin Bloom’s contribution. It would actually be an interesting project to talk to leading innovators and find out the key advances in education they are building upon. For those of you interested, I suggest the following reports to learn more about the foundation for competency-based education:

At CompetencyWorks, our understanding of competency education is that it is a transformation of culture and structure. It is best approached as a district reform to enable students to have the fullest support no matter where they are on the learning continuum, from kindergarten on up to college level. The commitment to all students successfully learning the skills they will need for college, career, and life also requires a strong commitment from leadership – both school board and district level. However, there are many examples of schools within traditional districts being able to implement in a way that is highly meaningful even though there may be some limitations and work-arounds.

Thus, our starting point of competency education often begins in the mid-1990s, where, on one coast, innovators in Chugach School District were transforming their schools in response to Native Alaskan communities demanding that their children be educated. On the other side of the country, innovators were developing Diploma Plus and Boston Day and Evening Academy to re-engage students by focusing on learning and skill-building, not simply accruing credits.

Since then, there have been stages of development – of practice and of policy. The most important thing to remember is that, as a movement, competency education has been educator-developed and educator-driven. For example, the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning, a collaboration of districts, helped to catalyze change in Maine. Lindsay Unified, one of our lighthouse districts that continues to develop and refine their model, launched their transformation in a state that has made no effort to create innovation space. In the past five years, investments have often been directed toward creating new models, including Next Generation Learning Challenges, Opportunity by Design, and XQ schools. Some of the grantees have been intentionally competency-based, while we are seeing some schools inch their way in that direction.

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What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

August 2, 2017 by

What's new! star graphicAlison Hramiec, Head of School at Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA), penned at three-part blog series on school culture:

  1. The Crucial Factor in School Success is School Culture (Part 1 of 3)
  2. Creating a School Culture Where Students and Teachers Both Flourish (Part 2 of 3)
  3. Hiring: The Very First Step to a Flourishing School Culture (Part 3 of 3)

Here is another article on how ‘last-chance’ schools like BDEA prove to be the best chance to help struggling students.

Addressing Concerns and Misconceptions

There are more concerns being raised about personalized learning and competency-based education. Some concerns are grounded in misconceptions and not fully understanding what the concepts mean to students and their learning. Here is an example of an article that opposes competency education, but demonstrates misconceptions about the premise and goals of competency-based education.

Other concerns are focused on responding to state expectations, rather than focusing on what students need in order to succeed. We share these with you so that leaders in competency-based education have an opportunity to think about how to respond to these misconceptions and concerns upfront, and to make sure that you are addressing them in design and implementation.

Social Emotional Learning

English Language Learners

This Forbes piece highlights the International High School at Langley Park as a shining example of a school that serves immigrant and refugee students and is achieving notable success. Here are a couple articles on other schools within the International Network of Public Schools:

iNACOL released a new report, Next Generation Learning Models for English Language Learners: Promising Practices and Considerations for Teaching and Learning, which highlights promising practices and trends in personalized learning and competency-based education for English language learner (ELL) students. This paper shares case studies and examples from schools and programs that are currently creating personalized, competency-based learning environments for ELL students. (more…)

Threshold Concept: Meeting Kids Where They Are

June 23, 2017 by

Courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

This is the twentieth-first article in a series leading up to the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. We are focusing on four key areas: equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy. (Learn more about the Summit here.) We released a series of draft papers in early June to begin addressing these issues. This article is adapted from Fit for Purpose: Taking the Long View on Systems Change and Policy to Support Competency Education. It is important to remember that all of these ideas can be further developed, revised, or combined – the papers are only a starting point for introducing these key issues and driving discussions at the Summit. We would love to hear your comments on which ideas are strong, which are wrong, and what might be missing.

David Hood’s “Paradigm of One” describes how the current model focuses on “one teacher, teaching one subject, to one class of one age, using one [textbook], at one pace, in one classroom, for one hour,” and describes this rut in which the traditional system is stuck.1 In a time-based factory-model education system, students move through grade levels with varying amounts of learning with recorded grades of A-F without ensuring mastery. This all but guarantees that students will have significant gaps in core knowledge when they move from one grade level to the next. These disparities grow over time. When different levels of expectations are held for different students, the disparities grow larger, wider and deeper.

New personalized learning environments that are competency-based and student-centered help teachers identify the strengths of individual students and help meet kids where they are. They include assessments for learning with structured feedback to pupils, setting individual learning targets, planning to support individual needs, using data to dialog and diagnose each student’s learning needs every day.

In our current, traditional educational system, there is a significant focus on old pedagogical models for delivering a one-size-fits-all lesson of grade-level content each day. The retrograde effects of accountability systems are perhaps most apparent in the challenges educators face across the United States to truly try to meet students where they are.

The research on how students learn examines how important it is to meet a student within their zone of proximal development, allow for productive struggle and design progressions effectively where learning hinges on successful prior learning. A student’s zone of proximal development is defined as the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help.2 We know that when students are able to address prior gaps in their learning, they can accelerate their learning dramatically. As such, educators need to be able to scaffold instruction at the appropriate level as well as offering the supports and resources depending on student needs when delivering instruction. If our old pedagogical approaches force content to be traditionally delivered through one-size-fits-all approaches within age-based grade levels, we are not truly meeting students where they are. How do we advance equity in a system that approaches it with sameness in pedagogy? Is it fundamental to create equity through a foundation that is competency-based to ensure every student reaches mastery?

Meeting students where they are requires a true fundamental shift of the learning environment to become learner-centered and to be organized around mastery-based learning progressions across a continuum over time with opportunities for in-depth teaching and learning based on each student’s goals and needs and providing extended learning opportunities and supports with flexibility. And, most importantly, competency-based systems require knowing where every student is academically and holistically and then making sure each student receives the instruction and support they need to build confidence, lifelong learning habits, knowledge, skills and competencies to be successful.

Advancing competency-based systems means meeting students where they are every day and engaging in a cycle of supporting learning academically, socially, emotionally and holistically. There are major challenges when students have moved through a time-based system with decent grades to find out when entering a competency-based educational model that they are several grade levels behind. How do we address these issues in the traditional system that leave students with major gaps in knowledge, skills and abilities, and a lack of preparedness based on the system’s focus on drilling students forward with time-based (not learning-based) progressions? (more…)

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