Tag: principal and superintendent perspectives

Mapping out the Terrain of Competency-Based Education Implementation

November 6, 2018 by

One of the greatest inventions of the last twenty years has to be mapping services like Mapquest or Google Maps. Not only can a mapping service help you navigate to any location, it can also use real-time traffic and road conditions to help you avoid long delays during transit. Our research on K-12 principals’ perceptions of the facilitators and barriers to competency-based education implementation is intended to act like a Mapquest or Google Maps of sort. Let me explain.

Many states, districts, and/or schools around the United States are transitioning to a competency-based approach to education. This means that state policymakers as well as school and district leaders find themselves searching for the most efficient roadmap to help their communities and other stakeholders move from a traditional system of education to a competency-based system. Many advocates have written about quality design principles and other characteristics of competency-based systems, which can serve as a basic roadmap for policymakers and practitioners as they start along this journey. What is less known, however, are the traffic and road conditions that can occur along the way to either speed along or hinder the journey, depending on the context and real-time adjustments. (more…)

Competency-Based Education: The Break from Tradition that Our Schools Need

October 22, 2018 by

At this year’s iNACOL 2018 Symposium, I will have two opportunities to share my thoughts and experiences after spending a decade leading a New Hampshire high school through a transformation from a traditional to a competency-based system. The first will be in a Sunday morning pre-conference session entitled “Learning from School-Based Practitioners: Building a Successful Competency-Based Education System in your District/School.” There, my colleague Jonathan Vander Els and I will share resources and tools from our 2017 Solution Tree book entitled Breaking With Tradition, the Shift to Competency-Based Learning in PLCs at Work. On Tuesday morning, Jonathan and I will join our good friends: competency educational specialist Rose Colby and Ace Parsi of the National Center for Learning Disabilities for a breakout session entitled “Leveraging Competency Education to Promote Equity for ALL Students by Prioritizing Academic and Personal Competencies Supported by Effective Leadership, Personalization, and PLCs.” (more…)

How One New Hampshire District is Leveraging Success Skills in a Competency-Based System

May 17, 2018 by

Sarah Kiley

By Jonathan G. Vander Els, Director of Innovative Projects for the New Hampshire Learning Initiative and Sarah Kiley, Epping School District Teacher and Work Study Practices Coordinator.

New Hampshire Overview:

Over the past three years, a number of New Hampshire schools have been focusing on how the integration of success skills (or Work Study Practices, as they’re called in New Hampshire) can be levers for students’ success. The intent was to intentionally integrate these deeper learning competencies into instruction, assessment, and curriculum to increase student agency as a lever for equity. (more…)

Hiring for Cultural Responsiveness – A Necessary Consideration

April 11, 2018 by

It is April. This month brings with it various seasons for various people. For some, April brings the start of Spring. For others, it brings tax season. For sports enthusiasts, it brings the prospect of another baseball season. But for principals like me, it brings hiring seasoning. This is the time of year where we make decisions about continuing current staff contracts, are informed about retirements and resignations, and begin to hire staff for the next school year. Hiring season brings with it the complex dance of screening applications, interviewing, hiring, and determining how to best support these new hires. For principals, hiring season should also bring a time on introspection centered on cultural responsiveness – before the aforementioned process begins. Researchers (Johnson, 2006; Terrell & Lindsey, 2009) have shown that principals must clearly understand their own assumptions, beliefs, and values about people and cultures different from themselves in order to lead effectively in settings with diverse student populations. If a school principal serves a diverse student population, he/she must know what he/she believes about culture and race BEFORE engaging in the hiring process. (more…)

Three Take-Aways

April 6, 2018 by

The MC community is always digging in to rubrics! Here, teachers take advantage of a bulletin board at KAPPA International to see rubric criteria.

This post and all images originally appeared at Mastery Collaborative on February 27, 2018.

Recently Meredith Matson, Assistant Principal/Mastery rockstar, facilitated a professional development about enriching rubric criteria for the staff at MC Active Member School Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction. Below, three take-aways from Meredith’s session.

1. Rubrics too often contain “laundry-lists.”

Learning tasks should push students to higher-order thinking. Because rubrics guide these tasks, the criteria for mastery should reflect the deep thinking students need to engage in.

Non-example: Cite at least three sources.

Example: Provide sufficient evidence and reasoning to support your claim. (more…)

Highlighting Deeper Learning Competencies in New Hampshire

March 12, 2018 by

It is hard to argue the importance that being a strong collaborator, an articulate communicator, a self-directed learner, and a creative problem solver has on a person’s success in today’s world. In fact, a recent analysis by Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post on an article written by Cathy Davidson highlighting how Google culled data to determine the most important qualities of its top employees and found that the top seven were non-academic cognitive competencies, or success skills. Coaching, communicating and listening, empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, and making connections across complex ideas all came out on top.

In a competency-based system, we must hold both academic competencies AND these deeper learning competencies, or success skills, as integral in preparing our graduates to be successful in work, college, and life. (more…)

Cultural Responsiveness Starts in the Principal’s Office

January 31, 2018 by

“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” – John Maxwell

Dr. Joseph Ellison

Personalized instruction has become an increasing focus of educational conversation over the last few years. However, the conversation often fails to touch on what it means to personalize instruction in light of the great diversity found in schools across our country. Can personalized instruction be effective without some degree of cultural competence?

Educators cannot truly personalize instruction without carefully considering the “whole child” – meaning current skill level, previous instruction, socioeconomic status, and race. Yes… race! Some argue that race has no place in the conversation around personalization. I disagree. Race is a necessary component of personalization because “teachers [who] ignore the racial component of students’ identity are in effect treating their students as incomplete beings, and student performance can suffer as a result” (Milner, 2010, p. 16). I hasten to emphasize that race is NOT everything when it comes to cultural responsiveness. Effective and accurate cultural responsiveness must respond to all of the inputs in students’ lives; it must take into account the “whole child.” And, cultural responsiveness is not an “add-on” or just another classroom thing. Cultural responsiveness is part of an ever-evolving orientation and pedagogy… and a necessary component of personalized learning. (more…)

What if We Started Looking at STEM-Education Differently?

October 10, 2017 by

STEM is all the rage these days, and with an ever-growing gap in filling jobs that are tied to science, technology, engineering, and math, employers are at a loss with finding well-rounded, educated, and professional employees to hire. What if STEM-Education began to be viewed as more than just science, technology, engineering, and math, though? What if the STEM programs which are slowly emerging in schools across our country started working with our youth at a young age and became something greater, something that helped develop successful, collaborative, creative, and innovative thinkers who could actually apply their knowledge? What could this possibly look like, and what might the benefits be for our workforce and, more importantly, our future?

A concept that has resonated with me for years has been one of students wanting to advance through “curriculum” as quickly as possible. Mastery never seemed to be the goal for these students and sometimes parents, but really, how fast the student could advance through a program, or ace a test… just to show that they knew how to solve the problems and get some high school credits. The issue, however, was when you asked them what the answers actually meant… as in, “What are you actually telling me?” Blank stares and a response of, “Well, the answer is 22.5432432….” were quite often the conversations hastily exchanged across the table. Were we really helping our students grow as learners and, more importantly, as college and career citizens who were ready to be sprung out into our ever-changing world? It was at this point that the shift from masters of content began to transition into helping to foster experts in context.

What if we flipped the script and started to look at STEM differently? What if instead of simply thinking that students needed to master concepts, they became experts in context in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, and actually began to embrace STEM as “Strategies That Engage Minds” or even better yet “Solving Today’s Everyday Mysteries.” Students were now becoming real-life, rational problem-solvers instead of solving a problem solely to show the answer. When asked how something worked or why it didn’t work, a student could now articulate the Why, instead of just defend the What.   (more…)

Congratulations Are in Order

September 27, 2017 by

Brian Stack and James Murray

Congratulations to James Murray, Waukesha STEM Academy (WI), and Brian Stack, Sanborn Regional High School (NH)! They have each been recognized as State Principal of the Year, and they are both leaders in advancing competency-based education. In previous years, other leaders in competency-based education, including Derek Pierce of Casco Bay High School and Alan Tenreiro of Cumberland High School, have received similar recognition.

I imagine that over time, we will see more and more of leaders in competency-based education gain recognition.

Why?

First, competency-based education, when well designed, should be creating the culture and processes that support continuous improvement. This means that their schools should always be reflecting on how they can do better using the available data and by generating data through dialogue and surveys to enhance understanding. Who benefits? The result is that more students should be making progress, and teachers should feel valued for their input and be part of a team that has a shared understanding that they are going to make decisions based on what’s best for students.

Second, leaders in competency-based education will need to develop leadership and management strategies that engage educators and other stakeholders. The top-down bureaucratic culture that emphasizes compliance just isn’t going to work. This means that competency-based educators are going to need to develop leadership strategies that engage and empower others (these go by different names, including adaptive leadership or distributed leadership). Essentially, leaders manage the processes that bring together diverse perspectives to find solutions. (District 51 has gone the farthest I know of in trying to institutionalize these practices through holacracy.)

There are two resources available if you want to start thinking about these types of leadership/management strategies:

Maybe Brian and James will write reflections on learning to become a leader in a competency-based environment for us?

The How to Your Why

September 11, 2017 by

So much has been said about the importance of an organization having a purpose for the work they do. Schools have crafted purpose statements often containing phrases like “life-long learners,” “productive citizens,” and “successful members of society.” This is best done following a series of meetings with all stakeholders to capture their thoughts on what the experience of school should be for the community. At RSU 2, our purpose statement is “Cultivating Hope in All Learners.” We wanted a lofty commitment that falls just short of saying, “We want to make the world a better place.” All decisions we make, from allocating our resources to scheduling our learners, must be done in a way that shows we support our purpose.

But how do we know we are supporting the purpose? That question has been on my mind lately, causing me to ponder the middle ring in Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, the “How”: how we do the things we do in support of our why. If your actions do not reflect your why, you should either change your actions or change your why. Left as is, people will begin to see hypocrisy in your organization. And once they believe you are not being true to the work, they will find evidence to support their doubt, even if it is falsely interpreted. Leaders will find themselves in a constant mode of management.

What I have come to notice is to get at the “how we will work together to meet our purpose” requires agreement on common language and common approaches. The stakeholders responsible for the implementation of the plan must spend time to truly understand it so the purpose can be realized. These understandings must include agreed upon definitions and tenets.

Recently, I watched a five minute New York Times Magazine interview with comedian Jerry Seinfeld in which he described his process for writing a joke. When you listen, his rules of thumb of joke creating and telling come out loud and clear. They are:

  1. Write about nothing
  2. Think of something you think is funny
  3. Be funny right away
  4. Write on yellow pads with a Bic pen
  5. Look for connective tissue to link the story
  6. Biggest joke at the end
  7. The wronger something feels the righter it is

While some of these might be typical for all comedians, some may be true for Seinfeld alone.

The same can be said for how a school realizes being a personalized, competency-based system of education. Our rules of thumb, lets call them tenets, the principle or belief held as true by the members of a group, will be both similar and special to the district who defines them. Said in another way, what are those things that we agree need to happen to reach our vision? No system is exactly like another. Whether it is demographics, geography, or traditions and superstitions (like writing every episode of Seinfeld with a yellow pad and a Bic pen), schools have personalities. That is what we mean when we talk about school culture.  That is why every school and system needs to invest the time and energy, in productive struggle, to build understanding of how they will put the learners and their learning at the center of everything they do. (more…)

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