Tag: quality

Highlights from the CBE Leadership Forum at iNACOL17

November 17, 2017 by

At iNACOL17, CompetencyWorks organized a Leadership Forum for people with more than one year experience in implementing competency-based education. We organized conversations so that people would have a opportunity to meet each other, exchange ideas, and look both backward and forward. There is no way to capture the lively conversation of 60+ people talking about a topic they care deeply about. However, I will do my best to give you a flavor of those conversations.

Before I highlight a few of the conversations, I feel it is important to share some feedback for our colleagues who work at the national level and in intermediary/technical assistance organizations. I received multiple requests from district and school leaders that the Leadership Forum next year only include people at the state, district, and school levels, and that people from supporting organizations have their own space to talk. The feedback was consistent and from several different tables: The people from field organizations took up too much air time and often spoke from what they think should be happening rather than what is rooted in experience. This is important information for all of us, including myself.

The field is changing, with much more expertise rooted in the districts and schools than ever before. It is worthwhile for us to take a step back and think about what the implications of these changes mean. We certainly need both types of perspective – those with in-depth knowledge developed from implementation and those with broader perspectives who understand differences in how competency-based education is developing, as well as with expertise around the different topics for which we need to build capacity. We also need to honor that district and school people have few opportunities to meet with their colleagues, whereas people in supporting organizations have lots of opportunities for meetings, given that this is how much of our work gets done.

I don’t know what we will do next year – however, my instinct is to honor the requests of district and school leadership. Perhaps those people who want to attend and are not in those positions can participate as note takers and facilitators so that they have opportunity to listen and learn.

Highlights of Conversations:

As you reflect back on your experience in the implementation of CBE, what were the easiest wins or successes?

  • Getting people to see the value of a CBE system.
  • With a clear mission/vision, the work of defining competencies becomes easier.
  • Building on what is already in place so you don’t try to create something completely new, including finding ways to engage people who are already doing some of the practices and building from there.

(more…)

How Competency-Based Education Differs from the Traditional System of Education

November 16, 2017 by

This is the fourth post in the blog series on the report, Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education.

Across the country, schools, districts and states are replacing the traditional, time-based structure with one that is designed to help each student reach proficiency. Educators organize learning in a variety of ways that respond to students and are designed to motivate and engage students in mastery of their own learning. Competency-based structures are also designed to ensure students reach proficiency so that students and parents are confident that their students are learning what they need to as they advance towards graduation.

Below is the working definition of competency-based education. (Please note: the working definition is being updated and a logic model being developed to be released in second quarter of 2018).

Students advance upon demonstrated mastery — By advancing upon demonstrated mastery rather than on seat time, students are more engaged and motivated, and educators can direct their efforts to where students need the most help.

 

Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students — With clear, transparent learning objectives, students have greater ownership over their education.

 

Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs — Students receive the supports and flexibility they need, when they need them, to learn, thrive and master the competencies they will need to succeed.

 

Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students — New systems of assessments give students real-time information on their progress and provide the opportunity to show evidence of higher order skills, whenever they are ready, rather than at set points in time during the school year.

 

Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions — Personalized, competency-based learning models meet each student where they are to build the knowledge, skills and abilities they will need to succeed in postsecondary education, in an ever-changing workplace and in civic life.

The section below illustrates key differences between competency-based education as compared to traditional education systems, and offers examples of how competency-based systems can embed an intentional focus upon equity. (more…)

Why a Competency-Based System Is Needed: 10 Ways the Traditional System Contributes to Inequity

November 9, 2017 by

This is the third post in the blog series on the report, Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education. See the first post and second post.

Before exploring key issues in a competency-based system, it is valuable to unpack why the traditional system is an obstacle to creating high-achieving schools and equitable outcomes.

The strategies used by districts in response to state accountability exams under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), including one-size-fits all instructional strategies and delivering grade level curriculum regardless of what students know, exposed the traditional system for what it is: a sorting system. Despite implementing a series of education reforms and programs, many schools struggle to produce better outcomes largely because the traditional system is not set up to do so. Despite teachers’ persistent best efforts to support every student, the traditional system passes students on before they have mastered each stage of learning. Those who have mastered the skills continue on a path towards graduation and college. For those who have not, little is offered to help them learn what was expected. The result is a new set of students each year who may not have the necessary prerequisite skills and knowledge to take on the content offered by each successive year’s teachers. This sets up teachers and students alike for failure. This sorting function of traditional education is exacerbated by unequal and inequitable school resources that continue to haunt the education system.

10 Flaws in the Traditional System

The traditional system is simply not designed to produce the goals we have set for it, or that our children, communities and nation so desperately need and deserve. There are ten primary flaws in the traditional system that can be corrected by redesigning the system for success in which all students achieve mastery. These flaws include that the traditional system: (more…)

Readiness for College, Career and Life: The Purpose of K-12 Public Education Today

November 2, 2017 by

This is the second post in the blog series on the report, Quality and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase of Competency-Based Education. See the first blog here.

Effective system design starts with a clarity of purpose, or said another way, what are the results we want to get from our system of public education? The current design of our K-12 public education system delivers the following results: After decades of policy reforms and targeted improvement strategies, the on-time graduation rate has inched up to 82%, with states ranging from 61% to 91%. Yet, Alaska Natives, students with disabilities, Native American, African-American, and Latino students continue to graduate at much lower rates: 55, 64, 70, 73 and 76%, respectively. Among those students who do graduate high school, nearly 25% of them, from all socioeconomic groups, require remedial courses in college, costing them and their families $1.5 billion a year. Graduates who enter the world of work directly after high school fare no better, with 62% of employers by one account indicating that “high schools aren’t doing enough to prepare their graduates to meet the expectations of the workplace.” Students are not fully prepared for civic engagement to ensure a functioning democracy (only 30% of today’s young people believe it is “essential” to live in a country that is governed democratically). These results are evidence that students are not getting what they need, and the implications ripple through their lives, their families, communities and our economy. In subsequent blogs in this series, we will explore why the traditional system is designed to produce these results. First, let’s consider what results we want instead.

So, what is the purpose of public education today and what are the results we want it to deliver? The purpose of public education has evolved significantly since the first public school, Boston Latin School, was established in the 17th century to educate white males in, among other things, “religion, Latin and classical literature.” Today, states and districts define the purpose of education in variety of different ways. Increasingly that purpose is stated as “college and career readiness,” or a variation thereof. But what does it really mean to be college and career ready? Although the terminology and details may vary, almost all states and districts continue to use a combination of time-based academic credits, state graduation exams and state accountability exams to measure learning. For the majority of states, these elements prioritize content knowledge rather than skills, with a focus upon a narrow set of areas — math and English language arts. (more…)

Why School Quality Measurement is an Equity Issue

October 3, 2017 by

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

This post originally appeared at the Center for Collaborative Education on August 16, 2017.

Many reform-minded educators rally around the equity flag, determined to banish forever achievement gaps and opportunity gaps alike. It is a noble goal and one that I share.

Viewing the work of the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment (MCIEA) through an equity lens, I am ever mindful of the ways school quality measurement has historically been used to reinforce structural inequality. To take just one example, real estate companies catering to the demand for information on “good schools” rely on the standardized tests used by districts and states as a proxy for school quality. Not only do these tests represent relatively little of what families say they care about when choosing schools – for example, caring teachers, critical thinking curricula, and access to the arts among other things – but standardized tests are also highly correlated with race and class. In this sense, the colorblind language of “good schools” is in fact racially coded. Higher test scores do not signal good schools so much as they signal white schools or rich schools, and such misinformation only exacerbates already alarming rates of school and residential segregation.

Noting that publicly available test scores were “[t]he most influential indicator of school quality today,” researchers Mark Knoester and Wayne Au pointed out that test scores serve multiple purposes, only some of which are explicit:

The official reason testing is carried out in schools is because tests are used to evaluate, and supposedly, to improve schools. But we must also understand that testing is supported politically because it serves other purposes as well: Given its racist history and contemporary racist outcomes, high-stakes, standardized testing converts segregation, and its white supremacist impulses, into an ‘objective science.’ Testing allows parents and others to avoid the stigma of saying out loud that they favor segregation as they choose schools with a whiter and richer population for their own children. (2017, p. 11)

To truly contribute to education equity, then, we must find ways to connect our work to the cause of desegregation and the promotion of racially and economically integrated schools. No other education intervention has proven as durable or promising for improving educational equity. (more…)

National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education

June 29, 2017 by
Chris Sturgis

Chris Sturgis

I’m still processing. I find myself waking up several times a night with my brain spinning through conversations and the notes from the Summit. Here are just two of my personal reflections on the Summit. There will be more to come as I work through all of the notes.

Who is in the Room Matters

In the musical Hamilton, Aaron Burr sings about wanting to be in the “room where it happens.” In advancing any social or education effort, there are many rooms where vision, ideas, goals, and strategies are shaped. In the world of competency education (like many other fields), the people in the rooms have often been all or mostly white. We were super-intentional and goal-oriented in how we planned the Summit to bring in four types of diversity – regional, perspective (teacher to national), expertise, and racial & ethnic. The mix of knowledge in the room was extraordinary, with participants actively listening to stretch across their own perspectives.

In terms of the mix based on race & ethnicity, the first Summit was about 95 percent white. The second one was 59 percent. In order to do this, we had to learn to approach the criteria and process of inviting people as well as the agenda differently. We took a “diversity lens” to just about every decision – what is the impact, how would others interpret, feel, and engage. It all paid off – so I was told by many of the participants. It shaped not only the ideas that were introduced, but the comfort of pushing us forward in thinking about what it means to have equity as the core of competency education.

We all want to be in the room where it happens. What I’ve come to realize is that it really matters who is in the room. Yes, we want people who have power and influence in the room in order to commit to making things happen. But unless we have the right mix of people, it’s likely that we are not going to make the best decisions about what will happen.

What is Competency Education?

(more…)

Threshold Concept: Assessment Literacy

June 22, 2017 by

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

This is the nineteenth 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.

“Student assessment is essential to measure the progress and performance of individual students, plan further steps for the improvement of teaching and learning, and share information with relevant stakeholders.” – OECD, 2013

Assessment literacy is important for practitioners but it is also important for policymakers and stakeholders throughout the system to understand the roles that different types of assessment play in student learning, how assessment and moderation are used to comparatively and fairly judge student mastery, and how the information generated by assessments can be used toward a cycle of continuous improvement in teaching and learning. The lack of assessment literacy across the system is a major blind spot. Thus, building significant capacity for assessment literacy is needed to advance new competency-based approaches and address tough issues in our current system.

An important concept in assessment today is related to the concept of comparability. Comparability is defined as the degree to which the results of assessments intended to measure the same learning targets produce the same or similar results. This involves documenting the reliability of judgments and not assuming that comparability is stable over time or invariant across multiple subgroups such as English language learners and special education students.1

There are unique circumstances in the U.S. education system that have driven the need for much greater degrees of comparability than is true in most other nations. When the federal government became involved in K-12 education with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, it was in direct response to deep inequities that remained even after school segregation. Because of the history of inequities in education offerings among student groups, concerns for equity are much greater than in many other countries, which drives, to a significant extent, the degree to which we need to take greater care that measures are fair and have common meaning among students, schools, and districts.2 This drives the prevalence of standardized tests in our country, causing the concept of assessment to often be conflated with the end-of-year, statewide, summative accountability tests.

Practitioners working deeply in competency-based learning models realize quickly how our K-12 education systems lack systems for calibrating the quality of student work, so we know that fundamentally there is significant consistency across schools and systems. As much of a systems challenge as this would appear across the states in the U.S. today, building professional educator capacity and policymakers’ understanding of assessment literacy is fundamental to shifting to personalized, competency-based systems at scale and focusing on equity.

A common misconception about assessment literacy is that it is only about how to interpret standardized test results. In contrast, assessment literacy is a much broader and more significant concept. The New Zealand Ministry of Education defines assessment literacy as:

“the possession of knowledge about the basic principles of sound assessment practice, including its terminology, the development and use of assessment methodologies and techniques, and familiarity with standards of quality in assessment. The primary purpose of assessment is to improve students’ learning, as both student and teacher respond to the information that it provides. Information is needed about what knowledge, understanding, or skills students need. By finding out what students currently know, understand, and can do, any gap between the two can be made apparent. Assessment is the process of gaining information about the gap, and learning is about attempts to reduce the gap.”

Personalized, competency based learning requires us to reorganize systems around doing what it takes to ensure every student is attaining mastery, rather than the ranking and sorting them into high achievers and low achievers that is created through variable A-F grading practices. Redesigned systems will need to build capacity for clear evaluation criteria to make valid and reliable comparisons of students’ progress against outcomes (commonly understood outcomes) using evidence and common rubrics.

Thus, progress isn’t measured by ranking and sorting kids against each other, or through grading “curves,” but instead for each student to measure their evidence against articulated, high-level, common expectations of success and with clear depictions for what success looks like. This process of developing clear expectations for common proficiency levels is a key part of a “calibration.” Calibration is a process that allows two or more things to be compared via a common standard (e.g., a weight in the physical sciences or commonly scored papers in an education system). The purpose of common performance tasks given to students by different schools and districts is to serve as a “calibration weight;” a way to compare the way one school or district scores students on the common task, with the way other schools and districts score those same students’ work. In order to use the common performance tasks as calibration weights, districts need to re-score other districts’ common performance tasks. Calibrating expectations as well as grading and scoring processes for learning goals, is very important in competency-based learning systems. Calibration may involve groups of educators who collaborate and develop consensus around rubrics for scoring student work. The calibration process makes scoring student work consistent and more aligned to the standards upon which rubrics and scoring criteria are based, as well as creating reflective processes focused on improving student learning.

In addition to calibration processes for consistently and accurately evaluating student work, assessment literacy also includes knowing which assessments are appropriate for what purpose (e.g., formative, progress monitoring, or summative). This idea of common expectations, and evaluating evidence against common standards and rubrics to build and evaluate comparability across schools and systems, requires careful  moderation of assessment practices across the system and perhaps across the state level. Professional development of educators to assess student evidence using calibration processes and developing rubrics with scales for evaluating performance tasks against criteria, is central to building the capacity needed in a competency-based education system. A competency-based learning system that offers personalized pathways for students to meet learning goals and learning targets must rely on multiple forms of evidence against common standards and expectations.   (more…)

What Does It Mean to Meet Students Where They Are?

June 15, 2017 by

Sydney Schaef, Dixie Bacallao, and Antonia Rudenstine (left to right)

This is the twelfth blog 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 Meeting Students Where They Are. 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.

At the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education, attendees will do an in-depth exploration of the relational, pedagogical, and structural dimensions of meeting students where they are. It is organized around three driving questions:

  • How do we know where students are?
  • What do we do, once we know?
  • Which strategies help us navigate systemic constraints?

As we move toward the design of second generation competency-based models, there is an opportunity to anchor student learning and achievement in expansive, adaptable, and developmentally ”appropriate” learning and development trajectories informed by the learning sciences. If we are to meet all students where they are, then our commitment must be not only to an uncompromising vision for high achievement – and in practical terms, this means college and career readiness – but also to the daily work of responding to students’ individual needs in a way that fosters optimal growth:

This work is not about meeting the demands of an efficiency-oriented accountability system for its own sake; it’s about ensuring all learners have equitable access to learning opportunities that foster agency and prepare them for life in the world. This is the orientation of learner-centered models, and it is indeed a radical departure from the industrial-age school model that dominates most schools today. (more…)

Charting the Course for High Quality Personalized, Competency Education

June 14, 2017 by

This is the eleventh blog 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 In Search of Efficacy: Defining the Elements of Quality in a Competency-Based Education System. 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 how we might be able to advance the field.

At the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education, we hope to advance ideas around quality in competency-based systems and lay the groundwork for what needs to happen to build high-quality personalized, competency-based systems every time. The purpose of this blog is to gather and recommend ideas for action steps to advance an understanding of high quality, personalized, competency-based systems and strategies to accelerate the design and implementation of high quality district systems and schools. We encourage you to brainstorm and prioritize recommendations for educators, school and district leaders, state and federal policymakers, funders, intermediary organizations, and technical assistance providers and any other key organizations. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

As you review the following, consider these questions:

  1. How might you change or strengthen these ideas offered below?
  2. What other projects, initiatives, or recommendations are needed to advance quality in competency-based systems and schools?
  3. Of all the projects listed here and discussed, which are the 3-5 most important ones to take on now?

A. Providing Exemplars in Each of the 4 Components of the Quality Framework (Structure, Culture, Pedagogical Philosophy, and Learning Experiences) to Support Early Stage Design and Implementation

Exemplars are essential in order to help people from across the field develop a vision of what CBE is, believe that it is viable by understanding key implementation steps, and build a sense of how competency-based education can reinforce student agency, personalized learning, and deeper learning. Even with the substantial documentation at CompetencyWorks about school models, there is a need for districts and schools to have a more close-up understanding of competency-based structures and their implications. This could include funding positions at districts with the most mature systems to coordinate site visits, funding travel for site visits, creating detailed documentation (written and video) of the models, and developing more detailed guidebooks. (more…)

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