Tag: school culture

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…)

The Culture Code: Creating a Culture for Competency-Based Schools (Part 1)

May 14, 2018 by

Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs, Wikimedia Commons

This is the second book in the series Conversations with Authors About Competency-Based Education.

Earlier this year, a collaborative process of practitioners developed a description of what every student should experience in a personalized, competency-based school (See What Will Students Experience in a Competency-Based School?) The second item in this list of ten is:

I feel safe and am willing to put forward my best effort to take on challenging knowledge and skills because I have a deep sense of belonging, feel that my culture, the culture of my community and my voice is valued, and see on a daily basis that everyone in the school is committed to my learning.

I’ve been thinking a lot and talking to people a lot about what it means to have everyone, students and adults, feel safe and that they belong. The learning sciences inform us that one can’t separate out cognition from emotion: Feeling safe is an important condition for anyone to make themselves vulnerable to seek and accept help, take risks, and put out extra effort knowing that they might fail. This is one of the reasons that has convinced me that culture is critical and that the school and classroom culture needed to make competency education work is substantially different than that described as the culture needed for high achieving traditional schools. In fact, creating a culture of learning, inclusivity, and empowerment is identified as a principle for equity as well as quality.

I stumbled upon a book, The Culture Code, by Daniel Coyle that has been eye- and heart-opening about what it takes to create a culture of safety. It’s a super quick read but I’ll highlight the core messages of the book here for you. His thesis is that high-performing culture can be created through three skills: 1) Building Safety; 2) Sharing Vulnerability; and 3) Establishing Purpose. (more…)

What Will Students Experience in a Competency-Based School?

March 27, 2018 by

As you might know, CompetencyWorks has been using virtual collaborative processes, fondly known as a Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs), to build knowledge that draws from local, state, and national leaders. In a TAG that was aimed at creating a way of defining and explaining competency-based education, an unexpected set of ideas was developed: What should students expect to experience in a competency-based school? We hadn’t planned to build this out, but now we have it.

Districts and schools, after adapting for their own approach based on their student outcomes and the mediating factors of who their student population is as well as the local context, should be able to turn this into a rubric or survey to provide feedback on how deep and broad their implementation is. However, I’d like to ask you: How might you change or add to this list of the expected student experience in a personalized, competency-based school?

What will students experience in a competency-based school?

Below are examples of experiences that every student should have in a well-developed personalized, competency-based system.

1. I will be fully supported in developing academic knowledge and skills, the ability to apply what I have learned to solve real-world problems, and the capacities I need to become an independent and lifelong learner. (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…)

Kettle Moraine: How They Got Here and Where They are Going

December 4, 2017 by

Image from the Kettle Moraine website

This article is part of a series on personalized, proficiency-based education in Wisconsin and the second in a ten-part series on Kettle Moraine. Please read the first post on Kettle Moraine before continuing to read this post, as it will prepare you to fully take advantage of the ideas and resources shared in this series.

Before they turned to personalized learning, Kettle Moraine School District (KM) was already considered a high performing school district, with 80-90 percent of students going on to post-secondary education and training and numerous recognitions of excellence every year. Superintendent Patricia DeKlotz explained, “How we think of success and high performance is based on what we measure. Eighty percent of our students go on to college, but only 45 percent of those students complete post-secondary. We want to measure ourselves based on things that really count for our students. We know we can do better. We know we can create more relevance for our students and their futures. ”

In fact, some people interpreted the suggestion that there should be change as an indication that there was a problem. DeKlotz explained, “When we first started talking about personalization, some people didn’t understand why. They saw it as we aren’t good enough. But that wasn’t the case at all. We are changing because we can do better, not that we are failing. This is important because trust between a district and the community, between schools and parents, begins with the belief that we are doing the very best for students. It’s important to begin from a position of strength if you can.” Assistant Superintendent Theresa Ewald added, “Many of the traditional measures of success used are those that were set in a time when few attended college, when knowledge was less accessible to all. The context has changed, so must the measures of success.”

There was another driving force: finances. Wisconsin, like other states, hasn’t been keeping up with increases in inflation, and the cost pressures are significant on districts. KM had had revenue limits in place since 1993. DeKlotz described that previous response to the tightening fiscal situation was to try to cut programs and drop things from the budget. Her background in business and familiarity with the Kaizan approach encouraged her to find another way. As did meeting Richard DeLorenzo, one of the architects of the Chugach performance-based model at a MCREL meeting. The dual drivers of costs and excellence catalyzed KM to look for more cost-effective ways of organizing education. Their answer was personalizing education to create more efficiency and to be much more effective for preparing their students for college, careers, and all they might encounter in life.

The shift to personalized learning and the district’s ability to sustain the transformation is based on four major processes:

  • School board adoption of a policy governance model: Working with Superintendent Pat DeKlotz, the school board clarified its role as policy, advocacy, and helping to promote the district. This left DeKlotz and her team to make strategic and operational decisions as they emerged.
  • Strategic visioning: Every three to four years, the district engages 100 members of the community in building a strategic vision. The most recent developed the vision of Learning Without Boundaries and guides the district today. The final product is a paper that is shared widely in the hopes of reaching even more people to engage them in the shared vision.
  • District annual retreat: Every year the school board and leadership council, consisting of twenty-four community members and educators, reflect on data about student achievement, school performance, financials, and student and parent feedback. They set the goals for the next year and develop 100-day action plans. This continuous improvement and public accountability has been instrumental in building trust between the district and community.
  • School annual retreats: Every school uses the same retreat process with a leadership team, reflection on school goals aligned with district goals, action plans, and monitoring implementation of those plans.

DeKlotz emphasized, “These processes have proven to be essential. This is how we hold the change process tight and not have things slip off the plate.” The strategic visioning process was particularly meaningful. As described in the first article about personalized learning in Wisconsin, the Institute for Personalized Learning describes three core elements of personalized learning: learner profile to track student learning; customized learning plans; and proficiency-based progress. KM wanted to make sure their understanding of personalized learning was embedded in their own experiences as a community. Based on the strategic visioning process, KM developed the vision statement Learning Without Boundaries, which captures the spirit of their personalized learning approach. (more…)

Kettle Moraine: Where the Future of Education is Being Created Student by Student

by

This article is part of a series on personalized, proficiency-based education in Wisconsin and the first in a ten-part series on Kettle Moraine. Start the entire series here.

There are many reasons to learn about what Kettle Moraine School District is doing:

  • Personalizing education;
  • Opening up learning by using a learner continuum rather than grade level standards;
  • Multi-age classrooms;
  • Chartering schools to test innovations prior to scaling;
  • Micro-credentials;
  • Place-based learning; and
  • Community outreach and community partnerships.

Similar to Waukesha’s STEM Academy, Kettle Moraine (KM) is using a learner continuum that recognizes where the student is and where they will go. Although the standards might be the same, organizing around the learner rather than the grade level opens up new ways of organizing learning. It’s easier to think about meeting students where they are. It’s easier to allow students to learn above their grade level. It’s easier to think about providing students multiple opportunities for how they learn, as teachers must have resources and assessments prepared for students at different places along the continuum. This is the direction every district should be going.

This series is designed to help you understand the Kettle Moraine (KM) approach and how they are making it work. But don’t get too excited. Kettle Moraine is implementing personalized learning based on a strong culture of learning, a belief that students can learn to be independent learners, and a few powerful structures including a graduate profile and learner continuua. And each personalized learning school has then selected their own themes, their own learning designs, and instructional strategies to emphasize. Thus, you are not going to find an easy recipe for replication. Wherever I could, I’ve added links to KM video and resources so you can go even deeper. I truly encourage you to take the time to read this series slowly.

Get Ready to Read This Series

To get ready to read this series, I also encourage you to do two things and to consider two things. (more…)

Waukesha STEM Academy’s Journey from ABC to the Learner Continuum (Part 4)

November 27, 2017 by

Image from the WSA website

This article is part of a series on personalized, proficiency-based education in Wisconsin and the fourth in a four-part series on Waukesha STEM Academy. Read the entire series with posts onetwothree, and four.

The transition of Waukesha STEM Academy (WSA) to a personalized, proficiency-based system didn’t happen overnight. Principal James Murray and the team at WSA started down this road in 2010, moving through four stages of implementation.

The first stage was moving toward blended learning and incorporating educational software. Murray explained, “The programs provided a lot of data, especially in math. We had to learn how to use it. We had an innovation dip, and the student data plateaued before finally starting to shoot upward. However, we realized there were problems. We were giving students choices. We thought the gamification would be engaging. But we weren’t teaching students the really important skills of how to collaborate, create, and innovate; we were still somewhat stuck in the consumption game and we wanted to transition to the production side of town.” Murray emphasized, “We started to understand that there was a strong and often overlooked nuance between getting something done compared to mastering concepts and owning the ability to contextualize these skills. We realized that students could never get to mastery solely by using adaptive educational software. You simply can’t do it all online. There are definitely powerful supplemental resources for students, but not the core instructional strategy. We never wanted these programs to supplant great instruction and varied modalities and, more importantly, the application of the skills being developed needed to be the keystone of this process.”

So WSA took a big step back. They began to repurpose. Murray explained, “We started thinking about the endgame. We have to put students on a playing field in life. We wanted our students to know how to learn, make progress, demonstrate their learning, and own their education. We needed to think about how we could prepare our students for that.”

In stage two, or STEM 2.0, WSA focused on what it was going to mean to use STEM to help students build higher order skills. They reorganized the campuses so there was now a K-5 and a 6-8 with 850 students enrolled overall. The next step was moving to 1:1 netbooks, expanding the project-based learning to disband projects tied to grade-levels and add in student-proposal projects, and building a platform to support monitoring students. During this stage, they narrowed grading to A-D with the idea that no student should ever be failing a course.

The third stage, referred to as STEM 3.0, introduced standards-based grading (using standards and committing to every student meeting all the standards). Murray pointed out, “We were focusing on proficiency and mastery. We had an adult mental model in which we kept telling students, “You need to do this or that. You need to reach proficiency. Our feedback on behaviors emphasized compliance.” At this point they started understanding that grade-based standards were adult-driven based on what we expected but not where students really were. The standards were transparent but the expectation was that students were all learning the same standards and at the same pace. They also realized that they needed to shift the orientation to learner-driven so they were helping students begin to own their education and their progression.

In the fourth stage, WSA created their own learner continuums that were informed by standards and learning progressions, organized courses to meet students where they were, increased transparency for students about learning expectations and progress, invested in more coaching and reflection in developing personal habits of success, and created the information system to support it all. The vision was finally staring to take shape and people were beginning to really notice the difference in production, engagement, and excitement for learning. This brand new concept of a school had started to grow its sea legs and was now beginning to transform the educational system as we had always known it into a program model that functioned much like a blend of a start-up company and a think-tank, woven into a technical college type-campus.

Use of Technology to Support Students and Teachers

Murray explained, “In order to make the personalized, proficiency-based system really work for students, teachers, and parents, we needed a really good LMS. It needed to operate as a fully-accessible digital file cabinet so that teachers, students, and parents could have access to real-time data and resources.” As every school shifting to competency-based education knows, that’s not so easy to find. “We didn’t just want to build a system and then let it collect dust, as the teachers were the keepers of knowledge. We wanted our most important customers – our students and parents – to be able to access these tools whenever and wherever they pursued their learning. (more…)

Waukesha STEM Academy: Rethinking Space, Time, and Reporting (Part 3)

November 20, 2017 by

This article is part of a series on personalized, proficiency-based education in Wisconsin and the third in a four-part series on Waukesha STEM Academy. Read the entire series with posts onetwothree, and four.

“Once you get a new iPhone, you can’t go back to a flip phone…it just doesn’t feel right,” remarked Waukesha STEM Academy principal James Murray. We had been discussing the power of creating a transparent learner continuum and the implications for other parts of the instructional and school design.

Use of Time

One change just led to another, and there was no way to stop or back up because the value to students was so apparent. Murray likened it to climbing a tree, branch by branch. “Eventually, you look down and realize how high you have climbed. We were so far beyond the norm that we weren’t going to turn back and climb down that proverbial tree.” For example, in rethinking the learner continuum, Waukesha STEM Academy (WSA) also started rethinking the structure of time and how it impacted learning. Instead of a semester or a school year, they began to think about how they would use the 540 days of learning students had while at STEM and then stretch the learning experience into the summer and vacation months. They are now pushing to see how they might provide a year-round model with more learning during the summer through seminars.

One of the principles they used is Do less so you can do more. They reduced core courses from eight to three per day.  The WSA considers the schedule a framework (scroll down to see this week’s framework), as it is something that guides but can be changed if needed. The first fifteen minutes of the day is spent for a transition to learning spaces. The idea of transition is that students check in with whom they need to, grab the resources they need, finish up any work they need to, and find their way to their learning space. The schedule is then a mix of four core courses each day with times aimed at supporting students and openings in the day, when students are able to work on focus areas respective of their individual and personalized learning goals.

Twice a week, students have FLEX where they go to whatever teacher and course they need extra help or extra time with to complete their projects. Homework Club is available three times a week for extra help after school, with students working in a math lab or literacy lab as needed. Murray noted that 98 percent of the students who need the extra help stay after school. In addition, twice weekly Advisory has formal reflection time for students to think about how they are using the time in the day for their learning, as well as to focus on personal success habits, digital citizenship conversations, ACP lessons, and other types of training and coaching.

CONNECT happens at lunch every day, with students touching base with staff as needed or as requested. This is a very unique approach to lunch, because 100 percent of students are on, all at the same time. No one tells students when they need to eat or where they need to go. In this hour, students choose when they eat and which teachers they will go to connect with. At first, there were conversations about schooling this concept and telling groups of students when they needed to eat and where they needed to go. This quickly fell by the wayside when the mission of this time was looked at closely. “We wanted to help our students build skills in time management and ownership of their day,” Murray adds. “When you do it for them and tell them when they can eat and where they need to sit, and make them raise their hands to throw their trash out or excuse themselves from the table, you have removed the ability and need to develop that sense of growth. Our goal was to build independence, not dependent students who didn’t need to think for themselves.”

When students first join WSA, they are offered a four-week Bootcamp during CONNECT to fully understand the proficiency-based system and the information management systems that support it. Students only exit the Bootcamp when they have demonstrated that they understand the necessary components to be successful at WSA. They learn how to use Google Docs and the information management system For All Rubrics; they are introduced to how the schedule is organized; they become familiar with the learner continuums and rubrics; and they learn how to use FLEX, CONNECT, and Homework Club to best support their learning. Once they demonstrate mastery in these areas, they are released into Gen. Pop. and are “pushed out of the nest,” so to speak, and show that they can be successful. If, after a few days, it is observed that a student still needs some support, they are reeled back in to Bootcamp so they can further develop the skills they need to build up.

Rethinking Space

(more…)

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