Registration is now open for the 2019 iNACOL Symposium! Register Now

Tag: standards/competency frameworks

An Update From Oregon’s Business Education Compact

September 22, 2014 by

OregonAs you all know, Oregon is a state leader in proficiency-based education, first establishing credit flexibility in 2002. (You can learn about their progress in putting together a variety of elements on the wiki.)

The Oregon Business Education Compact (BEC) has been active in advancing proficiency-based education, supporting pilot schools and providing training to educators on classroom practices. In some ways, the conversion to proficiency-based education has started in classrooms across Oregon, which embraced standards-referenced grading. Now, schools are  opening their arms to the more systemic whole-school conversion. (more…)

Can Competency Education Work in Urban Districts?

July 10, 2014 by
triangle

Designing for Autonomy

I’ve been hearing this question by foundations that are excited about competency education but are focused on investing in solutions for big districts in order to reach the most low-income students. (Interesting that Puerto Rico is the third largest school district and I don’t know of any foundations investing there.) “Urban” can be a code for students and families with brown and black skin that don’t have much in the way of financial assets. For those who need proof points that CBE works for “urban students”, the Barack Obama Charter School in Los Angeles is one. (Read the CompetencyWorks blog about it here.) I believe in this instance, however, the concern about competency education’s workability in urban districts is more about the size of the districts and the difficulty of introducing reforms.

My first advice to foundations that want to support big districts is to expand their boundaries. There has been a demographic shift over the past 20 years, with poverty slipping into inner ring suburbs. Adams 50 is an example of a suburban district at the edges of Denver that decided they had to do something different as they realized that the traditional system was in their way of responding to a changing student population. (Read the CompetencyWorks blog about it here.)  Foundations can take advantage of this “opportunity” by investing in the neighboring smaller districts that are trying to find responses to increasing poverty in their communities.  Not only will you create a proof point for the surrounding districts, you will also begin to build a cadre of educators that can easily train others or even take on leadership in the large districts. (more…)

Going Deeper or Going Further: Where Students Advance in Competency-Based Models

July 7, 2014 by

Originally posted Jan. 29, 2014 at The Christensen Institute.

Julia Freeland

Julia Freeland

The crux of competency-based education is that students advance only upon mastery. This is a deeply logical approach to unlock each individual student’s ability to learn at his own pace. Students who have not yet demonstrated mastery should not advance before they have filled the gaps in their understanding because, left neglected, these gaps only stand to grow as students try to take on more challenging work. Likewise, students who have demonstrated mastery should be able to progress forward to new or more challenging material, rather than being made to wait for the time allotted for a given lesson to elapse. Clear as this may be, however, there is some debate as to what we mean by “advance”: if we imagine this to be linear, do we think advancing means going “rightward,” progressing onto the next unit or eventually onto the next course? Or might advance actually mean going “downward,” deeper into additional applications or more sophisticated concepts?

This is not a new debate in competency-based circles, and it is one that some dismiss as sheer semantics. That’s because usually within a unit or course, “new” topics will often build on the topics that a student has already mastered; in other words, a new skill or content area will be a deeper iteration of the prior one. But the notion that wherever students go next is inherently a “deeper” exploration of material might not apply to every model and might not always achieve the goal at hand. In some settings, we may value moving students through a lot of material more quickly—I think, for example, of how many of my law school classmates studied for the Bar Exam. In that context, there is so much to cover that a strategic use of study time means not necessarily going deep on every topic; still, Bar preparation software programs are often competency-based, in that they require you to pass certain modules to move on to new topic areas. (more…)

What Students Need to Know and Be Able to Do in K12 and Higher Education

June 20, 2014 by

student centered learningAfter writing the previous blog looking at the similarities and differences of competency education in K12 and higher education (HE), I just couldn’t stop thinking about the learning outcomes as they cross over these two sectors.

When discussing competency education, I’ve heard the phrase “K-16 competency-based pipeline” several times over the past two months.  The pipeline metaphor gets us into trouble, however, as it assumes once kids get into it they stay in it until they are pumped out at the other side into the labor market. It’s an institutional top-down framework rather than a student-centered one.

The K-16 pipeline metaphor also tends to emphasize college-readiness over career development and the dynamics of how youth and young adults get a foothold in the labor market. Students make choices, and sometimes things happen that may cause them to move from school to work during secondary school or fall out of the pipeline altogether, unless there are on-ramps back into school. Second, some students blend school and work throughout their years in high school and higher education in ways that make the most sense to them and of the situation. The idea that school and career are sequential steps just doesn’t hold true. We don’t have language to talk about the broad varieties of pathways, hampering our ability to design for it, as well.

The following is a deeper dive into the topic of the intersections of K12 and higher education. There are certainly more questions than answers. Please share your insights, excitement about what is possible, and concerns in comments. (more…)

Step 1: Separate The Baby From the Bathwater

May 19, 2014 by
courtney  belolan

Courtney Belolan

Consider this moment:

I’m sitting in a summer planning session with a team of teachers from different grade levels and contents. We’re talking through a vision of student-centered, proficiency-based learning, and our goal is to have some plans in place for the start of the school year.  As we’re discussing student engagement and motivation, a teacher chimes in with:

Let’s just make sure we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

I hear this phrase whenever talking through change, especially change related to instructional practices. I agree completely, although I’ve never been a fan of the phrase (there is just something about the imagery). We do need to make sure we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; there are many things we already do as educators that support a student-centered, proficiency-based philosophy, regardless of how we design and run our classes. The hard part is getting into that bathtub and making sure we know what really is the baby and what is bathwater. (more…)

Counted or Not, Doing What Counts in Competency-Based Education

April 29, 2014 by
Eduardo Briceño

Eduardo Briceño

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
– William Bruce Cameron (and on a sign hanging in Albert Einstein’s office)

Competency-based education comes with the risk that we focus only on those competencies that can easily be measured and overlook other competencies that are also critical for success in today’s and tomorrow’s world. If we’re mindful of what students need and design our competency-based systems accordingly, however, we can make competency-based education all it can be.

How we can get into trouble

In a competency-based system, each learner focuses on knowledge and skills at the right challenge level, just beyond what is known, and progresses to the next level upon mastery rather than based on age or time. This makes a lot of sense. It’s how people learn. (more…)

Chewing on Learning Progressions: Some Food For Thought

April 7, 2014 by
kphillips

Kaili Phillips

One of the big pushes in our district (and many others throughout Maine) is customized learning: students working at their own pace to progress forward from the point at which they are currently achieving. 

One of the primary tools used to facilitate this type of learning is a “learning continuum” or “learning progression” (hereafter referred to as the continuum or continua). The continuum seems sequential, as it contains rows and explanations for forward progress in each of the given areas of focus, seeming to offer a step-by-step, methodical guide that a child can follow to a successful education. In fact, in many cases learning continuum do not have to be sequential at all. The design of continua suggests linearity so that students can follow the steps and essentially be “done” learning when they get to the end of the line. This obviously makes no sense whatsoever. The challenge to educators is to rethink how and when they use continua in their lessons.

Here are some possibilities and suggestions regarding how to effectively use the Learning Progression model in middle school. As I teach English-Language Arts, my examples are… well, English-Language Artsy… but I am confident that you may find a thought or two that translates well to your content area. (more…)

Do Learning Progressions Have to Be Linear?

February 5, 2014 by

learning progressionsSometimes in teaching we deal in “revelations:” big ideas that students are supposed to get at the end of a unit or learning progression. They are supposed attain these foundational concepts and understandings after progressing through a sequence that is designed to end at a particular point – a point we as educators decide upon when we create a unit of study or a curriculum.

According to Wiggins and McTeague, we are supposed to plan for the big ideas before we even start teaching. We are supposed to plan for where we end up before we even begin. And there’s a lot of good reasoning why. If we know where we’re going, then we can ultimately plan for how to best get there. But there’s a troublesome piece to that. Sometimes our “best” way to get there doesn’t suit some of the students in the room. And sometimes our endpoint is too fixed. Sometimes we create a round hole while students craft a square peg.

Are we right? Are they wrong?

A straightforward definition of a learning progression is to examine it as a “sequenced set of building blocks that students must master en route to mastering a more distant curricular aim.” (Popham, 2007)

Currently, the Common Core has replaced the teacher and the school as the determinant of when students should master concepts and skills. It is our learning progression and it has already determined our “distant curricular aims.” I know students should be reading at particular levels at particular times. I know students should have mastered persuasive writing by the time they come to ninth grade, so that my objective is to continue the work associated with argumentative writing. And educators involved with mathematics have their own timing issues as the Common Core has redirected particular math skills to brand-new points in time.

To say the path to knowledge and skills has changed would be a tremendous understatement. (more…)

Competency Education: The Solution to Retention

December 30, 2013 by

ColbyRecently a group of teachers was working on performance tasks and assessments. They were aligning their units of study to competencies based on the Common Core State Standards. An interesting conversation erupted in the group.   It was clear that the performance indicators they were designing within their performance tasks represented a more rigorous approach than in the past. One teacher wondered what will happen to students who, by the end of the school year, do not demonstrate mastery of the literacy competencies. When I asked what happened in the past when students failed at the end of the school year, the teacher answered: “ Well, we retain them.”

As a former middle school principal, I know that decisions about retention are difficult.  In spite of knowing the adverse effects of retention on future success, educators and parents generally spend many hours considering interventions and social emotional issues before arriving at the decision to retain a child.

As we turn the corner in designing new learning systems, the notion of considering retention can now be safely set aside.  In a competency based learning system, no child is retained.  It is as simple as that.  Why?  Because with the design of learning progressions, mastery is also progressive.  Our students will move through our learning systems with forward progress at all times.  Some students will need more support, customization, and time to do so.  Educational leaders will have the ability to use resources within their organizations very differently. (more…)

Technology Tools Lag Our Competency-Based Aspirations

December 4, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 3.48.28 PMThis post was originally published by the Christensen Institute on November 13, 2013.

Last week I wrote about structural barriers inhibiting competency-based education from taking off, even when policy shifts away from seat-time requirements to welcome innovation. In addition to the organizational structures keeping educators and leaders locked into time-based habits though, there is also a dearth of technology tools to support competency-based education. Most technology tools at competency-based educators’ fingertips reflect time-based practices that resist individualized learning pathways and the ability to track an individual student’s mastery. Liz Glowa’s paper from this past February does an excellent job summarizing the extent to which existing technologies are currently ill suited to competency-based approaches.

Because competency-based models remain few and far between, however, it’s difficult to say what the most transformational edtech solutions might be. To gain a sense of the answer, I surveyed a few competency-based educators on the issue of what software solutions most egregiously lag the pedagogical developments and ambitions of a fully competency-based school.

Joseph Crawford, founder of Next Charter School, a project-based learning high school in New Hampshire, currently uses a complex array of excel spreadsheets to track students’ individual progress against competencies. He described the particular shortcomings of learning management systems in an email:

One thing that I have noticed about most, if not all, LMS’s is that they seem to attach standards to courses and assessments to courses and then allow for a means of assigning a score or grade to each assessment. This is very different than what we do. We have a battery of standards (we call them Performance Indicators), which we individually assess, based on a review of student-created artifacts or projects. The result is that each student meets indicators only when he demonstrates mastery of said indicator with evidence. We have yet to find a tool that allows us to individually assess indicators and attach indicators and artifacts in a patchwork, web-like structure (one artifact may address multiple indicators). (more…)

WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera