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Tag: voice and choice

Lake County Schools: Lost Lake Elementary is Putting the Fun Back into Teaching

February 17, 2016 by

lost lakeThis post is the third in a five-part series on Lake County Schools in Florida. Begin with the district overview and follow along at these schools: South Lake High, Lost Lake Elementary, Sawgrass Bay Elementary, and Lake Windy Hill Middle

When I visited Miss Green’s classroom at Lost Lake Elementary School, classical music was playing as students grabbed snacks and began to reflect on their day. Students explained to me their standards and, of course, the Dojo. Miss Green noted that PL has been particularly helpful, as she is an ELL teacher with four students with a variety of English skills in her class. She said that students are speaking more in class as part of the PL environment and she can provide more direct instruction to the student who is at the very beginning of his journey to learn English.

Michelle Mabry, Lost Lake’s PL facilitator, explained that at the Reinventing Schools Coalition training, they asked about how the ESE (Exceptional Student Education) students and the English Language Learners were doing. The conversation turned to the challenge of engaging students who were really struggling with the curriculum and the different strategies students develop, including learned helplessness. Lost Lake has turned to Mary Cay Ricci’s Mindsets in the Classroom to help integrate the growth mindset throughout the school. Assistant Principal Karen Hart noted that in the classrooms where teachers are embracing personalized learning, it’s difficult to tell which students are ESE. (more…)

Lake County Schools: Moving at the Speed of Trust at South Lake High School

February 16, 2016 by
slhs map of learning

SLHS Map of Learning

This post is the second in a five-part series on Lake County Schools in Florida. Begin with the district overview and follow along at these schools: South Lake High, Lost Lake Elementary, Sawgrass Bay Elementary, and Lake Windy Hill Middle

My first stop at Lake County Schools was South Lake High School (SLHS) with Kathy Halbig, Coordinator of Personalized Learning, as my guide. Arriving a bit early, I had the chance to read all the posters and photographs that dotted the walls in the reception area, congratulating students for Future Farmers of America, bowling, golf, track, and national merit scholars. And I thought – normal American high school.

However, once I met with Principal Rob McCue, Assistant Principal Kim Updike, and PL Facilitator Bobby Rego, I realized that South Lake High School is really the “new normal” – an entrepreneurial, innovative spirit committed to figuring out exactly how to personalize education so every student is achieving no matter what their level of skill and maturity when they first enroll in high school. With 1,820 students, of which 62 percent (or more) is FRL, South Lake High School has to design for students who are likely to be the first generation to go to college. The school is based in Groveland, Florida, where agricultural strength is on the decline and so are the jobs. In a world in which so many schools are not racially integrated, it’s worth noting that South Lake is 13 percent African-American, 23 percent Hispanic, and 64 percent white.

Powerful Understanding of Personalization: Immediately in our opening conversation, Updike and McCue stated, “Personalized learning means meeting kids where they are and taking them as far as you can by any means necessary.” The official definition of personalized learning is equally powerful, as it emphasizes student agency: Personalized learning is a broad spectrum of educational opportunities for students that provides students VOICE and CHOICE in how they learn and demonstrate mastery of standards. At South Lake High, we view personalized learning as simply meeting students where they are and taking them as far as they can go, and then some, while assisting them in making global connections to their interests, community, college, and careers. (more…)

Lake County Schools: Designing a Strategy to Bring Personalized Learning to Scale

February 15, 2016 by

Lake CountyThis post is the first in a five-part series on Lake County Schools in Florida.

After the iNACOL Symposium in Orlando, I had a whirlwind visit at Lake County Schools in Florida and an incredibly rich conversation with Kathy Halbig, Coordinator of Personalized Learning for Students. I first met Halbig two years ago at the iNACOL pre-conference symposium on competency education. She was just learning about competency education at the time. Two years later, a group of her schools are already in their first year of implementation. This district is moving fast, although one person referred to it as “moving at the speed of trust.”

In this post, I share a bit of background and an overview of the Lake County Schools strategy to transition to a system of personalized learning (including competency education). Each of the profiles of the schools shares insights and takeaways into the process of a medium-sized district making the transition to a competency-based, personalized system. Thanks to the educators at each of the following schools for their generosity in sharing their learning:

We didn’t have time to visit Umatilla High School – I hope to do that when I get back to visit Lake County. Or perhaps if you go to visit Lake County, you might be able to stop by and share how they are proceeding in their transition. (more…)

Red Bank Elementary: Five Big Takeaways

February 2, 2016 by

2015-11-16 08.46.17This post is part of the series Competency Education Takes Root in South Carolina. This is the first in the series on Red Bank Elementary in Lexington School District. Follow along with: #2 teaching students instead of standards, #3 teacher perspectives, #4 student perspectives, and #5 parent perspectives.

Amazing that a five-hour site visit at Red Bank Elementary School with Principal Marie Watson, her staff, and the students could produce so many big takeaways.

Teaching Students, Not Standards: At one point, Watson referred to the difference between standards-based and competency-based education. I asked her how she differentiated these two phrases, which are often used interchangeably. Her insight was so powerful that I’m now embracing it myself. She said that in standards-based systems, the schools teach based on the grade level. The focus is on the standards. Competency-based is about teaching students, starting where they are in their own development and academic level and then ensuring they reach proficiency on the standards. You start with the students. (This is the concept that most of the vendors of grading and tracking systems can’t seem to get their heads wrapped around. They keep creating systems based around the standards in a grade level or course.)

Intentional Blending: There is a lot of talk about models in the world of blended learning, but much less about pedagogy and how the instructional delivery choices reinforce it (or not). The team at Red Bank starts with pedagogy and building a shared understanding of how students learn as well as the implications for teaching before they make choices about products and apps. They think about whether products will support the development of higher order skills (they use the 4 Cs – creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking – as the criteria for making purchasing choices).

Competency Education for the Littlest Ones: Red Bank has one kindergarten class serving four-year-olds and one serving five-year-olds. Watson and the kindergarten teachers helped me to think about how important it is to understand the developmental stages of children and their brain development, especially when it is impacted by poverty. Watson explained, “Some students haven’t had exposure to colors or how to write their name. Some have rarely had books read to them. The idea of letters is totally new to them. It is their developmental stage that shapes whether they take off once they become exposed to new ideas and new skills, or whether they are going to take more time to build these early foundational skills. We have to pay attention to how their memory is developing as well as their motor skills. Some students may take three or four years to reach the level of development they need to become strong readers and learn their numbers with enough fluency that they can thrive in mathematics. We often see them take off and catch up at this point.”

This makes me wonder: Would it be useful to make the interplay between development and standards more explicit for teachers and parents so personalized learning trajectories could be created? If a student’s brain hasn’t developed enough to memorize 1-100, why would we expect them to do so? Wouldn’t it be more valuable to help them strengthen their skills at memorization first? Or perhaps what we need are bands or benchmarks rather than grade-level standards? (more…)

What I’m Learning About Student Agency

December 2, 2015 by

for agency postOn Thursday, December 3 at 7 pm ET the topic of the #NGLCchat series will be on student agency. Guests include Andrew K. Miller, who serves on the National Faculty for the Buck Institute and ASCD; Principal Michele Savage and teacher Casey Montigney from Shue-Medill Middle School in Newark, DE; and Dave Lash and Dr. Grace Belfiore, developers of the MyWays project.

In preparation for the discussion, I’ve pulled a number of blogs together that touch on student agency. These include blogs written on the topic, how schools are structuring and supporting students to have agency, classroom practices, and my personal reflections as I learn more about it. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

November 5, 2015 by

Are you interested in understanding the competency-based models in higher education? Chris Sturgis shares her insights into the questions you need to ask about these competency-based programs.

Grant OpportunityScreen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AM

The Center for Innovation in Education and NGLC invite applications to the Assessment for Learning Project. The grants will support educators to fundamentally rethink the core role(s) that assessment can play to support student attainment of deeper learning. Nearly $2 million is available for 12-15 grants. Applications are due December 10, 2015. Learn more and apply here.

Student Reflections on Competency Education

Teacher and Leader Preparation

  • The Educational Leadership program in Texas Tech University’s College of Education will partner with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) to build a grant-funded, competency-based training model for school principals. The $7.2 million federal Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant will impact leadership training in high-need schools in Texas, Louisiana and Indiana.
  • Thomas College has announced it will be opening the Center for Innovation in Education which will offer a course of study designed to prepare education graduates to teach Maine’s high school proficiency-based learning curriculum.

Thought Leadership

Other News

  • Learn how to turn student-teacher conferences into student-led meetings, and learn how all parties can play an important role in the learning process of children.
  • Competency-based education is getting employers’ attention to fill gaps in workforce needs, after a study found that critical thinking and problem solving were the top competencies being sought in employees.
  • In Grand Junction, Colorado, interviews with prospective school board members raise the issue of whether to become performance-based.

Resources

For more updates, following us on twitter (@CompetencyWorks) and sign up for our monthly newsletter on our homepage.

 

Learner Agency: The Missing Link

October 29, 2015 by

Student ControlThis post originally appeared at The Institute for Personalized Learning on September 14, 2015.

Defining Learner Agency
Learner agency often gets missed in conversations on transforming the educational system. We have a sense of ‘agency’ when we feel in control of things that happen around us; when we feel that we can influence events. This is an important sense for learners to develop. Learners must understand:

  • when they need new learning and how to learn what they need
  • when they need to unlearn what will no longer serve them
  • when they need to relearn what they need to be successful

They must develop the capacity to engage strategically in their learning without waiting to be directed. They must take ownership of and responsibility for their learning. And, they must possess the skills to learn independently, without heavy dependence on external structures and direction.

Why Learner Agency is Needed
There is a significant and growing demand for learners to be able to do more than receive instruction, follow a learning path designed by educators and complete problems and assignments presented to them by an adult. Learners need to develop the capacity to shape and manage their learning without over-reliance on the direction and control of others. Too often adults treat children as though they are incapable of making decisions or holding valid opinions. As children advance through the system, they develop a form of “learned helplessness” that keeps them from advocating for themselves. The process for learning and the role learners play must be different than most adults experienced. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

October 8, 2015 by

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AMOhio department of education released its application to participate in the state’s new Competency-based education pilot program. It also created self-assessment tools for school districts to determine their readiness to participate in the program.

More Movement in the States

News

  • Arne Duncan supports Purdue University’s competency-based education program, and he is quoted as supporting competency education and shifting away from time-based systems.
  • An interview with Jennifer Deenik, Living Systems Science Teacher at Souhegan High School, by Jennifer Poon, Innovation Lab Network Director at CCSSO, takes a peek inside New Hampshire’s performance assessment pilot program.
  • Diploma Plus operates small alternative programs for students who have repeatedly failed a grade or are on the verge of dropping out. This interview with William Diehl, chair of the Diploma Plus board, discusses the key components of the schools’ efforts to prepare students who are coming from behind.
  • The Woodrow Wilson Foundation, in partnership with MIT, are creating the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning Sciences, which provides graduate programs in teacher education and school leadership. The Academy will be competency-based with a blended curriculum, and the first class will enroll in 2017.
  • In Giving Students Charge of How They Learn, John McCarthy discusses student-developed products based on learning targets, student-developed rubrics, student-developed conferences, and setting students free to learn with you.

Videos and Films

  • Beyond Measure is a film that challenges the assumptions of our current education system, and paints a positive picture of what’s possible in American education when communities decide they are ready for change. Watch the trailer here.
  • The Illuminating Standards Video Series explore the relationship between meeting demanding state standards and designing powerful learning experiences for all students. The video series are listed by grade level.

(more…)

Innovation Springing Up in Springdale

September 28, 2015 by
Dr-Megan-Witonski

Dr. Megan Witonski

When you talk to Dr. Megan Witonski, Associate Superintendent in Springdale School District (AR), it feels like she is just about to jump out of the phone, she is that full of passion, insightfulness, and the all-important we-are-going-to-make-this-happen-ness. I couldn’t but help imagine her with a superhero cloak.

Springdale, based in Northwest Arkansas, has 23,000 students, half of whom are English Language Learners. The district is entering their second year of implementation of a new 8-12 School of Innovation. The strategy doesn’t end with a new school – Springdale is personalizing their school district by having six of their schools approved (and the waivers that come with it) under the Arkansas Department of Education School of Innovation initiative. These six schools all provide students to the School of Innovation, led by principal Joe Rollins.

We’ve all seen districts start up new innovative schools but leave the others to stagnate. Not so at Springdale. For example, they found that advisories have been instrumental in the new School for Innovation in lifting up student voice, ensuring strong relationships are built with students, and helping to personalize instruction and support so they can be confident students are learning. As a result, they’ve already introduced advisories into the other middle and high schools.

What Inspired Springdale to Personalize: Witonski explained that there were several forces at work leading them to personalization. First, they wanted to make sure they were fully preparing their students for life after high school. They wanted to reach beyond the basic requirements for graduation. Second, with half of their student body learning English and needing help to fully build up their strength in the academic use of English, they needed a model that would ensure every student was fully engaged and able to get the support he or she needed.

Witonski said, “We were doing a great job for most students, but there is a population we need to seek out new approaches to reach and help build a wider set of skills. We began by looking at the most important ingredients for what students needed to be ready for college and careers. We wanted to make sure they had all the tools in their toolbelt to be successful. From there, we looked at what a structure could look like that would help them build those skills.” (more…)

A Conversation with Buddy Berry in Eminence Kentucky

September 21, 2015 by

eminenceI had a chance to visit Kentucky last month when I participated in a meeting of the Kentucky Valley Education Cooperative/University of Kentucky Next Generation Leaders Academy. Before I headed south to Hazard, I veered north to visit Eminence School District, one of the ten innovation districts.

Eminence is a small, rural district of about 850 students located forty miles east of Louisville. Superintendent Buddy Berry is a fourth generation alumni of Eminence. Five years ago, Eminence was facing declining enrollment and funding. Since they have started down this path to personalization, the tide has turned and enrollment has nearly doubled.

Eminence is taking a different path toward competency education than other districts I have visited, so for us to have a meaningful conversation, Berry and I first had to spend a bit of time unpacking the language of personalization, standards-based, competency-based, mastery, and proficiency, as they can easily become buzz words that lose their distinct meaning. Once we got ourselves comfortable with the language each of us was using, we had a tremendous conversation. Here are a few of the highlights.

Starting with Students: Berry explained that to launch their effort, they wanted to create a culture where staff listened to students and students had a sense of agency that they could shape the world around them. They organized focus groups of fifteen students and interviewed every student in the district, asking them to share what they didn’t like about school and what they wanted it to be. Based on the specific feedback they received—such as limited choice, no opportunity to feel really challenged, and lack of technology—the district made a number of changes: expanded electives, additional AP and honors courses, and laptops students could check out in the library.

Berry identified two important lessons learned through this process. First, student agency isn’t just about listening to students. After students realized they were being given a voice, they brought out every complaint, expecting the adults in the system to fix it. Thus they jumped from empowerment to entitlement. Eminence took a step back and set the expectation that everyone is part of the solution. Students could still bring forth problems, but they also had to bring ideas for how to solve them. (more…)

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