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New Beginnings at Fraser Public Schools

Posts from WOL - 1 hour 50 min ago

“We’re not saying schools are broken; we just need to re-imagine our vision for learning and how learning occurs,” said Dr. Dave Richards, superintendent of Fraser Public Schools in Fraser, Michigan, in a recent conversation about the growing pains many districts may experience when implementing personalized, competency-based education.

“In order for there to be a new beginning, there has to be an end,” said Richards, citing William Bridges’ Managing Transitions. “That’s a vulnerable place for everyone involved.  However, at some point you have to say, we’re going to intentionally stop what we’re doing so that we can start doing what we need to transform our system to better support student learning.”

One of the places where Richards began this work with his staff was to create new positions, called 21st century teachers, who serve full-time at each school modeling teaching practices, helping their colleagues use the new technologies that support personalized learning and serving as instructional coaches.

“When we created these positions, it sent a really strong message to our staff,” said Richards. “We were telling them that personalized learning wasn’t a fad.  By dedicating the needed resources for these positions, our Board of Education demonstrated a commitment to support the work so that teachers who were used to teaching in a traditional environment could be successful in the new environment.”

Richards recognized that everyone involved in the learning process, from teachers to parents to students, wants the very best experience and a real foundation for success – and has the sincere desire to do their best. So when they began the work, it was a matter of contrasting the current state of the district with the desired state. Through regular communication across a variety of channels with all stakeholders and two years of fully comprehensive professional development, Richards knew they were on the right track.

“We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were educating two generations at once,” said Richards, citing both the educators and students who had to learn how personalized learning would best help them achieve their goals. “It might not look like school as we think of it, but we’re talking about learning. How will it occur? How will we know that students are really learning? How will we create the kind of system that creates opportunities for all students and on a customized level?”

The district has been doing this work since 2010, and Richards is optimistic about the future of personalized learning at Fraser, and in Michigan. He has been helping the state think through their competency-based education pilots and state wide networking to support the work.

“We know more about our student learning today than we ever have,” said Richards. “And more importantly, our students know more about themselves and what they’re learning – what they’ve mastered, at what level, and what they still need to work on. We’ve laid a strong foundation.”

Read about Marysville Exempted Village School District and their transformation to personalized, competency-based learning.

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Kenowa Hills Recognized as a Leader in Personalized, Competency-Based Education

Posts from WOL - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 8:00am

I’ve been working with Kenowa Hills Public Schools since the summer of 2013, and I was thrilled to see their work in implementing personalized, competency-based education recognized in a recent video from the Michigan Department of Education.

Kenowa Hills has long demonstrated that an important part of their vision is building the knowledge base of personalized learning throughout the state of Michigan, not just in their own communities. They want to highlight their progress as a way to make their state stronger – and they encourage their partners in the community and at the state level to dedicate some of their energy to these efforts, as well.

And this recognition proves it’s paying off – not just for Kenowa Hills, but for all students in Michigan.

Learn more about the great work happening in Kenowa Hills Public Schools.

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Our Response to House Momentum on the Higher Education Act

Posts from WOL - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 1:54pm

Last week, the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee voted to advance legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act – a law that’s most recent reauthorization expired in 2013. The 500+ page PROSPER Act, authored by Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), is intended to reform higher education by “promoting innovation, access, and completion; simplifying and improving student aid; empowering students and families to make informed decisions; and ensuring strong accountability and a limited federal role.” But like any bill that is early in the legislative process, the PROSPER Act is a blend of promising and concerning ideas that will require a long and meaningful conversation with diverse stakeholders to get this right for students.

Building on our recent Higher Education Act recommendations, KnowledgeWorks sent a letter to  House Education and Workforce Committee leadership today in reaction to the PROSPER Act. We applaud the bill’s emphasis on promoting personalized pathways to postsecondary completion through competency education, employer-sponsored apprenticeship programs, and short-term certificates. Simultaneously, we express strong concerns for eliminating the federal role in teacher preparation, public service loan forgiveness, and a number of provisions that would negatively impact the ability of students, especially low-income students to pay for college.

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How Districts Can Fund Personalized, Competency-Based Education

Posts from WOL - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 8:00am

If money were no object, what might you buy? Which charity would you support? Where would you travel?

How would you redesign school?

Many districts considering moving from a traditional education system to personalized, competency-based education wonder how they will pay for it. It can be a fun exercise to think about how we might design the perfect school if money weren’t an object, but because it is, we’ve created a guide to help districts consider how they might spend differently to support the transition to competency-based education. We outline seven approaches, including:

  • How to align every budgeting decision to your vision
  • How to work with nearby like-minded districts to share the cost
  • How to prioritize culture-building
  • And more!

If you want to achieve real, sustainable change in your district, thinking about how you allocate federal, state and local funds is a critical step.

Download 7 Approaches to Fund the Transition to Personalized, Competency-Based Education to learn more about how your district can fund the switch.Download 7 Approaches to Fund the Transition to Personalized, Competency-Based Education to learn more about how your district can fund the switch.

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In a Personalized Learning Environment, What is the Role of Technology?

Posts from WOL - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 7:40am

Much has been made about the connection between technology and personalized learning. Can you personalize learning without technology? Yes, but technology is a great tool in implementing personalized learning. Is personalized learning driven by technology? No, it’s driven by good teaching and strong student supports centered on the needs of each student. Is personalized learning really about putting kids in front of screens and pressing play? No, technology is a tool, like a pencil or protractor or composition notebook, that helps bring learning alive, provides opportunities for practice, and a connection to the world of work.

In a personalized environment, what is the role of technology?

  1. Technology is additive. Technology, whether a tablet, laptop and/or online program or platform should add to great teaching in the classroom. The goal of personalized learning is to meet each student where they are. That goal can only be accomplished by capitalizing on engaging direct instruction, project-based learning, cooperative learning and blending in technology. Technology can help students fill in gaps to their learning, advance their learning through greater depth of exploration, connect students to experts in the field and to simply write, revise, and publish a research paper.
  2. Technology needs to be implemented naturally. Think about the classroom as an ecosystem. Technology must live in balance, in concert with the other learning options and modalities. It cannot overwhelm the ecosystem or the ecosystem will become unbalanced and will not provide vibrancy for all students. In fact, an over-reliance on technology means that the learning environment is not personalized because a student, all students, need multiple ways to interact with and demonstrate their mastery of key content knowledge and skills.
  3. Technology extends the benefit of a great teacher. To meet each student where they are by providing engaging instruction, the just-in-time supports, and key real-world learning opportunities, technology must play a role. This can manifest in a flipped classroom allowing for technology to be a dissemination of direct instruction from that great classroom teacher allowing for practice and application to happen in the classroom under the expert tutelage of the teacher. Technology plays a role in organizing the day-to-day classroom activities by allowing students to rotate between small group instruction, to online practice, to group work with peers. Also, in rural areas in particular, technology can allow more students to have access to advanced coursework through video-based lessons or distance learning-based options.
  4. Technology is invisible to kids. We often forget that technology is invisible to students. Remember, they are digital natives. They have grown up with a device of some sort in their hands. They don’t even think of it as “technology;” it’s just life. They are partners in code with their devices. We are the weird ones treating classrooms like airplanes asking them to power down. Its normal for them to toggle between research, the paper they are writing and the rubric the teacher gave them for the project all the while listening to music on Spotify…that is their normal.

Is technology the educational silver bullet or the end of public education as we know it? No. Neither. It is a key tool for personalizing learning, driving deeper engagement and preparing students for an ever-changing, technology-rich environment. Think about it this way. The planes that we all fly on have a ton of technology on them to aid with navigation, controlling the plane and communication (among other things) but we still need pilots, right? No matter the technology in the classroom, we still need teachers, great teachers, to help students grow their love of learning and master the content and skills they need to be successful. Technology is a tool but the teacher is the key to personalized learning.

Taking the time to address common misconceptions and concerns about personalized, competency-based education and spark those conversations that will further your district’s mission for all students is essential. Will students spend their whole day on a tablet or computer? What role does the teacher play in a competency-based classroom? Is competency education just another workforce model? Download for these and more questions with grounded, common-language responses that will make it easier for you to have those critical conversations necessary for success.

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Reframing Education for the Long Now: Balancing Immediate Needs With Long-Term Transformation

Posts from WOL - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 1:55pm

This article also appears on Medium and is part of a series done in partnership with The Long Now Foundation.

Guest post by Andrea Saveri

“Now” is the period in which people feel they live and act and have responsibility. For most of us, “now” is about a week, sometimes a year. For some traditional tribes in the American northeast and Australia, “now” is seven generations back and forward (350 years). Just as the [first] Earth photographs [from space] gave us a sense of ‘the big here, we need things which give people a sense of ‘the long now.’ –Stewart Brand, Long Now Foundation Founder

Education is inherently a long-term proposition. Just as species adapt by learning and thereby ensure their survival, so too societies educate their people to ensure longevity through the ingenuity of future generations. As a system, education straddles the pressures of individuals’ and society’s immediate needs and inequities on the one side with desires for long-term positive outcomes and sustainability on the other.

For many U.S. schools and districts, this bridging might translate into reconciling immediate goals such as ensuring that all children read at grade level in the elementary years and helping students with trauma learn to self-regulate with longer-term goals such as rethinking curriculum for a future employment landscape that will be automated and digitally augmented. Yet even when education stakeholders see the value of addressing both time horizons, it can be incredibly difficult to imagine and pursue true transformation.

As Stewart Brand describes in The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility, after the Apollo program began returning color photographs of the earth from space, the earth’s problems lived in a new context, “the big here”, and took on new dimensions, stakeholders, and rationales. Having planet-scale perspective on atmospheric health, ocean health, and climate stability made national approaches obsolete. What might a similar context shift for education be? When considering education as a long-term proposition, what might the “long now” in education look like? What forces and dynamics might shape it? How might we cultivate a “long now” mindset in order to reframe pressing education challenges in ways that reveal purposeful approaches and thoughtfully-scaled solutions?

Long Now Educators workshop, August 1, 2017.

This was the domain of discussion and collaboration at the Long Now Educators workshop on August 1, 02017, hosted by the Long Now Foundation and KnowledgeWorks Foundation at the Fort Mason Center for the Arts. Insights from the workshop will be presented in a four part series of blog posts over the next four months.

The Dynamic of the Pace Layers

The Pace Layer framework is a thinking tool developed by Stewart Brand that effectively stretches the “now” to make long-term thinking (decades, centuries, and millennia) more concrete, accessible, and relevant to the present. It shows how different parts of society (its pace layers) act and change at different speeds, with the fast ones at the top and the slow ones at the bottom.

Source: The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility, Stewart Brand, 1999.

The fastest layer, fashion-art, moves in minutes and months. It is irreverent, engaging, and self-preoccupied. At this layer, a society’s culture is set free to experiment, albeit sometimes irresponsibly, learning through creativity and failure. It’s where we find relatively trivial phenomena such as fidget spinners and Lady Gaga’s meat suit, but also more significant developments such as ride-sharing and the breakthrough neo-expressionist painting of graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The barrage of ideas and propositions generated from the fashion layer gets sorted out at the commerce layer. Whether at age-old bazaars or modern-day stock markets and digital crossroads such as Etsy and eBay, commerce brings people together to make sense of new ideas that capture our attention. Commerce tames and harnesses the creative energy of fashion so that society can benefit from it.

In turn, infrastructure changes more slowly than commerce. It is high-cost, high-yield, and delivers delayed payback to society. It provides foundations and platforms for society to operate—among them transportation, communication, energy, and education. It is refreshed and modernized through the innovations from lower layers while being protected and validated through governance and culture. For example, Elon Musk’s company, TESLA, captures our attention through the fashion and commerce layers with its innovative electric cars and batteries, but ultimately aims to transform the transportation infrastructure. Despite its allure at the fashion layer and its transactions in the commerce layer, TESLA is really an infrastructure play, using the various pace layers to support the transformation.

Moving down a layer, the job of governance is to serve the larger, slower good for society. It provides stability. It preserves what we hold to be necessary and true. As Brand points out, social and political revolutions want quick change, demanding that governance moves faster than it is capable of, frustrating society. The constraints of governance force reflection and pause, which can be paralyzing or empowering.

Even slower to change, culture is the essential work of people as they gather to make sense of and integrate the many facets of life together on earth. It includes religion, language, and the enduring behaviors and social norms that help to provide constancy across centuries and even millennia. Nature is the slowest-changing layer, with the earth and the human body changing slowly over millennia. Nature’s power is immense when unleashed, whether as the processing capacity of the human brain or as the magnitude of earthquakes and hurricanes.

In healthy societies, the pace layers exist in relationship, communicating with each other, pushing and checking, yet moving independently, each at its own pace. This “slippage” between layers allows each layer to do its respective job and creates dynamic interactions that drive a society’s adaptability. Fast layers propose, disrupt and learn. Slow layers preserve, constrain and integrate. The dance between fast and slow layers can create adaptive strategies and societal resilience.

Source: The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility, Stewart Brand, 1999.

Events occurring in one layer may force another layer to move faster or slower than its typical pace of change. The popular acceptance of same-sex partners put pressure on legal and infrastructural supports to change more quickly than is customary, helping to resolve tension and conflict in workplaces and hospitals regarding issues such as rights to marriage, benefits, and visitation. Conversely, regulators in the governance layer can slow the pace of releasing disruptive new drugs or genetic therapies to allow for more informed integration into society. The way these disruptions are resolved determines a society’s health and resilience.

Cultivating the Long Now: Pace Layers as a Guide to Education Transformation

For educators, the pace layer framework provides a powerful thinking tool that can help re-contextualize pressing issues and questions, such as equity, and achievement, and the purpose of school. Using them can help stakeholders take a broader, longer view of solutions and interventions. It can also put education’s transformation into the context of a civilization’s transformation. When viewed through the pace layers, solutions for the achievement gap or the dropout crisis may come from unexpected layers with varying time frames for outcomes. The pace layer framework enables such possibilities by providing perspectives from multiple layers of society with distinctive stakeholders, intentions, and time horizons. The pace layer framework can help tease apart the complexity of education, revealing actors and events across societal domains and across time. It helps us ask:

  • From which layer of society is this challenge originating, and what is does its pace and process of change look like?
  • At what layer might a solution emerge, and how might the other layers be enlisted to support it?
  • What outcomes should we look for at various layers?

The next blog post in this series explores education as intellectual infrastructure to aid in understanding possible origins and drivers for long-term transformation in education.

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How One Teacher Encouraged His Students to Think About the Future

Posts from WOL - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 1:58pm

According to Brandon Terrill, an English teacher at Hall-Dale High School in RSU2 in central Maine, “educators hear a lot about the fact that we’re preparing our students for the jobs of the future, or jobs that haven’t been invented yet.”

He cites what a challenge it can be as an educator to explore such “an ambiguous, nebulous thing” not only with his colleagues, but also with the students who will one day be a part of this uncertain workforce.

So when a recent professional development opportunity exposed him to our latest research on college- and career-readiness, The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness From the Inside Out, he immediately saw the research as a way to engage his students in critical conversations about the world they’ll soon be graduating into. With his ninth grade advisory group, they looked at a few of the future scenarios, and the kinds of careers these fictional individuals pursued.

“One of the scenarios features an individual who manages three humans and three robots – they were blown away,” said Terrill. “When I asked my students what kinds of jobs they thought they would have in the future, they all talked about very traditional jobs, like the ones their parents have – nurses, firefighters, that sort of thing. They almost didn’t believe me that their futures could look quite different.”

Terrill explains that what helped his students make the leap from science-fiction to reality was the research’s exploration of the ways that we are deeply connected to our devices and the ways that artificial intelligence is already shaping our lives. Robots are working alongside humans in production lines, doctors are using machines to help them diagnose illnesses and we are all becoming increasingly reliant on helpful technologies like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google.

“I told them if someone had tried to explain this to me when I was their age, it would’ve seemed like science-fiction,” Terrill said. “But they can already see this happening. We’re not just using the internet – we’re forming partnerships with machines.”

The exploration of artificial intelligence was also critical in Terrill’s AP English class, where students used the research to inform a unit on artificial intelligence and read the paper in advance of a Google Hangout with Jason Swanson, KnowledgeWorks director of strategic foresight. Students were able to bring their questions on artificial intelligence and the future workforce to an expert before writing their final papers on the topic.

As for preparing his students for jobs that don’t exist yet, Terrill is grateful to the research for showing him the way forward.

“I’ve never read anything that expressed so clearly how we’re going to get from where we are today to the future of work tomorrow,” Terrill said. “And now I’m able to begin having these kinds of conversations with my students.”

Interested in learning more about the future of college- and career-readiness? Download The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness From the Inside Out.Interested in learning more about the future of college- and career-readiness? Download The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness From the Inside Out.

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Crash Courses, Crash Careers: Connecting Students with Experts in Canton, Ohio

Posts from WOL - Tue, 11/28/2017 - 8:00am

Dennis Trenger is the director of early college and college credit plus at Stark County Educational Service Center in Canton, Ohio, and he recognizes the need to give students firsthand experience with the careers that they hope to pursue.

“A lot of kids have a vision, think they might know what a career is, but until they get to watch somebody live it, they may not understand,” said Trenger. “They want to be veterinarians or game designers or web developers, but what do the people in those careers really do?”

At Timken Early College High School, business and industry professionals are regularly brought in to talk about their fields, how they got into them and what was important for them to know to get the jobs they wanted. That exposure doesn’t just help students solidify what they want to do with their futures, but also helps them make connections between what they’re learning and how it will help them in the workforce.

Seniors at Timken are also required to visit eight colleges and universities in the area to broaden their understanding of what’s available.

Youngstown State University has what they call ’crash‘ days – a chance for the kids to go in and ’crash‘ particular courses, get to see them in live action, hear the professors,” said Trenger. “These days are really meant to open their eyes and to be sure they’re pursuing the right pathway. When our graduates transition into higher education, we don’t want them to waste time and money exploring what they want to do.”

Trenger, along with Timken’s principal, Kenneth Brunner, believe in the value of these experiences to better prepare their students for success – in college, and in their future careers. Because there are few opportunities that match “putting students, professionals and graduates in the same room, on their terms, and letting kids ask questions,” said Trenger. “That’s the exposure they need to experts in the fields they’re hoping to pursue.”

Are you curious how opportunities like these and others empower graduates today and in the future? Download Shaping the Future of Learning: Higher and Postsecondary Education Workbook.Are you curious how opportunities like these and others empower graduates today and in the future? Download Shaping the Future of Learning: Higher and Postsecondary Education Workbook.

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Grateful for Growth Mindset

Posts from WOL - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 8:00am

Last week, my husband and I participated in our first parent-teacher conference at our son’s new school. We were eager to hear how our second grader is doing in his new environment and learn ways we can help our child and support his teachers.

In our discussion, we learned about Eli’s progress in reading, writing and math, and the friendships he’s making. But what grabbed my attention the most was what we learned about Eli’s social-emotional development. I learned that he often “psyches himself out,” and tells his teachers that he can’t do something before even trying the work. But once he actually tries, he is fully capable of completing the task.

While this concerned me, I’m thankful for having the opportunity to help my child grow beyond this. I’m grateful that I’ve learned about the importance of growth mindset from my work at KnowledgeWorks and that this knowledge will help me in daily conversations at home.

And I’m thankful that my son’s teachers are focused on helping him develop this critical social-emotional skill from a very early age. They even worked this important, timely message into the second-grade reading at the school’s Thanksgiving celebration, when each child recited a line from this poem:

Be Thankful, Author Unknown

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire. If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something. For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times, you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations. Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge. Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary. Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things. A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles and they can become your blessings.

Even as an adult, this is a powerful reminder of what we can do when we work through our challenges rather than giving up.

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How Virtual Reality Can Encourage Empathy

Posts from WOL - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 11:00am

I’m still having trouble reconciling myself to the fact that I’m not really alone when my husband is wearing his VR headset in the same room as me, so I was surprised when I watched this experiment that challenged parents with the same limitations as their toddlers, using a VR headset and gloves that restricted their fine-motor skills.

What struck me most was that the headset and gloves were being used to encourage a very human trait: empathy. In The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out, empathy and perspective-taking are identified among the key social and emotional skills that students of the future will need to thrive, and the notion that we can nurture these skills using technology is pretty cool. If a parent can have more patience with their child because they can experience what it’s like to lack the coordination to do even the simplest tasks, where else could we use technologies like these to encourage people to challenge their perceptions, extend grace and empathize?

Interested in learning more about what learners of the future will need to graduate ready for college, careers and life? Download The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out.Interested in learning more about what learners of the future will need to graduate ready for college, careers and life? Download The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out.

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Two Associate Degrees at 18 Years Old? That’s the Power of Early College

Posts from WOL - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 8:00am

Maybe you graduated high school feeling pretty good about your GPA, or your standing in the class rankings. Maybe you got to wear those swank braided tassels that indicated special merit or honors, even.

But can you imagine graduating high school with not one but two associate degrees, as well?

That’s a reality for many students at Timken Early College High School in Canton, Ohio, including Jac’quir Pearson, who graduated in 2016 and is also distinguished in being the first person in his family to attend college.

Pearson is grateful for the “opportunities to excel” in early college, as well as the chance to get a taste of college before arriving on a campus after graduation. The resources and support that early college students receive is unparalleled, providing them not only with a solid academic foundation, but the opportunity to hone those skills necessary for success in college, career and civic life: time management, collaboration, knowing when they can rely on themselves – and when they need to ask for help.

Because early colleges are designed to offer support for all students, but especially those who are from low-income or are first-generation college-goers, they’re providing an essential service to learning communities committed to preparing their students for an uncertain future. Early college graduates leave high school with a clear path forward – many programs offer specific tracks and students are doing more than just earning random college credit – and a deeper understanding of themselves as learners than they might have had in a traditional environment. So when they’re asked to turn their tassels on graduation day, they’re turning a corner in their own lives, too.

For more information about Timken Early College High School and how learners are rising to the challenges of early college, download our case study, Timken Early College High School Offers a Way Up, Not a Way Out.

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KnowledgeWorks’ Higher Education Policy Debut

Posts from WOL - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 8:01am

After nearly seven years building and advancing a K-12 federal policy agenda, KnowledgeWorks is ready to dive into the unchartered waters of federal higher education policy. Today marks the first step of this journey with the release of our inaugural set of recommendations for reauthorizing the federal Higher Education Act (HEA). Consistent with our mission to provide every learner with meaningful personalized learning experiences, these recommendations call on Congress to break down traditional barriers so all learners can access personalized pathways to a postsecondary degree.

What inspired this new focus on higher education? To be honest, it was years of wrestling with tough questions such as:

  • What will happen to the students in our K-12 competency-based learning environments who cannot access a learner-centered postsecondary program with the same degree of personalization?
  • Why aren’t students in our early college high schools (who earn up to 60 college credits and an associate’s degree) eligible for federal Pell grants like their college-age peers who complete the same courses?
  • How can we scale personalized learning in K-12 without a pipeline of new educators trained for success in personalized models and approaches?

The answers to many of these questions lie in the policy conversations that will dominate Capitol Hill as policymakers work to reauthorize the long overdue Higher Education Act. We hope to engage in these conversations and elevate policy solutions that address three critical goals.

  • Increase college enrollment and persistence by incentivizing effective transitions between K–12 and higher education.
  • Support personalized learning pathways toward a postsecondary credential by making the federal financial aid system more flexible.
  • Prepare K-12 educator candidates to take on new teaching roles in personalized learning environments.

Our HEA recommendations offer specific policy ideas for each of these goals in an effort to advance nation conversation on these important topics. We see this as a starting place, and hope to engage diverse stakeholders at all levels of the education system to strengthen and refine these ideas into a solid policy framework that will improve alignment between our nation’s K-12 and higher education systems. And most importantly, we hope these efforts give all learners the opportunity to pursue seamless, personalized pathways as they advance from kindergarten to postsecondary success.

KnowledgeWorks' new recommendations call on Congress to break down barriers so all learners can access personalized pathways to a postsecondary degree.Download KnowledgeWorks’ recommendations for reauthorizing the federal Higher Education Act (HEA).

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Marysville School District Receives “Momentum Award” for Student Growth

Posts from WOL - Thu, 11/16/2017 - 12:33pm

Marysville Exempted Village School District received the Momentum Award from the state board of education on Tuesday, recognizing them for exceeding expectations in student growth for the year. Bunsold Middle School and Mill Valley Elementary also received individual recognition as schools for their performance.

“This is what we are most proud of—growth. This recognition speaks to the direction of our district and where we are headed with personalized learning, impacting every child,” said Marysville Superintendent Diane Mankins.

To qualify for the award, schools must earn straight A’s on all “value-added” measures on the state report card and the school must have at least two value-added subgroups of students, which includes gifted, lowest 20 percent in achievement and students with disabilities.

Following a series of community forums—engaging parents, educators, and community leaders—Marysville leadership and staff developed a vision for the future of their school district: meeting the needs of every student through personalized learning. They partnered with KnowledgeWorks to help them achieve their mission of radically changing their learning ecosystem.

“As a partner in this work, watching Marysville operationalize their vision and grow exponentially has been wonderful,” said Robin Kanaan, Director of Teaching and Learning at KnowledgeWorks. “They have developed a continuum of transformation for the district that is personalizing the journey for each school. It’s fantastic to be a part of this work.”

Learn more about how Marysville is personalized learning:

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Flexible Learning Spaces and Innovation Day

Posts from WOL - Wed, 11/15/2017 - 11:20am

Guest post by Jay Haugen, Superintendent of Schools, Farmington Area Public Schools

What we’re working towards in Farmington Area Public Schools in Minnesota is nothing new. For decades we, all of us working in education, have been part of significant efforts to change education, to make it more personalized, more student-centered, based more on the strengths and talents of every child, their uniqueness, their passion, helping them reach their highest aspirations and find their worthy purpose.

A New Design for Education

What’s different with what we’re doing in Farmington Area Public Schools is not what we are after but how we go about it. Instead of making decisions at a district level for our schools, we’re empowering the people who know best how to help us lead the district towards success. We’ve shared our goal and are working with school and classroom leaders for how to achieve those goals. We’re including students. We’re offering support and then getting out of the way.

Each teacher is unique, what is successful for one will not be successful for another, just the same as it is for the children we teach. The only way to have our hopes and dreams met is to unleash our staff to find their joy and passion in the classroom, to use their unique talents and strengths to meet our mission as a school district. Our job is to provide the unique support they each need. Through this approach we now have hundreds of visitors each year at all levels of our school district to see the future of education being created.

As our staff created these changes it became increasingly clear that a major impediment, therefore a major area of needed support, was trying to turn traditional one-size-fits all classrooms into flexible learning spaces that facilitated personalized learning. Space matters. Our teachers, and principals, were scrounging throughout the district, finding old tables, leftover chairs, old bookcases and the like to create spaces. Being teachers they even turned to their own pocketbooks to buy furniture and looked for donations, but in the end there is only so much that can happen when the space you are given is four walls and a door.

Following our staff’s the lead, it was clear we needed to provide significant support in regard to creating spaces that truly supported their work, and their student’s work toward personalizing learning. This, the Innovative Spaces Project was born. Thanks to careful budgeting and the way district projects worked out, we found ourselves with extra budget to reinvest. Normally these extra dollars would go into meeting further facility needs, but we asked ourselves, “What if we spent these dollars directly in support our mission and strategic plan as a school district through an innovative space project in every building in our district?” Initially there was some skepticism as to the relative importance of this sort of work, but once our teachers and principals shared their passion for this work and how space matters in regard to them fulfilling our hopes and dreams for all students and for achieving our strategic plan these faded away.

Last spring the school board authorized money to create flexible spaces in every building, with the full understanding that this project would be like all others in our district, led by staff and supported by us. In other words, teachers were the designers and decision-makers as to what each space looked like. We planned a day in early summer and had each building principal work with their staff to identify a team of teachers, and when possible students, to be part of a design process where they would not just tell an architect what they want, but learn about the design process and actually generate the designs themselves.

Last June, 60 educators, gathered in the media center of our high school to learn about design and to apply what they learned to create spaces that would be built. To accomplish this our lead architect brought in 18 additional architects to teach, guide and capture the designs each team created. The outcomes were out of this world.

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Sixty educators in Farmington, Minnesota, gathered to learn about design and to apply what they learned to create flexible learning spaces.

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Sixty educators in Farmington, Minnesota, gathered to learn about design and to apply what they learned to create flexible learning spaces.

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Sixty educators in Farmington, Minnesota, gathered to learn about design and to apply what they learned to create flexible learning spaces.

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Sixty educators in Farmington, Minnesota, gathered to learn about design and to apply what they learned to create flexible learning spaces.

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Sixty educators in Farmington, Minnesota, gathered to learn about design and to apply what they learned to create flexible learning spaces.

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Sixty educators in Farmington, Minnesota, gathered to learn about design and to apply what they learned to create flexible learning spaces.

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Flexible learning spaces in Farmington, Minnesota.

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Flexible learning spaces in Farmington, Minnesota.

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Learn more in this video created by our lead architect about the process:

The sense of excitement and support were palpable among all the staff involved. What they accomplished was written on their faces and conveyed through their words as half of the teams were able to present their initial plans to the school board and community a couple of months later. Our architect has been out again to meet with each team to refine their projects and the other half of the teams will soon be in front of the board showing their final plans. The board will then approve final plans for all nine sites and they will be sent out for bid, with plans that before the end of this winter construction will begin.

Besides the obvious benefit of bringing these flexible learning spaces to our staff and students, these spaces will also serve as examples for each school community, building support so that when larger projects are put forth in our community to create spaces such as these they will come with an already established level of understanding and support.

Looking for more inspiration on flexible learning spaces? Get ideas from Kenowa Hills Public Schools and Marysville Exempted Village School District.

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Questions About Competency Education? We’ve Got Answers

Posts from WOL - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 8:00am

When encountering something new, it’s normal to have questions – especially when that something has the potential to change how we teach and learn. Personalized, competency-based education is a powerful tool for reshaping education, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there about what it is and what it means for educators and students.

That’s why we’ve created a new resource to help with some of the most frequently asked questions about competency education, paired with answers that will help foster the kinds of open, essential dialogues that are necessary for its success. If someone has ever asked you:

  • Will students spend all day on a computer?
  • What role does the teacher play in a competency-based classroom?
  • Is CBE just another workforce model?

Then we can help.

 Frequently Asked Questions about Personalized, Competency-Based Education.

For answers to these and other questions about competency education, download Dispelling the Myths: Frequently Asked Questions about Personalized, Competency-Based Education.

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Personalized Learning: It’s Exactly What It Sounds Like

Posts from WOL - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 9:37am

What do we mean when we say personalized, competency-based education? It’s pretty simple, actually.

We mean learning.

Learning that meets students where they are. Learning that challenges students. Learning that doesn’t leave students behind, or disengaged or just repeating what they think their teacher wants to hear. Learning is dynamic.

No two students are alike, but we recognize as a society that there are things that we all need to know and know how to do – and that with the increasing speed of technological advancements the need has never been greater for students to not only have strong content knowledge but also a keen understanding of themselves as learners and strong collaboration, communication and interpersonal skills. And the best way to ensure they cultivate just that?

Personalized, competency-based education.

In a competency environment, students are engaged by:

  • Understanding what they need to do to master and achieve their goals.
  • Collaborating with others and exploring diverse approaches to learning.
  • Clearly understanding, recognizing, managing and building upon their learning to think critically and transfer knowledge to real-world situations.
  • Demonstrating mastery of what they’ve learned in their own way. For example, one student might have better success writing a song, while another may prefer to write a story to show evidence of their learning.

And teachers? They’ve never been more important. Educators are empowered by:

  • Developing a comprehensive set of learning outcomes and meaningful ways to assess student progress and growth.
  • Effectively supporting individual student needs.
  • Having the autonomy, structure and support they need to develop creative ways to meet students where they are.
  • Building a shared understanding between students, parents and teachers.
  • Collaborating with fellow teachers to create interdisciplinary learning opportunities.

Ultimately, personalized, competency-based education is about students and teachers getting what they need to work together to learn, teach and grow. It’s about trying new things, taking risks and taking ownership – and building a learning community that is responsive, where everyone contributes, and everyone is heard.

Have questions about personalized, competency-based education? We’ve got answers. Download Dispelling the Myths: Frequently Asked Questions About Competency-Based Education.Have questions about personalized, competency-based education? We’ve got answers. Download Dispelling the Myths: Frequently Asked Questions About Competency-Based Education.

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Are You Listening to Students?

Posts from WOL - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 11:26am

When making the transition to personalized, competency-based education, there are many things about traditional education that have to be unlearned. It can be overwhelming – but the important thing to remember about meeting the ten district conditions for scaling personalized learning that we outline for a successful implementation is that you don’t have to get everything right right away. It’s a process.

In thinking about my own experiences as Dean of Culture at Lindsay Unified School District in Lindsay, California, I can remember when we wanted to improve our student supports, one of the district conditions for scale. We decided to offer afterschool sessions for those learners who needed additional help, and were naturally frustrated when the students we knew we needed the support didn’t show up. We tried a few other things with equally mediocre results until we finally brought the students into the discussion and asked them what they needed to succeed. It didn’t surprise me to learn that what they wanted was just what we’d been offering – extra support sessions – but we were surprised to learn that because so many of their parents were migrant workers who had to go and work in the fields after school, these students needed to get home to care for siblings. Afterschool sessions were never going to work for them, so we needed to find a way to work extra time into the school day.

If we’d stopped and asked our learners first what they needed, we’d have been able to work together to find the best solution from the start. And because they were the ones voicing what they needed, there was a sense of ownership in the outcome – they asked for the sessions and they felt accountable for being there. Creating a forum for student input became a practice for us going forward, and it built a strong foundation of culture-building that continues to be a hallmark of the Lindsay learning community today. It does take longer to collect stakeholder voices, but it’s a critical step – and ultimately leads to a better product for everyone.

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Understanding the Needs of the Future Better Prepares Students Today

Posts from WOL - Thu, 11/02/2017 - 8:00am

When had the opportunity some weeks ago to speak with Brian Bridges, vice president of research and member engagement at the United Negro College Fund, he said something that made so much sense to me as a parent, and as an advocate for personalized learning: “We need to think about the student holistically.”

This is a pretty common sentiment for me to hear with one daughter in preschool and another in kindergarten, when it seems we’re far readier as a culture to recognize learner’s individual needs and circumstances. Every child is different, pediatricians and preschool teachers the world over assure us when not every child is doing the same thing at the same time.

But what happens when they start school, and when they graduate into college? Aren’t we all different as adults, too?

For Bridges, the changing demographic of student populations in postsecondary and higher education, including traditionally underserved learners or students who may have families or other responsibilities, calls for new approaches that take these things into account. His perspective is supported by one of our new resources, Shaping the Future of Learning: Higher and Postsecondary Education Strategy Workbook, which challenges readers to consider what it will mean to be college and career ready in 2025, and what practices can be adapted today to best serve learners now and in the future.

Because there’s a genuine urgency for institutions of higher education to adapt, according to Bridges. “If you don’t understand the needs of the future… it’s not just the institution that suffers,” Bridges said. “The students in the communities you serve will suffer more.”

 Postsecondary and Higher Education Strategy Workbook.”Download Shaping the Future of Learning: Higher and Postsecondary Education Strategy Workbook for more questions to consider and actions you can take today to become future-ready.

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How Competency-Based Education Can Lead to A More Equitable Classroom

Posts from WOL - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 4:19pm

It’s no secret that race, culture and other unique circumstances play a role in a child’s educational experience. Yet, many schools and curricula are designed as a “one size fits all” model, ultimately perpetuating inequities in the classroom. With demographics in our schools continuing to become more diverse, a commitment to consciously pursuing equity is imperative now more than ever.

But how do we do it?

There’s no quick fix, but personalized, competency-based education can aide teachers in facilitating a more equitable classroom. The Mastery Collaborative, a team based in NYC, shared a  framework for how certain practices, based on the tenants of personalized, competency-based education, can promote equity during the 2017 iNACOL Symposium:

Practice 1: Transparency in Grading

Personalized, competency-based education promotes educators creating and sharing learning objectives that are clear and fair from the beginning. This helps students in having a deep understanding of what success looks like in the classroom. More importantly, it can help to prevent educators from moving the bar based on bias and/or very subjective standards that could be associate with their cultural norms. With the odds of getting assigned to gifted programs 66 percent lower for black students and 47 percent lower for Latino students than for their white counterparts, it’s important that teachers hold themselves accountable. They can do so by acknowledging their biases and constantly mapping their grading practices with the criteria that was shared with their students from the onset and being clear with students on why a grade was rendered.

Practice 2: Changing Power Dynamics

When teachers place their need for control aside and allow students to take ownership in their own learning, good things happen. Personalized, competency-based education allows for instruction to be varied based on a student’s unique needs. This ability for agency in the classroom allows students to realize that there is not one “right way” to learn or progress. This creates a learning environment where all students can see themselves as successful learners, regardless of differences.

Practice 3: Intentionally Developing a Positive Learning Identity

Since educators in personalized, competency-based education can create unique, customized learning experiences, they can move away from solely Eurocentric perspectives and provide opportunities that are balanced and diverse. Giving students the opportunity to create projects based on their neighborhood, discuss relevant current events, or share about their family life helps them feel valued and accepted, and promotes respect for cultural diversity in the classroom.

It’s a continual process.

While all three of these practices can promote equity in the classroom, it’s important to recognize that these actions will not work without developing self-reflective, culturally competent, teachers who celebrate diversity and the uniqueness it brings to a classroom.

There are no shortcuts to creating an equitable environment, but there are steps we can take to get there and applying personalized, competency-based education tenants with an equity lens is just one.

Read more about the Mastery Collaborative’s approach to create more equitable classrooms.

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Opportunities to Shape the Future of Postsecondary and Higher Education

Posts from WOL - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 8:00am

When KnowledgeWorks’ strategic foresight team worked with leaders and innovators across education to explore implications of our comprehensive ten-year forecast, “The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code,” we heard workshop participants identify five key opportunities to shape the future of learning.

For leaders and innovators in postsecondary and higher education, these broad areas of opportunity suggest possibilities for broadening and diversifying learning experiences, considering new business models, collaborating within and beyond the sector, and exploring far-reaching questions about the purpose and outcomes of higher education. Working closely to create alignment and open lines of communication with K-12 will be equally critical to ensure that high school graduates are college-ready.

A new resource from KnowledgeWorks, “Shaping the Future of Learning: Postsecondary and Higher Education Strategy Workbook,” takes a closer look at such possibilities. Designed for leaders and innovators in postsecondary and higher education, it can help stakeholders consider what the opportunities on the horizon for learning might mean in specific contexts, begin to identify ways to take advantage of emerging trends, and make bold choices to lead the way toward a future of learning that serves all learners and society well. The workbook features:

  • Strategies for taking action to address critical areas of change.
  • Examples of work being done today by innovators in postsecondary education.
  • Key questions to help readers consider how they and others might respond to opportunities and challenges on the horizon.

To highlight a few of the strategies from the workbook, how might postsecondary and higher education institutions:

  • Expand support for non-traditional students, especially as more and more people seek postsecondary qualifications and weave in and out of higher education to keep up with the changing nature of work?
  • Put knowledge in context to help students prepare for full and active participation in expert communities and networks?
  • Help people work in new ways, supporting institutional change by finding ways to encourage risk-taking and by providing employee incentives that align with new directions?
  • Turn to students for guidance, making sure to ground change efforts in what students and communities want and need?
  • Broaden the use of data to demonstrate the value of learning experiences, help students select experiences, and support students in monitoring the outcomes that are relevant to them?

 Postsecondary and Higher Education Strategy Workbook.”For more such strategies and questions that can help you connect opportunities to shape the future of learning in postsecondary and higher education institutions to your context, download “Shaping the Future of Learning: Postsecondary and Higher Education Strategy Workbook.”

 

 

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