Judy Peppler, President and CEO of KnowledgeWorks; Harold Brown, President of EDWorks Partners; and, Greg Landsman, Executive Director of The Strive Partnership were guests on the WVXU Cincinnati Edition radio show to talk about the Cincinnati Preschool Promise and how KnowledgeWorks and its subsidiaries (EDWorks Partners, New Tech Network and StriveTogether) are working to transform education locally and nationally. The half hour broadcast is available via archive on the WVXU website at this link.
On Wednesday, February 12th from 2:00p – 3:00 p ET, iNACOL will provide a Leadership Webinar on the recently published “A K-12 Federal Policy Framework for Competency Education” featuring authors Lillian Pace and Maria Worthen. Visit this link to register for the free webinar.
Learn more about the report and link to download a free copy of “A K-12 Federal Policy Framework for Competency Education” at New Report on Competency Education – Building Capacity for Systems Change
Have you ever wondered what it would take to redesign the education system so it relies less on grade levels, credit hours, and traditional classroom-based instruction and focuses more on the individual needs and interests of students? If so, I encourage you to read a new report titled, A K-12 Federal Policy Framework for Competency Education: Building Capacity for Systems Change written by myself, and my brilliant co-author, Maria Worthen of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). This report – a result of months of collaboration at our favorite coffee shops around the Washington, D.C. area – is our best attempt to jumpstart a conversation about federal K-12 education policy and the rise of competency education. We believe the federal role must change in order to support a growing number of bold innovators working in states and districts around the country to redesign the system around students.
The report unveils an alternate vision for federal K-12 policy – one that would remove barriers to innovation so that student-centered approaches to teaching and learning, such as competency education, can thrive. The big ideas in this vision include:
- Accountability - Federal accountability policies should incent districts, schools, and educators to use real-time, individual student data to tailor instruction, supports, and interventions to ensure that each student is on pace to graduate with mastery of college- and career-ready standards and aligned competencies.
- Assessment - Flexible, balanced systems of assessments should measure mastery of competencies aligned to standards, with multiple measures, performance assessments, and evidence providing educators with a data-driven guide for prioritizing continuous improvement of student learning to ensure that every student is on pace to graduation.
- Supports and Interventions - The federal government should support states and districts in the development and implementation of a proactive system of supports and interventions that use real-time data to help students advance to college and career readiness through learning experiences aligned to their personalized learning pathways.
- Data Systems - Student-centered data systems should collect, report, and provide transparent information on where every student is along a learning trajectory based on demonstrating high levels of competency, to help educators customize learning experiences to ensure that every student can master standards and aligned competencies. Data should provide useful information for improving teaching and learning, as well as for accountability and quality purposes.
I encourage anyone interested in federal education policy to read this report. We worked hard to identify critical barriers and explore specific policy opportunities that will help the federal government make this important transition. If your time is limited, at a minimum, take a moment to glance at the report’s infographic depicting the elements of a competency-based federal policy framework.
For those interested in a deeper read, you can access the full report on the CompetencyWorks website.
When leading a workshop on the future of learning for the New Mexico Coalition of Educational Leaders last week, I was struck by the ways in which the conversation kept cycling back toward two seemingly disparate but intricately intersecting themes:
- The need for the new learning ecosystem to be led by learning agents who manage decisions with learners and their families locally
- The need to cultivate wide ownership for learning among families and across businesses, communities, and other stakeholder groups.
These two strands of insight wove together as the discussion raised foundational conditions for learning:
- The need to build a foundation of learning skills and dispositions upon which learners could build in pursuing their particular learning journeys
- The need to instill responsibility in learners for their own learning, both for its intrinsic value and out of a sense of stewarding public funds
- The need to situate learning in community even as learners exercise more choice around their learning options
- The need to decide as a wide community how we will communicate about and cultivate an interest in learning among young people who today seem unmotivated by or disenfranchised from their educational experiences.
At the heart of the discussion was a deep belief that learning matters, not just for individual development and well being but also for communities’ vitality. And a deep recognition that the current educational system simply doesn’t meet the needs of all learners. In opening up the conversation to consider an ideal learning ecosystem, participants sought both to lessen restrictive regulations whose generalities cannot reflect knowledge of individual learners’ needs and to extend responsibility beyond the narrow range of today’s teacher evaluation systems, whose metrics can only reflect part of what makes for successful learning.
This week CompetencyWorks released a new report, titled Progress and Proficiency: Redesigning Grading for Competency Education, focused on helping education leaders think through the grading principles and policies to help communicate academic performance to students and parents. As more states, districts, and schools move towards competency education it is essential to rethink not only how we grade students but how we communicate grades. Today, student’s true academic abilities hide or slide through in the current A-F grade system allowing them to advance without identification of gaps in knowledge and skills. It is important to point out that this is an issue for students of all academic abilities. The report, authored by Chris Sturgis, offers several weaknesses in the accepted A-F grading systems including: it allows students to move on without mastery, it is not a reliable gauge of what knowledge and skills a student has actually attained, and it is an ineffective form of motivation for students (particular on driving deeper learning). As an aside and as a parent, it is difficult ascertain and often misleading to understand where our children truly stand vis a vis what they are being taught (not to mention new college and career ready standards or our apparent waning global competitiveness).
In the report Sturgis outlines six elements of competency-based grading:
- Embrace explicit learning progression or standards so that everyone will have a shared vision of what students should learn.
- Develop a clear understanding of levels of knowledge so that students and teachers share an understanding of what proficiency means.
- Ensure transparency so that educators, students, and parents all understand where all students are on their learning progression.
- Create a school-wide or district-wide standards-based grading policy.
- Offer timely feedback and meaningful assessments to students so that students can continue to progress and stay on track.
- Provide adequate information to support students, teachers, and school-wide continuous improvement.
Sturgis states, “(Our current system) is much better at ranking students than helping them understand what they need to do to succeed. In competency education, student learning is always the primary purpose. Challenging the traditional system of grading practices will prompt questions that will allow students and teachers to work together toward a shared vision of learning that provides support to students as they build and demonstrate new skills.”
The complete report is available on the CompetencyWorks website.
Yesterday Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. engaged with students at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore in a roundtable discussion centered on improving school discipline policies and practices.
With the digital ink not yet set on our New Year’s resolutions perhaps there is time to add just one more item to the annual to do list: Participate in a Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC) to further your personal learning plan in 2014. And what better topic to begin the new year than putting the progressive theory of deeper learning into practice.
Aimed at teachers, school leaders, and other educators who are interested in encouraging more deeper learning in their schools and classroom, the DLMOOC is a free, flexible nine week online course that will allow participants to learn about how deeper learning can be put into practice.
This course is a product of the deeper learning community of practice which counts our subsidiary New Tech Network among its members. Sign up online for the free course which begins on January 20.
In the third scenario of Learning in 2025 we explore learners foraging for resources.
“This is a world in which virtually all resources have been withdrawn from public education. Content is provided by learners and learning agents in a vast and unconnected marketplace. The quantity of material is not matched by its quality – content tends to be shallow, and much of it is repetitious. Without a strong set of guidelines or standards that material has to meet most of it has tended to devolve to the simplest possible expression. As resources have been withdrawn, fewer adults have been attracted to work in the public education sector. Home and peer learning have become the norm.”
In this look at the future of education “we envision a world in which a central government and state departments of education have agreed to a standardized national learning system in order to ensure global competitiveness. The experimentation that characterized the early part of the century has given way to a narrower field of learning providers working to highly specified standards and systems of oversight.”
Some may say that the Common Core has already created such a learning system in the U.S. – but that scenario would ignore the abundance of consumer created learning opportunities and state-led movement towards competency-based education.
In 2011 KnowledgeWorks published multiple resources to help imagine and prepare for the future of education while reflecting critical uncertainties: whether the learning system of the future would be created in abundance or scarcity and whether it would be controlled primarily by providers or by prosumers (proactive consumers who co-produce what they consumers.
This week I hope to encourage our readers to revisit some of these scenarios and consider the long view of education reform. When we project out to 2025 are we building a learning oasis or a learning desert? View the infographic here or read more about a vibrant learning grid in this recent World of Learning post.