This past week for #PBLChat we discussed the physical aspects of space in a classroom that lend themselves to project-based learning. The archive, complete with some photos, is here.
Here are a few of our favorite tweets with our hashtag from the past week.
This is the second blog in a 6 blog series on community engagement. To read the first blog, click here.
It is clear that engagement of the community at all levels is important for the success of a cradle to career partnership, but the ways to effectively engage the different sectors of the community in collective impact work are a little less obvious. To help us think about how engagement looks differently depending on who you are engaging and for what reason, we often refer to the Community Engagement Continuum. This continuum categorizes engagement strategies into three different categories: Transactional, Transitional, and Transformational.
Transactional engagement is about informing the community and bringing about awareness of the partnership. It typically involves one-way communication through the dissemination of information and it has the potential to reach a broad audience, however the depth of engagement is very limited. An example of a transactional engagement strategy would be holding a community information meeting to inform the broader community about the work of the Partnership.
Transitional engagement is a more active form of engagement that is about involving the community in activities within the Partnership. This type of engagement typically involves two-way communication; however the Partnership often still determines the purpose which the community is mobilized around. An example of transitional engagement would be a campaign that mobilizes community members to become tutors, a strategy that data shows helps improve 3rd grade reading- a community level outcome.
Transformational engagement is the deepest level of engagement and involves integrating the community into the decision-making and problem-solving of the Partnership. This type of engagement involves equal communication from the community and the Partnership; however the number of people who can be involved in this type of deep engagement is limited. An example of transformational engagement is involving community experts and practitioners in the collaborative action networks to use data and expertise to identify what is working and build strategies to continuously improve the work. Additionally, collaborative action networks often have feedback loops to test whether their identified strategies resonate with community members who are impacted by the work, engaging both community experts and community members in the decision-making, and problem-solving functions of the partnership.
It is important to note that while it is often necessary to build trust and relationships through transactional and transitional engagement strategies before getting to transformational strategies, a combination from across the categories should be considered in building a comprehensive engagement approach. Since the different categories of engagement include varying levels of depth, reach, and involvement, this combined approach can also provide the necessary flexibility to involve the right individuals, at the right level, for the right purpose. A major lesson learned in this work has been around making sure the purpose of the engagement is appropriate for the audience and at the appropriate depth. A partnership would be able to engage a small group of teachers at a much deeper level around curriculum alignment than they would a large group of business leaders around the same subject.
Check back soon for the next community engagement blog about community engagement in the exploring gateway of the Strive Theory of Action! Also, plan to join us September 25-27th in Dallas for the 2013 Strive Cradle to Career Network Convening where we will be diving into the topic of community engagement in more detail!
OK, so the last time I wrote about one of the American Youth Policy Forum’s webinars on competency education, I apologized for being a little late in getting the information out there. This time, I am way late. But, I thought the webinar was so good I wanted to amplify it even if it is six weeks after the fact.
On July 16, AYPF hosted Promising Practices and Considerations for Districts in Competency-Based Education, a super interesting session featuring Linda Laughlin from RSU 18 in Maine and Tom Rooney from Lindsay Unified in California sharing some useful information about how their districts made the shift from a time-based system to a competency-based system. In addition to the district administrators, Matthew Lewis and Jennifer Steele from RAND Corporation highlighted some policy changes that states and districts should consider as they transition to competency education.
A couple of things really stood out to me about the information presented. First, there are a lot of similarities between RSU 18’s journey and Lindsay’s. There are also differences, to be sure, and I don’t believe there is one single blueprint making the time-to-competency-shift across all districts but listening to Linda and Tom could give any district administrator a great set of ideas about how to get started and a high-level path forward.
The other thing that was intriguing was the six enablers RAND has identified for a proficiency-based pathways approach:
- Clearly defined learning progressions (linked closely to Common Core State Standards)
- Diverse learning experiences with frequent assessment and feedback
- Anytime/anywhere learning
- Widely accepted credit for demonstrated proficiencies
- Information infrastructure, rich data collection, and analytics
- Enabling policies and conditions
Again, I don’t think there is one single blueprint that can be applied from one district to the next but if you’re thinking about these six ideas as you’re making the competency transition, you’re probably well on your way to success.
As you watch the webinar, I would be interested to hear you about what information stuck out as extra important. Please feel free to share in the comments!
About a year ago, I started to hear a new term being thrown around education circles … agency. In most dictionaries, agency refers to an organization or entity such as a government agency. In the world of education we mean it as the capacity of the learner to act as an advocate for their own success. This includes more concrete things like turning in complete homework on time or doing your best work and less measurable things like persistence, resilience and a growth mindset.
That’s how Troy Thrash of Air Zoo described his table’s vision for using the forces of change described in KnowledgeWorks’ Forecast 3.0 and the accompanying infographic to create breakthrough change in learning.
At last week’s workshop on the future of learning sponsored by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo, the need to support learners in families arose as a central theme for addressing both equity and the emerging need for continuous career readiness in response to rapidly changing work environments. Taking a whole-family perspective goes beyond my usual way of talking about how we need to put learners at the center of the future learning ecosystem and support them as whole people. Workshop participants emphasized supporting whole families throughout their lifelong learning journeys.
In imagining new learning agent (future educator) roles, they went on to identify a variety of possible roles that were consistent with this idea:
• Parent engagement specialists
• Youth opportunities directors (similar to life coaches)
• Transitional coaches for students and parents
• Person-centered navigators who would work with parents throughout a learner’s journey and across systems
• People who could bridge the home and school environments
• Community members who worked as co-teachers to help ensure cultural inclusion.
In devising these roles, participants saw the need for some learning agents to specialize in providing ongoing involvement with and support for families as well as targeted support for people of all ages across key transitions (a young person graduating from high school, a parent changing careers, etc.).
At the community-wide meeting the previous evening, Jo Ann Mundy of ERAC/Ce made the important point that focusing on individualized learning may not be ideal for learners whose cultures emphasize community. Many of the trends that I describe in sharing our forecast point toward the potential for radically personalized learning. Knowing when to design for learning in cohorts or communities and when to design individually tailored learning journeys will form a core aspect of that personalization.
For more media coverage on the events in Kalamazoo, see WKZO’s “The revolution will not be televised, it will be digitized” and WMKU’s “Do schools face a digital revolution?”
This week's #PBLChat topic was "Co-Teaching & Collaboration". All of this great discussion and the resources shared are archived on our Storify Page .
Dave was a disengaged 14-year-old. Everything about his world suggested he would fail. He came to class, eyes glazed over, seeing little relevance in school. He was lost. That is, until a teacher found ways to reach him. A teacher who helped Dave find his voice and discover purpose and passion.
A central premise of the cradle to career approach is that this work requires the collective effort of an entire community to really achieve the systems level and institutional change that is necessary to support every child, from cradle to career. Inherent in this, is the engagement, involvement, and mobilization of the community around this cradle to career vision. Part of successfully achieving authentic engagement, involvement, and mobilization of the community stems from understanding who is and what is the community.
When we talk about community engagement, we often encourage individual partnerships to define what ‘community’ they are trying to intentionally engage and for what purpose. Community engagement needs to be a contextual process not only in regards of a specific community or region but also to a specific topic or challenge. We have broadly defined the community as “Individuals in the defined geographic scope who are directly affected by the quality of the education pipeline (e.g. students, parents, business and civic leaders), and therefore must be clearly understood, actively involved, and eventually satisfied by the impact of the partnership.” This definition of community can essentially encompass every individual in a partnership’s region; however the expectation is not that every person in the region will be engaged in every engagement strategy that the partnership employs. Rather, this definition of community is intended to identify who should ultimately be engaged and informed, recognizing that the strategies to achieve this broad engagement should look different for varying purposes, sectors and individuals within the community. Different partnerships across the Network have identified various community sectors such as youth, students, parents, general public, business leaders, teachers and others as the major focus of their engagement efforts. No matter what part of the community we are trying to intentionally engage, a major lesson learned has been around needing to tailor the engagement strategy for the specific audience. The strategy employed to engage youth voice in the partnership should and will look different than a strategy to involve business leaders in the work.
With the recent launch of the Theory of Action, a continuum of key benchmarks that acts as a guide to implementing the Strive framework, we have taken the opportunity to reinforce the critical role of community in cradle to career partnerships. We are also working to get clearer than ever on what community engagement is and looks like within the context of this cradle to career work.
This is the first blog in a 6 blog series that aims to further define community engagement and illustrate on-the-ground examples of community engagement throughout the Theory of Action. Check back soon for the next community engagement blog about categorizing engagement strategies! Also, plan to join us September 25-27th in Dallas for the 2013 Strive Cradle to Career Network Convening where we will be diving into the topic of community engagement in more detail!
We are all familiar with the arguments on Common Core. It’s safe to say that among edu-circles, the Common Core has become a lightning rod of sorts. I understand the arguments both pro and con. Understanding does not mean agree, however. The most prominent argument is that the Common Core has been framed as a federal incursion on states’ rights even though the standards are state led and state created.
We can give the Obama Administration full credit for this one because they took one too many victory laps for something that they didn’t do as well as attaching it to anything that moved including RTTT, ESEA Waivers, and the 2012 Democratic Party platform. The Common Core has been blamed for everything from brainwashing our children to destroying the teaching profession to teen pregnancy. The Common Core has produced wonderful branding with the frequently used term ObamaCore. It has produced the laugh- out-loud Daddy CoreBucks to describe Bill Gates’ (actually B&MGF’s) role in funding some of the standards and assessments development and implementation. There are even advocacy groups that have emerged like Mothers Against Common Core. I can only assume that MACC has bumper stickers and t-shirts. All of this is illustrative of one thing. The development of any national movement, no matter its focus, will fundamentally become political. It is the American way. The Common Core is political but it is also the right thing to do for the country and as a parent it is the right thing to do for kids.
I was taken aback recently by a piece in the New York Times on the Common Core. The piece discussed many of the standard arguments (pro and con) surrounding the Common Core but delved into the implementation challenge. There is absolute truth there. As arduous as the development and adoption of said standards was, the implementation is the more difficult task. It involves teachers developing new curricula, teaching a more rigorous set of learning outcomes, rolling out new assessments, and students digesting the new standards and tackling new assessments. This is really hard stuff, make no bones about it.
In the article, Randi Weingarten is quoted as saying, “I am worried that the Common Core is in jeopardy because of this…The shock value that has happened has been so traumatic in New York that you have a lot of people all throughout the state saying, ‘Why are you experimenting on my kids?’” This quote references the fact that states like New York and Kentucky have experienced a significant drop in test scores with the newly aligned assessments. It is important to note that any time a state has rolled out new standards and assessments, scores go down. I saw this first hand in Texas when I was working at Baylor University. When the state migrated to the TEKS and from the TAAS to TAKS, scores fell big time. But you know what? It wasn’t experimenting on kids and scores eventually went up. It is an adjustment period. Teachers adjusted and kids did, too. And once again, high standards are a good thing. Said another way, through my lens as a parent, high expectations are a good thing.
The article continues to quote Diane Ravitch, an education historian who served in President George W. Bush’s Education Department. Ravitch is quoted as saying, “We’re using a very inappropriate standard that’s way too high…I think there are a lot of kids who are being told that if they don’t go to college that it will ruin their life.” I’m sincerely troubled by this notion. I’ve been in a lot of meetings with CCSSO and NGA and with state chiefs across the country but have never heard one person say that if kids don’t go to college it will ruin their life. I will say that the data are clear that in our world today college should be the goal. Education is the silver bullet and success in a nimble, globally connected, ever- changing economy favors a mind well prepared for college AND career. Does a student HAVE to go to college, no (Daddy CoreBucks himself didn’t graduate). However, we should do everything in our collective power as educators and parents to make that option, to go to college, a reality.
Many states already had high standards prior to Common Core development and adoption. Massachusetts is widely considered one of the leaders in implementing high standards and aligned assessments. The article smartly cites David Driscoll, former commissioner of education in Massachusetts, who led an effort to raise standards in the 1990s in the state. Driscoll assesses the situation correctly, “It’s going to take time, and it’s going to take a lot of work.” Furthermore, I recently heard Mitchell Chester, current commissioner of education in Massachusetts, discuss why his state adopted the Common Core Standards and is currently implementing them. He offered that the state has extremely high passage rates on its end of course exams in math, ELA, and science that are based on the state’s high standards. However, 40 percent of students from Massachusetts schools who matriculate to public universities in the state need remediation. Massachusetts, again viewed as having high standards, needed to raise its standards because students weren’t prepared for college and career.
This is the perfect argument for why high standards are not inappropriate but essential. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not right or needed or vital. As a species we have always tackled what is hard. We came out of the cave, harnessed fire, built the wheel, created art, designed architecture, and went to the moon. It is who we are. We crave what is difficult and what propels us forward. I’m not comparing the Common Core to fire or to the moon shot. But it is what is next for education. How can we grow economically as a nation if we don’t educate our students against high standards? How can we be okay with our college students spending PELL grants, loans, and hard-earned money on courses that don’t count towards graduation? How can we look our children in the eyes and lie to them at graduations across this country by telling them they are now ready to tackle the challenges before them? It may be hard. It may be a big lift. But it is absolutely essential because I’m not going to look my three kids in the eyes and lie to them.
In the piece he reviews outcomes in new report from the Lumina Foundation, “A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education.” While the report shows increased demand for skilled workers in Ohio, it also reports not enough college-educated residents to fill those positions. Merisotis asks, “What can Ohio do to produce more talent? For starters, new models of student financial support must be created. So, we need more leaders to engage on making college more affordable, making costs more predictable and transparent, providing incentives to increase completion and aligning federal, state and institutional policies and programs.”
That’s exactly why EDWorks is focusing its work on early college high schools, one of the most promising strategies for dramatically improving college completion rates, especially among first generation and low-income students.
Our Fast Track Early College High Schools, and many others around the nation, are demonstrating that many students from those communities can in fact succeed not only in high school, but also, in college. To be successful, they need to have access to rigorous, supportive learning environments, adults with high expectations for them and flexibility to focus on their individual learning needs.
Neither Ohio nor the nation can afford to ignore this increasingly significant portion of the population if we are to have a robust economy supported by a more highly educated workforce in the future. Getting them prepared for and experienced in college success early is a proven strategy that is worthy of our attention and investment.
What do you need to know to be successful in this endeavor? While it is the starting point in all good Project-Based Units, dragging them out of young people can be a challenge. Quality Project-Based Learning Units also focus on deeper learning and facilitate inquiry and research skills needed to be successful participants in a constantly evolving workforce. This last year, my co-teacher Ryan Steuer and I grappled with the concept of creating meaningful Need to Knows for our middle school learners and we came up with two strategies to improve them.
Last week was kind of a big week for competency education but in an understated way. Is that possible? I hope so, because I’m writing it.
The first thing that made it a big competency week is the approval of Maine’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver. On the surface, this doesn’t have a ton to do with competency but if you dig deeper into the Pine Tree State’s waiver application, you’ll find that it’s actually very important. Maine’s new accountability system under the waiver, you can find the full application here, contains several accountability factors including achievement data and a school accountability index. One of the five components of the school accountability index is graduation rate. Maine’s graduation requirements are proficiency- (or competency-) based. This means that, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time any sort of federal accountability system has included a measure of competency.
The other big competency-related event also comes from Maine. State school chief Stephen Bowen in leaving Maine’s DOE to serve The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) as Director of Innovation. According to CCSSO’s press release, “In this role he will direct work in emerging innovative practices in education, including digital learning, competency based learning, and open educational resources…Bowen will also oversee CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network (ILN), a group of states brought together by CCSSO taking action to identify, test, and implement new and transformative ways to structure the public education system….” Having someone with so much practical experience implementing a competency-based, or in Maine’s case a proficiency-based, system working with other states trying to move in the same direction can only mean good things for the competency-based movement.
Like I said, kind of a big week for competency education but in an understated way….
This week our Twitter Feed was filled with "back to school" tweets and lots of inspiration. Our chat topic was "Sharing ice-breakers and beginning of the year culture building strategies". The full archive is here on our Storify Page. It is full of great ideas and has already been viewed nearly 200 times!
In other #PBLChat news we would LOVE for you to do two things!
When my colleague Jesse Moyer and I visited Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA) recently, I was especially curious to learn about ways in which the school’s approach had impacted the roles of adults in the school. BDEA serves over-aged and under-credentialed students via a competency-based education model that Jesse describes further on the CompetencyWorks website and in an earlier post on this blog.
BDEA has a team of instructional leaders, who include a director of curriculum and instruction, department heads, and lead teachers. A transition coordinator helps smooth students’ way into the school, and a director of post graduate planning helps them meet with success after graduation.
During the core of their studies, a student support team focuses on students’ social and emotional growth. Student support counselors become involved during the intake process and stay with cohorts of students until they graduate. As part of advising students on their learning pathways, teachers also refer students to the team.
As we learned during the tour, BDEA has had to trim its student support team to four due to budget constraints. To counterbalance that reduction without compromising student support, the school has been making greater use of graduate student interns, whose pay comes from sources other than its own budget.
On Fridays, external partners host experiential electives at the school based on students’ interests so that the teaching staff can focus on planning, collaboration, and professional development. Electives support core learning and help students progress toward a career. (Current areas of interest include art studio, voice, culinary arts, dance, hydroponics, and fitness.) Each partner is a specialist in his or her area but is not necessarily a certified teacher, and each one commits to a regular engagement with the school in order to build trust with, and provide consistency for, students. Next year’s plans include strengthening the connections between such electives and the school’s academic program.
As the staff whom we met described it, supporting students through their time at BDEA involves partnership, and community is key. In a case study of BDEA, Rebecca Wolfe highlighted how competency education there “is more than a grading or curricular system; it is a cultural, structural, and instructional mindset.” That mindset is, of course, reflected in the staff structure that I’ve been describing.
To me, these roles also stand out as examples of the shift toward the more diverse educator roles – which we call learning agents – that our forecast on the future of learning describes. For the BDEA staff that opened the school’s doors to us, it seemed hard to focus on the idea that they had created innovative roles for supporting learning. Their focus seemed simply to be on student success.