By Jesse Moyer
Wow…what a week! Four days, five towns, four schools, one district, and a whole bunch of learning (and seafood). That is how I would describe our 2014 CBE Tour. If you followed us, our #CBETour2014, on twitter, you were able to see some of our learning in real time. For those of you not glued to your twitter stream, never fear, I will hit the highlights right here.
We began our tour at Boston Day and Evening Academy, a school dedicated to re-engaging “off-track students in their education preparing them for high school graduation, post-secondary success and meaningful participation in their community.” This was my second time visiting the school and the latest trip was just as impressive as the first. What stuck out most was the sense of community cultivated amongst the students. While students in many competency-based school progress based on mastery, students at BDEA progress in 11-week cohorts to ensure they have the support of their peers as they progress in their education. During lunch with three of BDEA’s students, it was obvious to anyone around the table that the students care for each other and about each other’s success.
From Boston, we went to Manchester, New Hampshire to visit Making Community Connections, or MC2, Charter School. Here, we were able to observe the students going through their daily routine, including a gateway (think dissertation defense) practice where a student was demonstrating his learning over the last twelve months. Most impressive about MC2 is the work they are doing around their habits, specifically the indicators associated with each of the 18 habits and the rubrics used to assess them. Of all of the competency-based schools I’ve read about and visited, MC2 is the most advanced when it comes to incorporating habits into all areas of learning.
Our final stop on the tour was RSU 2 serving Hallowell, Farmingdale, Richmond, Dresden and Monmouth, Maine. Here, quite simply, my thinking about competency-based education was changed forever. I have had the pleasure of meeting the district’s superintendent, Virgel Hammonds, on several occasions, including a prior visit to his district. We’ve had several long discussions about the work he, his staff and his teachers are doing to implement competency-based, or proficiency-based as it is called in Maine, education in their district. But it wasn’t until last week that I finally, truly understood what he was talking about. Virgel, his staff and his teachers have worked tirelessly to tie all of their learning targets, another word for competencies, to the appropriate taxonomy level. Doing this ensures rigor throughout the curriculum. At its core, this means that not only are students not allowed to progress until they’ve met their learning targets but also that the learning targets they are striving to meet are actually preparing them for college and career. To steal a quote from Virgel (one that I know understand and adamantly agree with), “I don’t think you can have a proficiency-based system without tying the learning targets to taxonomy levels.” As I said, my thinking was changed forever.
All in all, the trip was amazing. From the very talented educators we had the opportunity to hang out with to the learning experiences that presented themselves, it was a week very well spent. To see more of our trip, you can check out our a compilation of our tweets.