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CBE IV: Writing the New Common Core and Assessments

December 28, 2014

Just before Christmas blogger Audrey Watters posted an essay titled “What is Competency Based Education” that defined that term as follows:

Rather than moving students together through materials for a fixed duration of a class, CBE enables students to move at their own pace through the curriculum. They are assessed along the way, and if they can demonstrate “competency” on a particular skill, they can move forward to the next. This is seen as an alternative to traditional models where students receive a grade — and credit — at the end of the course, but that grade can range from A to D, meaning that students have attained very different levels of understanding of the course materials.

I’ve used a set of questions she posed at the end of that article to write a series on the topic of CBE, which is the instructional backbone for what I call “Network Schools”. This post is part of that series.

To repeat an earlier question, what is “competency”? Who decides? How is it different from current assessment decisions? (Is it?)

The development and defining of “competencies” and the means of assessing the mastery of “fundamental knowledge” (i.e. what is currently expected of students leaving eighth grade) would be determined by the teams developing the New Common Core (NCC). Ideally, robust state departments of education would develop the NCC using teams of classroom teachers, post-secondary content experts, and government funded psychometric consultants to assist them. In some instances, states might create alliances to accomplish this task… but under no circumstances should the NCC be developed through private funding or by for-profit corporations. The content required for the “fundamental knowledge” modules should be developed solely by educators and reviewed and adopted by democratically elected oversight board.

As students decide what direction they want to head after they demonstrate mastery of the “fundamental knowledge”, post-secondary institutions and businesses would define the competencies and assessments required for entry and students would need to demonstrate mastery to their satisfaction. There would be no time limit imposed on the attainment of these competencies.

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