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Archive for December, 2014

CBE Part V: Student Engagement Through Assessment

December 29, 2014 Comments off

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.

Can students be engaged in determining “competencies”? How might CBE help give students more responsibility?

Student involvement in the determination of competencies would likely occur in the development of the screening assessments at some post-secondary institutions. For example, given their current ethos colleges like Evergreen, Hampshire, and Bard might engage their current students in such a process and some progressive employers might use recent entrants to their workplace help them devise screening assessments as well.

As noted in an earlier post, CBE schools would engage students and increase their responsibility by including them in the assessment process for determining mastery of “soft skills” and thinking skills. Just as the best employee evaluation systems incorporate peer review, CBE assessments would incorporate student reviewers on the panels that determine mastery of abstract and interpersonal competencies. This would reinforce the skills the students mastered earlier and increase their level of responsibility within the CBE school.

CBE IV: Writing the New Common Core and Assessments

December 28, 2014 Comments off

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.

College NOT for Everyone

December 27, 2014 Comments off

Earlier this week the NYTimes ran an article lamenting the lack of guidance counselors in public schools, noting that the shortage of counselors makes it difficult for students to get their college application materials filed on time and creating a huge workload for counselors at this time of year. Here’s a comment I posted in response to this article, which overlooks the need for counselors for NON-college bound students:

This article focuses on only one role of counseling, which is helping students prepare for college. As one who worked for nearly two decades in school districts where a majority of students did not go to college I believe that we neglect the needs of students who are NOT going on to post-secondary schools and, as a result, we have many young adults who find it difficult to transition into the workforce. As much as NYTimes readers and politicians want to believe otherwise, college is NOT for everyone and the HS students who do not want to continue their education need as much help as those seeking entry into elite colleges.

Several years ago a monograph titled The Forgotten Half described the way the non-college-bond students feel in school…. invisible, neglected, and left out. If we want to make high school relevant and meaningful for all students we should take some steps to celebrate the accomplishments of NON-college bound students, pay more attention to their needs, and make certain every high school includes activities that makes them feel included.