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CBE Part VIII: Deschooling Society 2.0

January 1, 2015

For the past week, I’ve used Audrey Watter’s blog post “What is Competency Based Education?” as a springboard for several blog posts. As noted in earlier posts, her definition of CBE is:

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 last part of this series.

What policies might need to change for CBE to be more readily adopted? And always key to ask: who are the biggest advocates of these policy changes? Why?

As described in earlier posts, the entire factory model of education would need to be overhauled as follows:

  • Age-based cohorts would be eliminated
  • Grades assigned to students based on their rate of learning would be eliminated
  • Quarterly report cards would be eliminated since continuous feedback would be available to students and parents
  • Admissions to post-secondary institutions would be changed so that only students who have mastered entry level skills would be accepted
  • The current elementary-middle-high school paradigm would be replaced with two levels: Fundamental Competency Schools (e. schools providing instruction that is currently offered to students through eighth grade) and College and Career Preparation Schools.
  • Students in College and Career Preparation Schools would have clearly delineated competency paths defined by different post-secondary institutions and businesses.
  • The post-secondary institutions and businesses would be responsible for defining their curricular expectations, developing mastery learning modules, and the designing and administering the assessments they will use to determine student preparedness.

I could expand on and elaborate on this list… but Reformatting New England Schools, a White Paper found elsewhere on this site, provides a good thumbnail sketch of what a CBE school (or Network School as I call it) might look like.

The biggest advocates of these policy changes would be:

  • Parents who are disaffected with the current test-and-punish-one-size-fits-all method of teaching that passes for “education” today
  • Home-school parents
  • Parents who currently opt out of school because they or their children do not care for the competitive culture that devalues creativity and effectively punishes unorthodox thinking
  • Post-secondary institutions who bemoan the lack of preparedness of today’s entry level students
  • Teachers who want to be freed from the current constraints they face in the test-and-punish-one-size-fits-all curricula in schools today
  • Educators who see that the promise of technology will never be fulfilled if it is spliced onto the current factory model instead of being used as a means of complete and total individualization
  • People who have re-read Deschooling Society and realize that we could implement Illich’s ideas today if we were willing to change our minds about education

The biggest obstacle to CBE? We are prisoners of our mental model of “school”. Here’s hoping that 2015 will find minds and hearts opening to a new way of schooling… or de-schooling.

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