Quality Principles Book


1 BOOK Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education WRITTEN BY Chris Sturgis Katherine Casey OCTOBER 2018


3 Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education WRITTEN BY: Chris Sturgis Katherine Casey October 2018

4 Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education This publication builds off of the early ideas introduced in the paper In Search of Efficacy: Defining the Elements of Quality , developed for the 2017 National Summit on Competency-Based Education. in a Competency-Based Education System After a series of revisions building on input from experts and practitioners in the field, we have authored this book to Quality advance quality frameworks for competency-based education. Please see the summary report from the Summit, , which seeks to advance and Equity by Design: Charting the Course for the Next Phase in Competency-Based Education K-12 competency education along four key issues: quality, equity, meeting students where they are and policy. We deeply appreciate the input from the summit participants listed in the appendix and the following members of the Technical Advisory Group on Quality for their insights in developing the ideas presented here: Jan Bermingham, Elaine Berry, Mandi Bozarth, Harvey Chism, Carisa Corrow, C. Wesley Daniel, Theresa Ewald, Pat Fitzsimmons, Amy Fowler, Cynthia Freyberger, Thomas Gaffey, Laurie Gagnon, Jim Goodell, Renee Hill, Sue Lanz, Paul Leather, Kathleen McClaskey, Joy Nolan, Alfonso Paz, Karla Phillips, Alexandra Pritchett, Jeff Renard, Tom Rooney, Bror Saxberg, Andrea Stewart, Circe Stumbo, Vincent Thur, Jonathan Vander Els and Glenda Weber. The members of the Technical Advisory Group on Developing a Working Definition of Competency-Based Education have also played an invaluable role in shaping a deeper understanding of competency-based education. We thank the following individuals who shared their substantial expertise to build a shared understanding of competency education: Laureen Avery, Ana Betancourt, Michael Burde, Kim Carter, Cris Charbonneau, Rose Colby, Margaret Crespo, Cory Curl, Julia Freeland Fisher, Jenni Gotto, Virgel Hammonds, Christina Jean, Paul Leather, Amalia Lopez, Christy Kingham, Michael Martin, Adriana Martinez, Rebecca Midles, Rosmery Milczewski, Gretchen Morgan, James Murray, Joy Nolan, Jennifer Norford, Karla Phillips, Linda Pittenger, David Richards, Antonia Rudenstine, David Ruff, Sydney Schaef, Don Siviski, Megan Slocum, Brian Stack, Wendy Surr, Cyndy Taymore, Eric Toshalis, Barbara Treacy, Claudette Trujillo and Jonathan Vander Els. We are grateful for the generosity and leadership of our funders. The support and partnership of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Barr Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Donnell-Kay Foundation have been invaluable in advancing knowledge in the field of personalized, competency-based education. Competency About Works Works is a collaborative initiative dedicated to advancing personalized, competency-based education in K-12 Competency and higher education. iNACOL is the lead organization with project management facilitated by MetisNet. We are deeply grateful for the leadership and support of our advisory board and the partners who helped to launch Competency Works: American Youth Policy Forum, Jobs for the Future and the National Governors Association. Their vision and creative partnership have been instrumental in the development of Competency Works. Most of all, we thank the tremendous educators across the nation who are transforming state policy and district operations, as well as schools that are willing to open their doors and share their insights. About iNACOL The mission of iNACOL is to drive the transformation of education systems and accelerate the advancement of breakthrough policies and practices to ensure high-quality learning for all. ISBN #978-0-692-17514-9 Please refer to this book as Sturgis, C. & Casey, K. (2018). Quality principles for competency-based education . Vienna, VA: iNACOL. Content in this book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

5 CONTENTS I. ... 5 Introduction Understanding Competency-Based Education ... 9 II. 10 A. Readiness for College, Career and Life: The Purpose of K-12 Public Education Today ... 12 B. How Does Competency-Based Education Differ from the Traditional System of Education? ... C. Competency-Based Education and Personalized Learning Go Hand in Hand ... 22 Sixteen Quality Design Principles ... 25 III. 30 A. Purpose and Culture Design Principles ... #1 Purpose-Driven ... 31 #2 Commit to Equity ... 37 41 #3 Nurture a Culture of Learning and Inclusivity ... #4 Foster the Development of a Growth Mindset ... 45 #5 Cultivate Empowering and Distributed Leadership ... 48 B. Teaching and Learning Design Principles 53 ... #6 Base School Design and Pedagogy on Learning Sciences ... 54 59 #7 Activate Student Agency and Ownership ... 63 #8 Design for the Development of Rigorous Higher-Level Skills ... 66 #9 Ensure Responsiveness ... 70 C. Structure Design Principles ... #10 Seek Intentionality and Alignment ... 71 77 #11 Establish Mechanisms to Ensure Consistency and Reliability ... #12 Maximize Transparency ... 81 #13 Invest in Educators as Learners ... 87 #14 Increase Organizational Flexibility ... 92 #15 Develop Processes for Ongoing Continuous Improvement and Organizational Learning ... 96 99 #16 Advance Upon Demonstrated Mastery ... Conclusion IV. 105 ... Glossary ... 107 V. VI. ... 113 About the Authors VII. Endnotes ... 115


7 SECTION I. Introduction Performance-based learning is right for kids and it’s right for teachers. Heather O’Brien, Teacher and President of Mesa Valley Education 1 Association, District 51, CO, 2016 5

8 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Competency-based education—also referred to as so powerful. The competency-based structure will falter if mastery-based, performance-based and proficiency- it rests on the same beliefs and assumptions upon which based—is gaining momentum. In recent years an the traditional system was built. Moreover, students will increasing number of districts and schools have adopted not benefit unless provided with effective instruction and competency-based education. Districts and schools turn assessment firmly grounded in the learning sciences. Thus, to competency-based education for different reasons: the Quality Design Principles are organized by culture, to develop globally competitive graduates, to design pedagogy and structure. schools that promote what is best to help students learn, A commitment to integrate all of the Quality Design to achieve greater equity, to create a system of continuous Principles is necessary to create a high-quality, sustainable improvement and learning, and to foster deeper learning. competency-based system. When districts and schools States are creating innovation space for competency implement some, but not all, it is unlikely that they will see education by launching pilots, creating innovation zones sustainable improvement or realize success for all students. and introducing proficiency-based diplomas to transform Consider, for example, a school that tries to increase 2 As the number of districts and the education systems. transparency with standards-based grading but fails to build schools turning to competency education expands, some the capacity to cultivate a growth mindset for students have done so with a deep foundational understanding of or to provide greater instructional support to respond to the purpose, culture and key elements. Others have not, struggling students. This school will be unlikely to see instead treating competency education as a technical higher engagement or achievement because its structural reform or resorting to piecemeal implementation. As a change was not supported by an aligned change to culture result, some competency-based schools have not served and pedagogy. students in a way that fulfills the promise of the model, and many students are not benefitting as much as they could. As states, districts and schools re-design education Furthermore, insufficient attention to quality due to rapid systems, the 16 Quality Design Principles provide a growth and inadequate understanding jeopardizes the cohesive framework that offers a set of guideposts for potential impact and successful scaling of competency- schools and districts. While all principles are essential, based education. districts and schools are using different entry points to begin transforming their systems and make different As it is frequently noted, “Every system is perfectly designed design choices. Furthermore, they will find themselves at 3 This report, developed in to get the results it gets.” different stages of integrating each of the principles into collaboration with practitioners as part of the National their operations. To be clear, quality does not require a Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education, offers single model or approach. In fact, schools and districts with 16 Quality Design Principles to guide the development of strong results find themselves engaged in an ongoing cycle competency-based schools with the goal of creating a of continuous improvement and innovation. No matter the system in which every student succeeds. While producing entry point, the depth of implementation or the model, high-quality schools certainly requires attention to the the Quality Design Principles are composed to spark structure, policy and operations, it also requires replacing discussion that will accelerate the shift from the paradigm the underlying beliefs and culture of the traditional system of the traditional system to one that seeks to have every with an inclusive culture of learning. In fact, it is the very student succeed by personalizing learning. We hope that beliefs, assumptions and values that shape the culture of a the Quality Design Principles will be a doorway to deeper quality competency-based school that make its structure understanding and innovation. 6 i NACOL

9 InTROduCTIOn Working Definition of Competency-Based Education (2011) In 2011, 100 innovators in competency education came together for the first time. At that meeting, participants fine- tuned a working definition of high-quality competency education: » Students advance upon demonstrated mastery. By advancing upon demonstrated mastery rather than on seat time, students are more engaged and motivated, and educators can direct their efforts to where students need the most help. » Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students. With clear, transparent learning objectives, students have greater ownership over their education. » Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students. New systems of assessments give students real-time information on their progress and provide the opportunity to show evidence of higher order skills, whenever they are ready, rather than at set points in time during the school year. » Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs. Students receive the supports and flexibility they need, when they need them, to learn, thrive and master the competencies they will need to succeed. » Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions. Personalized, competency-based learning models meet each student where they are to build the knowledge, skills and abilities they will need to succeed in postsecondary education, in an ever-changing workplace and in civic life. We looked at several different school models, and each one is different. It quickly became clear to us that we can’t tell people how to do it. We want to support education entrepreneurs “ who can create a personalized learning school using their vision and strengths.” 4 Aaryn Schmuhl, Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Leadership, Henry County School District, GA, 2016 7 i NACOL


11 SECTION II. Understanding Competency-Based Education Mastery-based learning has pushed our teachers to think about planning in a new way as well. We are asking ourselves, ‘How will they know that students get it? What questions should I anticipate from the students?’ Some of our really good teachers are becoming great teachers through mastery-based learning. Penny Panagiosoulis, Principal, KAPPA International High 5 School, New York City Department of Education, NY, 2016 9

12 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Understanding competency-based education takes time, A. Readiness for College, reflection and the willingness to challenge assumptions. Most of us grew up and were shaped by our experiences in Career and Life: The the traditional school system with its focus on schedules, Purpose of K-12 Public ringing bells telling us to move to the next class, points for good behavior and summative assessments that told Education Today us what we know but didn’t help us learn what we didn’t know. With so many sharing the same experience, it isn’t The mastery-based approach is easy to imagine a different system that personalizes the educational experience to the degree that all students changing what it means to graduate. Before, “ are fully engaged and receiving the support they need we had the language of all students to be to advance. Misconceptions about competency-based prepared for college and careers. With a education develop when only one aspect of the traditional mastery-based diploma, it becomes more school is challenged—such as pace or grades. In fact, competency-based education is a redesign of the culture operationalized...I ask students to talk to me and structure of school systems to support effective clearly and with compelling reasons why instruction and learning. college isn’t for them. They have to have a In this section, two different ways to explore competency- meaningful alternative. The one situation based education are offered for those who are new to that is unacceptable is for a student to not competency-based education, as well as those who are want to go to college because they aren’t seeking to further deepen their understanding. We begin prepared or because college is too hard.” by revisiting the purpose of the K-12 public education system to understand how desired outcomes can drive David Prinstein, Principal, Windsor Locks Middle School, Windsor 6 Locks School District, CT, 2016 the education system. Then we provide an analysis of the traditional system followed by a comparison with the distinguishing features of competency-based education. Effective system design starts with a clarity of purpose, or said another way, what are the results we want to get from our system of public education? The current design of our K-12 public education system delivers the following results: After decades of policy reforms and targeted improvement strategies, the on-time graduation rate has inched up to 82 percent, with states ranging from 61 percent to 91 percent. Yet, inequitable outcomes remain. Alaska Natives, students with disabilities, Native American, African American and Latino students continue to graduate at much lower rates: 7 55, 64, 70, 73 and 76 percent, respectively. 10 i NACOL

13 undERsT TIOn OmpETEnCy-BasEd EduCa andIng C 12 This vision is available to all students, Among those students who graduate high school, nearly 25 their own paths. not simply those on a particular path or from a limited set percent of them, from all socioeconomic groups, require of backgrounds. Competency-based culture, structures remedial courses in college, costing them and their families 8 Graduates who enter the world of work and pedagogical strategies are designed to ensure that $1.5 billion a year. directly after high school fare no better, with 62 percent all students will attain these outcomes. While college and of employers by one account indicating that “high schools career readiness are absolutely central to any educational aren’t doing enough to prepare their graduates to meet system, the definition used in most states today is 9 Students are not fully the expectations of the workplace.” more limited than the vision of educational equity that prepared for civic engagement to ensure a functioning competency-based education makes possible. For this democracy (only 30 percent of today’s young people reason, it is important to begin with a statement of the believe it is “essential” to live in a country that is governed intended purpose for competency-based education. 10 These results are evidence that students democratically.) Unlike traditional systems of K-12 education, competency- are not getting what they need, and the implications ripple based structures place an equal emphasis upon academic through their lives, their families, communities and our knowledge, the skills to transfer and apply that knowledge economy. In the next section, we will explore why the (higher order skills), and a set of lifelong learning skills traditional system is designed to produce these results. that enable students to be independent learners. Lifelong First, let’s consider what results we want instead. learning skills that empower students include growth So, what is the purpose of public education today, and mindset, metacognition, self-regulation and other social what are the results we want it to deliver? States and and emotional skills, advocacy, and the habits of success. districts define the purpose of education in a variety of Districts that are pursuing competency-based systems 11 Increasingly that purpose is stated as different ways. share a belief that the current purpose of K-12 education is “college and career readiness,” or a variation thereof. But to facilitate a process through which all students graduate what does it really mean to be college and career ready? high school with the academic and lifelong learning skills to Although the terminology and details may vary, almost all be leaders in their communities, visionaries and agents of states and districts continue to use a combination of time- their own success—whether in college, career or navigating based academic credits, state graduation exams and state the opportunities and challenges they will encounter in accountability exams to measure learning. For the majority their lives. While each community expresses its own values of states, these elements prioritize content knowledge and goals in the choices it makes around curriculum, rather than skills, with a focus upon a narrow set of areas— pedagogy and school rituals, this core purpose is shared by math and English language arts. districts leading the way in competency-based education. High-quality systems of competency-based education As discussed in more detail below, we believe competency- start with a community’s aspirations for students. These based education offers the most effective culture and systems begin with the recognition that merely completing structure for achieving this educational purpose. This clear 12 years of school is an insufficient outcome for students. articulation and understanding of purpose sets us up now Though each is different, high-quality competency- to turn to why the traditional system is unable to fulfill based education systems include goals that students will this purpose and how competency-based education is be able to articulate a vision for their futures, exercise designed to best achieve it. agency in pursuing that vision and effectively navigate 11 i NACOL

14 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Many schools struggle to produce better outcomes B. How Does largely because the traditional system is not set up to do so. Despite educators’ persistent best efforts to support Competency-Based every student, the traditional system passes students on Education Differ from before they have mastered each stage of learning. Those who have mastered the required skills continue on a path the Traditional System toward graduation and college. For those who have not, little is offered to help them learn what was expected. The of Education? result is a new set of students each year who may not have the necessary prerequisite skills and knowledge to take on The best thing about mastery-based the content offered by each successive year’s teachers. This learning is that teachers have confidence “ sets up teachers and students alike for failure. This sorting that students are learning. Before we didn’t function of traditional education is exacerbated by unequal and inequitable school resources that continue to haunt really know if students were learning.” the education system. Casey Smith, Assistant Principal, KAPPA International High School, 13 New York City Department of Education, NY 2016 Graduation is a great day for educators. Before exploring key issues in a competency-based system, it is valuable to unpack why the traditional system is an We are saying to the world, ‘We’ve had them “ obstacle to creating high-achieving schools and equitable for 12 or 13 years and we’re sending them outcomes. The strategies used by districts in response to out into society. They are our product, our state accountability exams including delivering grade-level contribution to society.’ The reality for many curriculum regardless of what students know, exposed the limitations of the traditional system for what it is and of our graduates is that they soon find out how it reinforces inequitable achievement. At the time they didn’t get what they needed. Some of the accountability policies made sense as an effort to the kids fall into deep despair when they create transparency and expose inequitable outcomes, but they do not help to serve students equitably, nor do they realize they have been betrayed. They were promote effective learning and teaching according to all told that they are ready, but they’re not.” we know about the learning sciences. 14 Tom Rooney, Superintendent, Lindsay Unified School District, CA, 2015 12 i NACOL

15 undERsT andIng C TIOn OmpETEnCy-BasEd EduCa Ten Flaws in the Traditional System The traditional system is simply not designed to produce the goals we have set for it, or that our children, communities and nation so desperately need and deserve. There are 10 primary flaws in the traditional system that perpetuate inequity and low achievement. They can be corrected by redesigning the system for success in which all students achieve mastery. These flaws of the traditional system are listed below. Purpose and Culture The traditional system is focused on a narrow set of academic outcomes emphasizing academic skills, memorization and comprehension of content. It fails to recognize that student success is dependent on more than academic knowledge. Success requires a full range of foundational skills including social and emotional skills and the ability to transfer knowledge and skills to new contexts. Competency education is designed to help students learn academic knowledge, the skills to apply it and lifelong learning skills that are needed to be fully prepared for college, career and life. The traditional system is built on a fixed mindset—the notion that people’s “abilities are carved in stone.” Purpose includes ranking and sorting students creating “winners” and “losers” and perpetuating patterns of inequality in society. In contrast, a competency-based education system is built upon a growth mindset with a belief that all children can 15 learn with the right mix of challenges and supports. Competency-based education meets students where they are to ensure that each one can be successful to the same high college- and career-ready standards. The traditional system relies upon a bureaucratic, hierarchical system that perpetuates traditional roles, cultural norms and power dynamics. These said dynamics value compliance and doesn’t support inclusivity and cultural responsiveness. Competency education seeks to create an empowering, responsive system that is designed to build trust and challenge inequity. Pedagogy The traditional system is organized to efficiently cover the curriculum based on age and depends on extrinsic motivation. Traditional systems developed before the emerging research about what we know about how children learn and are motivated. In competency-based education, everything should be rooted in what we know is best for students in terms of engagement, motivation and learning. Competency education fosters intrinsic motivation by activating student agency and providing multiple pathways for learning to the same high standards. The traditional system targets supports to students when their academic or behavioral needs are identified as significantly above or below the norm (i.e., special education, gifted). Competency-based education provides timely and differentiated instruction and support. Schools offer daily flex time and time for students to receive additional support before and after the semester. The traditional system emphasizes assessment for summative purposes to verify what students know. One-size-fits-all assessments are conducted at predetermined points of time or at end of unit and are administered to all students at the same time and in the same format on the same content. In competency-based schools assessment for learning with robust formative assessment contribute to student growth. A balanced system of assessment aligns with high expectations that students learn how to transfer knowledge and skills through performance-based assessment. When possible, assessment is embedded in the personalized learning cycle. 13 i NACOL

16 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Structure The traditional system allows high variability in how educators determine proficiency. Competency-based systems ensure consistency in expectations of what it means to master knowledge and skills. Districts build educator capacity to make judgments of student mastery to the same high standards. The traditional system articulates opaque learning objectives and performance expectations with limited information for students about their learning cycle. Students receive grades with little guidance on what is needed to do better or opportunities for revision. Competency-based education values transparency with clear and explicit expectations of the learning cycle and architecture including what is to be learned, the level of performance for mastery and how students are progressing. The traditional system uses academic grading practices that can often send mixed messages and misleading signals about what students know by reflecting a mix of factors, including behavior, assignment completion and getting a passing grade on tests, not student learning. Grading in competency education is designed to communicate student progress in learning academic skills and content as well as the skills they need to be lifelong learners The traditional system is time-based. Schools batch students by age and move them through the same content and courses at the same pace. Students advance to the next grade level after a year of schooling regardless of what they actually learned. Competency-based education is based on learning: students must demonstrate mastery of learning, with schools monitoring pace and offering additional supports to meet time-bound targets. shocking? If the traditional education system is designed to Traditional systems determine their work “complete” when students meet the number of credits required for sort students rather than help all students learn, why would high school graduation despite the persistent inability we expect results different than these? to adequately prepare so many students for success in college, career and life. The result is low achievement and Distinguishing Features of educational inequity. Time-based credits have allowed Competency-Based Education districts to graduate students from high school with only middle school skills or worse. Transcripts listing courses say little about academic skills, and students bear the cost—68 The challenge of meeting the needs of percent of those starting at public two-year institutions and students with gaps in their skills existed “ 40 percent of those starting at public four-year institutions 16 took at least one remedial course. before mastery-based grading. However, mastery-based grading makes you have to The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP’s) deal with it very directly.” data reminds us that slightly more than one-third of 18 , CT, 2016 Meredith Gavrin, Program Director, New Haven Academy our students test at proficient or higher in eighth-grade math and reading. Astonishingly, only 13 percent of black students are proficient or higher in eighth-grade math Across the country, schools, districts and states are 17 Or is it really so and 18 percent in eighth-grade reading. replacing the traditional, time-based structure with one 14 i NACOL

17 andIng C undERsT OmpETEnCy-BasEd EduCa TIOn that is designed to help each student reach proficiency. parents, are confident that they are learning what they need Competency-based education is a system designed for to as they advance toward graduation. equitable student achievement to ensure all learners Although models will vary, there are 10 features developed master academic knowledge, develop the expertise to through a collaborative effort involving practitioners and apply it to real-world problems and build the skills to be policymakers that distinguish competency-based education lifelong learners for future success. Schools are organized 19 It is important to understand that from traditional systems. in ways that respond to students and support, engage and even the most developed competency-based systems do motivate them to take ownership of their own learning. of these features fully implemented although all not have Competency-based structures are also designed to ensure they are certain to have some of them firmly in place. students reach proficiency so that they, as well as their Ten Distinguishing Features of Competency-Based Education Purpose and Culture 1. Student success outcomes are designed around preparation for college, career and lifelong learning. Traditional systems narrowly prioritize and measure academic skills, often at the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Competency-based systems emphasize ensuring that students can apply academic knowledge and skills to new contexts and become adept problem-solvers and independent learners. Thus, competency-based districts and schools align around academic knowledge, transferable skills and the ability of students to become lifelong learners. Culture, pedagogy and structures are designed to develop student agency, build foundational academic knowledge and engage students in deeper learning that provide opportunities to engage in real-world problems. 2. Districts and schools make a commitment to be responsible for all students mastering learning expectations. While many traditional districts and schools have missions that purport to achieve “success for all,” many of these same districts and schools maintain systemic practices that contribute directly to gaps in opportunity and inequitable academic outcomes. For example, when schools use grading practices that obscure and conceal students’ actual learning levels, students do not have the information they need to improve. When schools fail to support students in addressing critical gaps in knowledge and skill, students become increasingly burdened by learning gaps that accumulate and widen over time. By contrast, competency-based districts and schools proactively challenge these practices and put in place alternative systems and structures that promote success for all. They portray student learning authentically and transparently. They meet students where they are and ensure they have mastered key content. Importantly, they become flexible in using time, resources and student supports to ensure that students continue progressing toward success. Commitment to mastery for all requires districts, schools and educators to challenge and “unlearn” part of traditional education as we know it, and embrace collective accountability, continuous improvement and personalization instead. 15 i NACOL

18 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION It is well-known that school culture 3. Districts and schools nurture empowering, inclusive cultures of learning. is important to creating high-performing schools. The traditional system tends to emphasize order, safety and high achievement. Although high achievement is a shared value between competency-based and traditional systems, the interpretation of achievement is different. Traditional schools privilege students that are already at grade level by ranking and sorting students based on grade point average or other similar mechanisms. Traditional systems often emphasize order and compliance, manifesting in school disciplinary policies that exclude students, disproportionately impact students of color and contribute to students feeling that they do not belong. Competency-based schools create cultures that emphasize growth, inclusion and empowerment for students and adults. The culture of competency-based systems is rooted in the learning sciences, which emphasize maximizing safety and belonging, promoting active learning, developing skills to manage learning, and intrinsic motivation and cultivating intrinsic motivation. Districts and schools foster a growth mindset in students and adults. Students are empowered to take ownership of their learning. Distributed leadership structures empower educators to make decisions in the best interests of students. Equity lies at the heart of competency education to ensure that all students benefit, not just some. Pedagogy In traditional schools, students often have to 4. Students receive timely and differentiated instruction and support. fail before they receive support. Many times, these “supports” come in the form of remedial learning opportunities that are long delayed. In competency-based systems, schools develop schedules and mechanisms for students to receive additional support while they are struggling with new concepts so that they can continue to learn and build knowledge and skills. Formative assessment and effective feedback based on the learning task are essential to supporting students to learn, make progress and advance at a meaningful pace. 5. Research-informed pedagogical principles emphasize meeting students where they are and building intrinsic motivation. Many traditional systems seek to create aligned systems of learning and integrate the learning sciences into instruction. However, these systems sort and teach students based on their age, not on their actual learning needs and goals. Without falling into the trap of tracking, educators in competency-based schools begin with the concept of “meeting students where they are” and design instructional strategies for students based on their development, social and emotional skills and academic foundations. They use these assessments of student learning and development to determine the supports that will be most effective in helping them learn and progress. Pedagogy and learning design for students and adults are grounded in the learning sciences and seek to embed equity strategies such as culturally responsive approaches and Universal Design for Learning into the core of instruction. Helping students to build the lifelong learning skills often referred to as student agency is rooted in science of learning and one of the student success outcomes. 16 i NACOL

19 undERsT OmpETEnCy-BasEd EduCa TIOn andIng C 6. Assessments are embedded in the personalized learning cycle and aligned to outcomes including the transfer of knowledge and skills. Traditional systems place heavy emphasis on summative assessment, much of which emphasizes the lower portion of Bloom’s taxonomy: memorization, comprehension and application. All students take grade-level assessments at the same point in time. In competency-based education the emphasis is on assessment for learning. Formative assessment is deeply embedded in the cycle of learning to provide feedback that helps students master learning objectives and guides teacher’s professional learning. Students continue to practice or revise when they are “not yet” proficient until they reach the commonly defined performance level that demonstrates mastery of learning expectations. Students are empowered and engaged when the process of assessing learning is transparent, timely, draws upon multiple sources of evidence and communicates progress. In the most developed competency-based schools, summative assessments are used based on the personal pathway of students when they have shown evidence of proficiency, not grade level, as a means of quality control and internal accountability to ensure that students are being held consistently to high standards. Assessment systems in competency-based districts and schools also emphasize deeper learning. Districts and schools build the capacity for performance-based assessments to ensure students know how to transfer knowledge and build the higher order skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Structure 7. Mechanisms are in place to ensure consistency in expectations of what it means to master knowledge and skills. Variability is a feature of the traditional system: what is to be learned, at what performance level mastery is set, and how student work is graded will vary across districts, schools, and even within classrooms. The result is that students are held to different expectations. Variability is also problematic because it is highly susceptible to bias: when teachers and leaders who have not addressed their own biases are the final arbiters of student learning, they may intentionally or unintentionally perpetuate inequitable outcomes for students. By contrast, competency- based education asks: How do we know if students have learned? We cannot be confident that students are really developing the desired knowledge and skills if we are not confident that we know how to measure those knowledge and skills, or that educators across the system measure them the same way. Moderation processes ensure teachers share expectations and understandings of standards. Similarly, teachers calibrate to ensure that they assess evidence of learning consistently. Confidence in schools grows and equity is advanced when students, teachers and families receive clear and trustworthy information about exactly where students are on the pathway toward graduation. 8. Schools and districts value transparency with clear and explicit expectations of what is to be learned, the level of performance for mastery and how students are progressing. A transparent common learning continuum, including standards and competencies that reflect the student success outcomes, establishes shared expectations for what students will know and be able to do at every performance level. Students are more motivated and empowered when learning targets and expectations of mastery are clear, and when they have voice in how they learn and demonstrate proficiency. 17 i NACOL

20 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION 9. Strategies for communicating progress support the learning process and student success. In traditional systems students receive periodic report cards with A-F grades based on points for assignments, tests and behavior. Teachers often have their own system of grading, which results in variability in determining achievement. There is little opportunity for revision, a critical part of the cycle of learning, and students are ranked using the status of their performance. The problem is that risk-taking, failure and revision are part of real and authentic learning processes. Traditional grading systems create disincentives to these aspects of learning because they penalize failure. Grades in the traditional system may reflect knowing, but they do not necessarily reflect learning. In competency-based districts and schools, grading systems are rooted in the learning sciences. Failure and mistakes are part of the learning process. The transparent common learning continuum is the backbone for the system of grading. Students are clear on what they need to learn, what proficiency looks like, and the ways they can demonstrate learning. Currently many schools use standards-based grading aligned to grade-level standards. Some schools are beginning to use competency-based grading aligned to personalized learning paths. Grading policies separate behaviors and lifelong learning skills from academics to ensure transparency and objectivity, with students receiving effective feedback and guidance on both. Students are expected and supported to engage in additional practice and revision until they can demonstrate proficiency. 10. Learners advance based on attainment of learning expectations (mastery) through personalized learning pathways. In traditional schools, students advance to the next set of content and the next grade level whether or not they need more time to master the content. Likewise, students are expected to engage with grade-level content whether or not they have already mastered that content. Pacing guides tell teachers to move forward in the curriculum even if students have not learned what they need. Competency-based systems recognize that students may need more time to learn concepts and skills deeply. If they have gaps in their mastery, scaffolding may be required to attain all the prerequisite knowledge and skills. More instructional support and time are provided if needed and students advance when they are ready. Depending on the domains and learning targets, students may be able to pursue personalized pathways forward rather than linear progressions. Competency-based systems ensure students are truly prepared for future learning by basing progress and credit accrual on demonstration of knowledge and skill, rather than the traditional system’s dependence on proxies for learning, such as attendance or amount of time in class. There is a risk in only focusing on the distinguishing Educators often turn to competency-based education features, as it can be easily construed that if some of when they realize that no matter what curriculum, program those distinguishing pieces are in place then a school or instructional strategy they use, the traditional system was has developed a high-quality model. This problem is best never designed to have all students succeed. As districts exemplified by the shallow interpretation of the feature of and schools begin the redesign toward a personalized, “advance upon mastery” as flexible or self-pacing with a competency-based system, they often begin with study, number of schools describing themselves as competency- reflection and dialogue about what communities and based without attention to the other elements. Remember, parents want for their students upon graduation from high when committing to creating a high-quality system that school, what a system looks like that will reliably produce benefits every student, it is important to think about it those outcomes for all students and what practices of the comprehensively. traditional system need to change. They embrace a shared responsibility to do what is best for students to help them Figure 1 illustrates key differences between competency- successfully learn academic knowledge, the skills to apply based education as compared with traditional education it and the lifelong learning skills needed to be successful in systems, and offers examples of how competency-based college, career and life. systems can embed an intentional focus upon equity. 18 i NACOL

21 undERsT TIOn andIng C OmpETEnCy-BasEd EduCa EPIC schools are personalized. We are responding to the needs of our students academically and developmentally, and we need a structure that enables personalization. “ The transparency and responsiveness of mastery-based systems also enable students to take ownership for their learning. When implemented effectively, a mastery-based approach helps to create a school-wide culture of responsibility and accountability with a commitment to growth and achievement.” Harvey Chism, Co-designer of EPIC school model, New York City Department of Education and Executive Director, South Bronx Community Charter 20 High School, NY, 2014 Figure 1: Comparing Traditional Education and Competency-Based Education with Equity at the Center Examples of High-Quality Competency-Based Ten Flaws of the Traditional Features of Competency-Based Education with Equity at Education System the Center Recognizes students for the Focuses on a broad and holistic Focuses on a narrow set Outcomes assets they already possess set of student success outcomes of academic outcomes and encourages them to that include deep understanding emphasizing academic develop their interests of content knowledge and skill skills, memorization and and talents, while building demonstrated through application, comprehension of content. academic knowledge, skills and competencies that prepare Fails to recognize that student and competencies. students for college, career and success is dependent on a full lifelong learning. range of foundational skills, including social and emotional skills, and the application of skills. Ensures gaps in knowledge Builds upon a growth mindset: Based on a fixed mindset: that Mindset and skills are addressed so that learning and performance can people’s abilities are innate and students are fully prepared for improve with effort. immutable. Ranks and sorts more advanced studies. students creating “winners” and Demonstrates belief that all “losers,” perpetuating patterns Seeks out and disrupts children can learn with the right of inequality in society. inequitable practices and bias. mix of challenges and supports. Takes responsibility for all students mastering learning expectations. Requires shared vision, collaborative approach, flexibility to be more responsive and commitment to continuous improvement. 19 i NACOL

22 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Examples of High-Quality Competency-Based Features of Competency-Based Ten Flaws of the Traditional Education with Equity at Education System the Center Embraces cultural Nurtures empowering, inclusive Culture Emphasizes compliance responsiveness at all levels of cultures of learning. Values agency and order in school culture. the district. Involves students for students and adults with Relies upon a bureaucratic, in school governance. distributed leadership. Recognizes hierarchical system that safety and belonging is important to perpetuates traditional roles, learning. cultural norms and power dynamics. Embeds culturally responsive Designs to provide timely and Targets supports to students Supports support and instruction. differentiated instruction and when their academic or Provides academic pathways support. Provides daily flex time behavioral needs are identified for students who are off- and time for students to receive as significantly above or track to graduation by 18 to additional support before and after below the norm (i.e. special complete their secondary semesters. education, gifted and talented). education. Grounds instruction in Draws upon learning sciences to Delivers a single curriculum Pedagogy personal relationships and inform pedagogical principles for to all students based on age. curriculum is intentionally students and adults. Takes into Emphasizes covering the examined to address bias and consideration student pathway in curriculum each year. Fails to create a culture of inclusivity. designing instruction. Increases ground learning and teaching Incorporates Universal Design motivation, engagement and effort in the learning sciences—what for Learning strategies. through research-based strategies. we know about how children learn. Maintains rigor and high Embeds assessment in a Emphasizes assessment for Assessment expectations for all students. personalized learning cycle and summative purposes to verify Supplies on-going opportunity aligns to outcomes including the what students know. Conducts to apply or transfer a learning transfer of knowledge and skills. one-size-fits-all assessments at target in novel contexts and predetermined points of time Clarifies students’ next steps for provide evidence. or at the end of the unit and are individual learning pathways. administered to all students at Includes coaching students on Informs educator professional the same time and in the same building blocks of learning to learning. format on the same content. build lifelong learning skills and Aligns assessment with the agency. expectation that students will be able to transfer knowledge and skills to challenging new contexts. Establishes moderation and Ensures consistent expectations Reliability Permits high degrees of calibration processes across and definitions of what it means to variability in how educators, schools and across districts to master knowledge and skills. Builds schools and districts determine reduce variability and different moderated judgment of student proficiency. Students are held levels of standards for different mastery and holds all students to to different standards within students and communities. the same high standards. Ensures courses, schools and districts. calibrated grading practices. 20 i NACOL

23 OmpETEnCy-BasEd EduCa andIng C undERsT TIOn Examples of High-Quality Competency-Based Features of Competency-Based Ten Flaws of the Traditional Education with Equity at System Education the Center Empowers and motivates Values transparency with clear and Offers opaque learning Learning students by creating explicit expectations of what is to objectives and performance Infrastructure opportunities for more be learned, the level of performance expectations with limited voice in how they learn and for mastery, and how students are information for students about demonstrate learning. progressing. Provides measurable the learning cycle. learning targets and proficiency is Students receive grades with transparent to students. little guidance on what is needed to do for revision. Varies in teacher expectations of what high achievement means. Monitors how students Communicates progress in ways Grading Uses academic grading progress to ensure all that support the learning process practices that can often students meet high levels and student success. send mixed messages and of rigor. Produces data on misleading signals about Closely monitors growth and student progress that informs what students know by progress of students based on their professional learning of reflecting a mix of factors, learning pathway, not just grade teachers, collaboration and including behavior, assignment level. Designs grading and scoring inquiry-research to build completion and getting a to communicate with students capacity of school. passing grade on tests, not about their progress in learning student learning. academics, transferable skills and building blocks of learning. Designs students’ learning Advances students based on Advancement Is time-based. Batches students pathways around individual attainment of learning expectations by age and moves them student progress and needs (mastery) through personalized through the same content and may not follow linear learning pathways. Provides and courses at the same pace. process. Provides instructional instruction until students fully Advances students to the next support that reflects a pace learn the concepts and skills and grade level after a year of and rate of progress designed then advance after demonstrating schooling regardless of what to result in students achieving mastery. This requires additional they actually learned. mastery of college and career support, not retention. readiness by graduation. 21 i NACOL

24 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION “Personalized learning is tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests— including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn—to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.” iNACOL, Mean What You Say: Defining and Differentiating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education, 2011 build the growth mindset and academic mindset, as well C. Competency-Based as the habits of success and social-emotional skills they need to be self-directed learners and engage in productive Education and struggle. Schools play a critical role in creating the Personalized Learning learning opportunities and coaching that students need to successfully learn how to learn. Instruction is designed Go Hand in Hand to meet students where they are, taking into account their prerequisite skills, mindsets, habits and interests. Competency-based structures focus on each student’s Personalized learning relies on the competency- unique K-12 educational journey while ensuring that all based structures that produce consistency in validating students emerge from their K-12 experience ready to proficiency based on student work, and careful monitoring pursue and succeed in the postsecondary pathway of of pace and progress. This consistency and monitoring their choice. In this way, they are designed for equity with is important for districts and schools becoming a focus on responsiveness, consistency, transparency, accountable for student success. Personalization without fairness and continuous improvement. As the learning 21 a competency-based system with an intentional focus it is important to personalize learning sciences tell us, on equity can perpetuate and even exacerbate inequity. rather than depend on the one-size-fits-all instruction and Competency education without personalization means curriculum of the traditional system. In fact it would be that students will not receive the instruction and support nearly impossible to have all students reach college and they need to learn. While the design of competency-based career readiness without doing so. Competency-based structures and personalized learning practices seek to education assumes that schools will meet students where support equitable education, realizing this goal requires they are; personalized learning is an approach to optimizing intentionality. a school’s pedagogical strategy to effectively support each student, drawing on research about learning, motivation 22 In schools using personalized learning, and engagement. students are active learners with: • Choice in how they learn; • Voice to co-create learning experiences and express their own ideas; • Options to personalize their pathways; and • Leadership opportunities in which they can shape or contribute to their own environment. To become active learners who have a sense of ownership of their education, students need to have the right mix of mindsets and skills. Schools invest in helping students 22 i NACOL

25 undERsT andIng C TIOn OmpETEnCy-BasEd EduCa 23 What will students experience in a competency-based school? Below are examples of experiences that every student should have in a well-developed personalized, competency- based system. 1. I will be fully supported in developing academic knowledge and skills, the ability to apply what I have learned to solve real-world problems, and the capacities I need to become an independent and lifelong learner. 2. I feel safe and am willing to put forward my best effort to take on challenging knowledge and skills because I have a deep sense of belonging, I feel that my culture, the culture of my community and my voice is valued, and I see on a daily basis that everyone in the school is committed to my learning. 3. I will have opportunity and support to learn the skills that allow me take responsibility for my learning and exercise independence. 4. I have access to and full comprehension of learning targets and expectations of what proficiency means. 5. I have opportunity to learn anytime, anyplace, with flexibility to take more time when I need it to fully master or go deeper, and to pursue ways of learning and demonstrating my learning in ways that are relevant to my interest and future. 6. I am able to own my education by learning about things that matter to me in ways that are effective for me with the support that allows me to be successful. 7. I will receive timely feedback, instruction and support based on where I am on the learner continuum and my social emotional development to make necessary progress on my personalized pathway to graduation. 8. My learning will be measured by progress on learning targets rather than level of participation, effort or time in the classroom. 9. Grades or scoring provide feedback to help me know what I need to do to improve my learning process and reach my learning goals. 10. I can advance to the next level or go deeper into topics that interest me as soon as I submit evidence of learning that demonstrates my proficiency. 23 i NACOL


27 SECTION III. Sixteen Quality Design Principles As districts and schools convert to proficiency-based learning, they are knocking down load-bearing walls. It’s impossible to have all the answers because any organizational change often has multiple consequences. Learning to be a superintendent in a proficiency-based district meant I had to let go of the pride of having all the answers. No one person is going to do this all by themselves or be able to figure it all out entirely by themselves. Instead, we have to ask ourselves, ‘How can we take a position of trust and respect that can harness the collective intelligence needed to bring about transformative change?’ Virgel Hammonds, former Superintendent of RSU2, Maine and 24 currently Chief Learning Officer, KnowledgeWorks, 2014 25

28 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION There are multiple strategies for defining and improving quality within a field: articulating models, creating quality The Difference Between a Common standards, documenting best practices, implementation Learning Continuum and a Personalized playbooks and benchmarking indicators and outcomes, Learner Continuum to name a few. With districts and schools starting from Moving to a new paradigm requires common various points—with different strengths and using different language that helps clarify the shift. Consider the entry points, different roll-out strategies and different difference between a continuum of the learning models—defining models and concrete implementation expectations organized solely around grade-level steps are not a viable approach. They would be too easily standards and one that provides the continuum of construed as technical changes without the cultural shift learning targets that reflect where a student or a that is essential to quality. Furthermore, it is not yet known group of students are in their progress. if one approach or set of practices is better than another. Common Learning Framework or Continuum: Some might see this as a reason to not begin the transition The set of learning expectations used by districts to personalized, competency-based education. However, and schools to define what every student should once districts and schools recognize how the design flaws know and be able to do organized by grade-level of the traditional system produce low achievement and standards or performance levels. Instruction and inequity, they realize that there is no other option than to assessment are organized around the standards, move forward. The status quo is no longer acceptable. not the student. Learner Continuum or Progression: In every We need to be comfortable starting classroom, different students are at different stages with ‘What if...?’ What if all the rules were “ of their learning. A student’s learner continuum or removed and you could do what you a classroom’s learners continua indicates where students are in their learning. This is based on valued most about kids? What would you the zone of proximal development using learning do? The expectation at Henry County is targets that students can reach and the necessary level of support including consideration of the that we aren’t sitting in the status quo. It is student’s social and emotional skills. The learner becoming unacceptable to be status quo.” continua is used to communicate progress, monitor Aaryn Schmuhl, Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Leadership, pace and identify future learning targets so that it 25 Henry County School District, GA, 2016 is transparent to students, teachers and parents where students are in their growth. With a growing number of districts seeking full The term “learning framework” is used to indicate implementation, a handful of innovative models employing the continuum of grade-level standards and a student-centered learner continuum and increasing competencies, and “learner continuum” to convey numbers of districts and schools just beginning, we need the roadmap of the actual ways that students are an approach that can build knowledge and understanding progressing. of competency-based education while accelerating the introduction of a new paradigm to replace the underlying beliefs and habits of the traditional system. Design principles do just that by offering diverse doorways or lenses to understand competency education without the constraints of a specific model or set of practices. 26 i NACOL

29 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT Figure 2: Sixteen Quality Design Principles At A Glance 16 P 1 u r p 15 o s e & 2 C u s l t e 14 u l r p i e c D n i e r 3 s P i g n n g i P s 13 r e i n D c e i p 4 r l u e t s c u r t 12 S 5 11 6 s e l 10 p i c n i 7 r P n 9 g i 8 s e D g n T i e n a r c a h e i L n g & Purpose & Culture Principles Structure Design Principles Teaching & Learning Design Principles 10. Seek Intentionality & Alignment 1. Purpose-Driven 6. Base School Design & Pedagogy 2. Commit to Equity 11. Establish Mechanisms to Ensure on Learning Science Consistency & Reliability 3. Nurture a Culture of Learning & 7. Activate Student Agency & 12. Maximize Transparency Inclusivity Ownership 13. Invest as Educators as Learners 4. Foster the Development of a 8. Design for the Development of Growth Mindset 14. Increase Organizational Flexibility Rigorous Higher-Level Skills 5. Cultivate Empowering & 15. Develop Processes for Ongoing 9. Ensure Responsiveness Distributed Leadership Continuous Improvement & Organizational Learning 16. Advance Upon Demonstrated Mastery 27 i NACOL

30 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION The organizational architecture or structure Structure: Overview of the 16 Quality Design Principles refers to the operations, processes and policies that create As part of the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based the conditions for teaching and learning. A modified set Education the 16 Quality Design Principles were informed of structures are necessary to make good on the promise by a collaborative process involving teachers, principals, of supporting all students to reach mastery. Districts and district and state leaders, researchers and technical schools need to become organizations that reliably help assistance providers. The principles are organized into three students to progress in building the knowledge and skills categories. (See Figure 2 Sixteen Quality Design Principles they need for the next step in their education. Design At a Glance) principles include: A high-quality competency-based Purpose & Culture: • Intentionality and alignment; system starts with a clear purpose and a vibrant culture— the values, beliefs, relationships, rituals and routines—that • Consistency and reliability; provide the foundation upon which the design and daily • Transparency; operations rest. Design principles include: • Educators as learners; • Purpose-driven; • Flexibility; • Equity; • Continuous improvement and organizational learning; • A culture of learning and inclusivity; and • Growth mindset; and • Advancement upon demonstrated mastery. • Empowering and distributed leadership. It is important to remember that each of the design Competency-based districts Teaching and Learning: principles has implications for other aspects of how and schools create a shared understanding of teaching schools are designed and for other principles. For example, based on learning sciences. There is no one and learning investing in educators as learners (i.e., professional learning) right instructional method in competency-based schools has direct implications for teaching and learning and although there are implications for the types of learning transparency is critically important for student agency. experiences (i.e., curriculum), instruction and assessment These intersections of the principles will be highlighted so that students are mastering knowledge and skills using throughout the report with a “#” and the number of the higher order skills. Design principles emphasize: principles to enable readers to pursue concepts across design principles. For each principle, a short description • Learning sciences; is followed by a set of key characteristics, a discussion • Agency and ownership; about the design principle, a set of policies and practices • Rigorous higher-level skills; and often used to operationalize the principle and examples of implementation problems, referred to as “red flags.” • Responsiveness. 28 i NACOL

31 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT The best way to use design principles is to approach them in the form of questions. For example in considering Reciprocity of Quality and Equity in grading policies we might ask: Competency-Based Education • In what way does the grading policy reinforce a culture In competency-based education quality and of learning and inclusivity ? In what way might it be equity are inextricably connected. The principles impeding the development of the culture? that guide creating an equitable system—one • In what way is the grading policy aligned (or not) with the that effectively serves all students—are much the same as those principles that drive quality. It ? learning sciences is difficult to imagine achieving quality without with transparent • In what way is the grading policy a relentless focus on achieving equity, and you students and families about their progress in learning? In could not call a competency-based school high what ways might be the grading policy be sending false quality unless it were also an equitable school. signals? In effect, we are saying that while quality can be explained and enacted through a set of principles, In this way design is inherently empowering. When districts it is not, at the end of the day, about inputs and and schools use a design-orientation they are immediately processes. Quality is about outcomes—success for becoming intentional about what their purpose and what all students—and therefore a conversation about quality cannot be separated from a conversation they want their students to learn. The design principles seek about equity. to produce higher-quality competency-based schools by driving toward more robust understanding of competency- Designing for Equity: Leveraging Competency- based education. As districts and schools become more 26 Based Education to Ensure All Students Succeed. familiar with and more adept at using the design principles, the routines of the traditional system will no longer feel so intractable, and the design choices will become boundless. In describing the design principles, we err on the side of For those who would like another approach to being aspirational by drawing on the most promising of understanding what a comprehensive competency-based what districts and schools are putting into place. Although system might look like, please see Levers and Logic Models: most systems and schools are still in planning or early A Framework to Guide Research and Design of High- implementation stages, many districts have developed 27 Quality Competency-Based Education System. some aspect or practice of competency-based education that illustrates what a fully-developed system might look like. The entire field of competency-based education is rapidly learning and evolving. Even the most advanced districts would say that they are still learning as they reconfigure their systems. 29 i NACOL

32 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION A. Purpose and Culture Design Principles There is an adage that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” As an instructional leader, I focus my And in education that is certainly true: The best strategic job on three goals. First, my job is to keep “ plan in the world will likely flounder if the beliefs of the the compelling purpose of supporting our teachers and students are not supportive. District and school culture shapes how adults and students interpret, learners alive. It’s easy to slip back into make meaning of and act within the systems and policies doing things just because that’s the way that have been established. This is especially true for we’ve always done them. Second, my job schools transitioning to competency education. is to empower our staff. They need to have A school’s culture is the daily manifestation of its purpose the freedom to do their jobs in supporting and core beliefs. It can be seen in people’s belief about themselves and about others. Thus, the beliefs of adults our learners. Third, I operate from a position and students about each other contribute to the culture of service and collaboration. This is very of schools. The culture becomes embodied in the important because if I used top-down relationships between students and teachers and in the routines and rituals, both formal and informal, that shape leadership, I wouldn’t be able to empower daily interactions. School culture drives how decisions are staff. These three elements go hand in hand. made and what people believe warrants time, resources and attention. Everyone contributes to the culture with The reason that Lindsay is able to make this school and district leadership, whether intentionally or not, transformation is because of the structure of exerting considerable influence. shared leadership...My job as a principal is to Traditional school systems emphasize high achievement, make sure our decision-making processes competition, order and compliance. Although both are managed effectively. At times I may traditional and competency-based schools value high achievement, they interpret achievement differently. need to step in to remind the team of our Traditional schools tend to emphasize lower order skills compelling purpose – our learners. When and competition. They also privilege students who perform we have a shared goal, it makes decisions a at grade level through ranking and sorting systems. Competency-based systems value deeper learning and lot easier. Collaboration is also a lot easier.“ recognize that everyone, students and adults alike, are 28 Jaime Robles, former Principal at Lindsay High School, CA, 2015 continually learning. Traditional systems emphasize order and compliance, manifested in school disciplinary policies that exclude students, disproportionately impact students 30 i NACOL

33 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT of color and students with disabilities and make many students feel that they do not belong. In competency- based schools students are active learners. Schools attend to the social and emotional aspects of learning so that students become self-directed learners. Inclusion is actively promoted with behavior issues understood as opportunities #1 Purpose-Driven for growth and to deepen relationships with students. Our community told us they wanted Competency-based systems ground culture in the learning sciences, which emphasize the importance of safety their children to be lifelong learners. We “ and belonging, active learning, self-regulation, intrinsic had to ask ourselves, what are we doing motivation and purposeful engagement for students and in our classrooms to help them be lifelong adults. They establish culture that empowers: students take learners? What structures and supports do ownership of their learning and teachers make decisions in the best interests of their students. District and school our teachers need to help develop lifelong leaders will find that intentionally engaging teachers, learners? It came down to needing to have students and families in conversation about beliefs and an active learning environment. Students culture will expedite the shift from the traditional paradigm need to be able to seek out things they are to the empowering, inclusive culture of learning needed for high-quality competency-based education. personally interested in, create a plan and find the resources. We are always looking The culture of the district and schools for ways for students to learn beyond the is very, very important. If we don’t get that “ classroom.” right, the rest won’t work effectively. It’s 30 Doug Penn, District Principal, Chugach School District, AK, 2015 important that schools begin to create new cultures now. If the legislature ever decides Description to make mastery-based learning mandatory, Quality requires intentionality and intentionality requires it will make it more difficult to get the clarity of purpose. Creating a shared purpose that is meaningfully connected to the lives of students and culture right. Schools will be making the families is essential to designing effective culture, structure decision to become mastery-based out of and pedagogy. A shared purpose lives in the vision and compliance rather than doing what is best values that orient a system. In competency-based systems, for kids.” the shared purpose emphasizes the commitment to every student succeeding. The definition of success is expanded David Prinstein, Principal, Windsor Locks Middle School, Windsor 29 Locks School District, CT, 2016 to include academic knowledge, transferable competencies and the skills to be lifelong learners. Students and adults draw connections between their educational experience and their current and future lives, bringing relevance and meaning to the learning experience. 31 i NACOL

34 Purpose-Driven #1 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION life” into reality. From this purpose emerges all other design Key Characteristics principles: nurturing a culture of learning and inclusivity Shared purpose. Districts and schools have a shared • so that every student and adult feels safe and supported purpose to support every student being successful in in taking risks to learn new things, personalizing learning their learning. Each member of a school community has so that students learn the skills to own their education a true sense of purpose: they make connections to their and become lifelong learners, responding to students by current and future lives within the learning process. The meeting them where they are with timely and differentiated shared purpose promotes collaboration, continuous supports, and advancing students based on demonstrated improvement and decision-making in the best interest of mastery not simply because they completed a semester or students. course. The purpose of education • Definition of student success. must be rooted in the current and future lives of students In the following discussion three aspects of what it means and their families. Districts and schools shape what to be purpose-driven are explored: this means in terms of specific skills, knowledge and • Creating a shared purpose; traits. High-quality districts and schools design for the knowledge and skills needed for success beyond high • New definitions of student success; and school. • Instructional implications of the purpose. • Relationships. Districts and schools invest in healthy relationships between students, teachers, leaders and the Shared Purpose community. Public education is based on a social contract with Students and teachers see Cultural relevance. • families and communities. Schools prepare students for connections between learning environments, learning their futures: to pursue further education or training; take experiences and their personal and cultural identities. on adult roles in their families, the workplace and their communities; and foster their personal well-being. Districts Application. • Students have opportunities to apply their and schools beginning the transition to competency-based learning in ways that are personally meaningful. Active education establish or renew the compact by engaging connection between learning and the world around them community members, parents and students in describing increases students’ engagement and purpose. a vision for graduates. The process of creating a shared purpose and vision contributes to a sense of shared How is Being Purpose-Driven Related to Quality? ownership and mutual accountability—a deep sense of responsibility to each other based on understanding their interdependence in reaching the shared vision—between Is this best for kids? That is at the core of teachers, students, parents and the community. District our entire district. We identify what is best “ leaders offer several ways that engaging the community in for kids and then we figure out how to make 32 creating a shared vision lays the groundwork for change. it happen.” • Contributing Valuable Perspectives. Members of the 31 Missy DeRivera, Teacher, Chugach School District, AK, 2015 community will create a richer conversation by bringing to the table ideas, values and perspectives that educators might not necessarily have thought to include. A school’s purpose—the answer to why a district or school exists—intentionally shapes all aspects of its culture, Re-Building Respect and Trust. Community engagement • pedagogy and structure. Districts and schools often turn to can help overcome mistrust and build the mutual respect competency-based education for the purpose of turning that is needed to create a culture of learning. In many the rhetoric of “all students prepared for college, career and districts, there are segments of the community that have 32 i NACOL

35 Purpose-Driven #1 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT New Definitions of Student Success either had bad experiences in school or have historically been underserved and disrespected by school systems. As communities, districts and schools clarify the purpose of school they tend to focus on preparing students for Districts must create a space for people to talk about what they want for their children and have honest college, careers, civic participation and to be lifelong conversations about the current academic achievement learners. New definitions of student success usually levels and graduation rates include three types of expectations, although they may use different terminology to capture them: academic Communities Nurturing Consensus and Leadership. • knowledge, transferable skills and the skills and traits to be need to be given time to understand the new approach independent lifelong learners. Figure 3 New Definitions of and why it is important. The greater the number of Student Success provides a detailed explanation of each of people in the community who are knowledgeable about these expectations. the why and how schools need to improve, the more they can help others to understand. Districts and schools use this purpose statement, often • Sustaining Change. Community engagement is an referred to as a graduate profile, as the North Star when essential ingredient for staying the course when designing schools and systems. The hope is to redesign unanticipated consequences of implementation arise and schools so that all aspects of learning environments and when district leadership changes. learning experiences align to help students develop the building blocks of learning and the higher order skills that Engaging communities in creating a shared vision and let them apply academic knowledge and skills to real-world purpose is always shaped by the context. Leaders and [#7 Student Agency & Ownership and #8 Rigorous problems. teachers will want to find ways to recognize and address Higher-Level Skills] historical disenfranchisement. To not do so sends signals that educational leadership doesn’t care or doesn’t respect How Purpose Drives Instruction communities enough to understand their experiences. Individuals and communities who have experienced The graduate profile is the touchstone exclusion, who have felt that their education system was not designed for them, may not leap to participate in for everything else we do in designing the “ education systems in the ways described here. Historical performance-based system and learning mistrust will need to be navigated and intentional efforts to experiences.” build or rebuild trust be consistently demonstrated. Districts and schools cannot simply call for active participation from Leigh Grasso, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, District 51, 34 CO 2017 community, they must work to engage those who have been historically and systemically left out. After communities align around a shared purpose around a definition of student success, they commit to ensuring We took direction from the community that all students—each and every student—can achieve about the kind of graduates they wanted “ this goal. Truly aspirational, this commitment to equity and the type of school they wanted. As we is the turning point for the shift from the traditional [#2 model to a personalized, competency-based one. began the high school redesign process, When they make this commitment, districts and Equity] we have never backed off from engaging schools recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach our community. Our community is in the won’t work: they will want to customize learning to meet driver’s seat.” students where they are academically, emotionally and developmentally. Structural and pedagogical approaches 33 John Freeman, Superintendent, Pittsfield School District, NH, 2014 33 i NACOL

36 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Figure 3: New Definitions of Student Success Academic Knowledge, often referred to as content, are the set of facts, concepts and processes used in the domains students are expected to learn in school, including but not limited to mathematics, English language and literacy, natural sciences, social sciences, the arts and technical subjects. State, district and school policy define the domains and expectations for performance that students are expected to learn in school. Transferable Skills are the adaptive expertise and abilities that enable people to effectively perform roles, complete complex tasks, or achieve specific objectives. Successful young adults have sets of competencies (e.g., critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, collaboration) that allow them to be productive and engaged, navigate across contexts, perform effectively in different settings and apply knowledge to different tasks. Some or all of these skills or competencies may be referred to as transferable skills, higher-order skills or 21st century skills. 35 Lifelong Learning Skills that prepare students to be independent learners are based on the Building Blocks for Learning including healthy development, social and emotional skills, mindsets, perseverance and independence. Related terms are intrapersonal skills, student agency or non-cognitive skills. Source: Building Blocks for Learning from Turnaround USA. Reproduced with permission. 34 i NACOL

37 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT To ensure each and every student is successful, districts will be required that can provide each student with the right supports at the right time, all the while emphasizing and schools reject the weak proxy of seat-time for learning. each student’s personal agency and responsibility to Instead they turn to the concept of advancement upon [#16 Advance Upon Mastery] All decisions This [#9 Responsiveness] drive their own learning. demonstrated mastery. about culture, structure and pedagogy originate from this requires transparency of a learning framework and where [#12 Transparency] Learning students can achieve newly all students are in their learning. commitment to ensuring becomes customized to meet students where they are. defined high standards for success. Instruction, assessment and learning experiences are Academic standards are essential for clarifying the organized to maximize student effort by engaging them academic knowledge and skills students need to pursue as active learners and paying attention to the role of postsecondary education and training. However, they do their emotions and motivation. Schools become more not offer guidance on what it will take to get students there. responsive to ensure students receive timely, differentiated For that, competency-based schools turn to the research Finally, consistency in [#9 Responsiveness] supports. on the science of learning that students are active learners credentialing learning is needed so that variability is and that learning is a complex interplay between cognitive minimized and students are no longer passed on without and psychological aspects of the learner. The demand for [#11 the skills they need for more advanced studies. students to become independent learners requires that Consistency & Reliability] They do so [#6 Learning Sciences] students learn to learn. Finally, it is important to note that altering the vision by developing the “building blocks of learning” including a for student success will have implications for teachers growth mindset, self-regulation, social and emotional skills, as well. Changing outcomes for students changes the metacognition and perseverance. These skills are often role of the teacher: they must be empowered and must bundled together under terms such as student agency [#14 have autonomy to be more responsive to students. or self-determination. When students have the skills to Districts and schools utilize Organizational Flexibility] take ownership, the dynamics of the classroom change: distributed leadership strategies that enable those closest teachers are able to provide more intensive instruction [#7 Student Agency & [#5 Empowering to students to develop the best solutions. to small groups and individuals. Ownership] & Distributed Leadership] Teachers will need new types of support and opportunities for growth: to change their Rather than developing compliant, obedient students, instructional practices, to change classroom culture and competency-based systems are designed with the management practices, to confront and address their assumption that students will be active learners as informed own biases and to learn to form deep relationships with by the learning sciences. For this to work in practice—for each and every student. They develop their knowledge, students to take ownership of their learning—they must be skills and professional judgment through personalized and motivated and engaged to do so. To this end, competency- [#13 collaborative professional learning rooted in inquiry. based systems nurture cultures and strategies that motivate Educators as Learners] and engage students by fostering connections and How does a shared purpose relate to quality? If purpose relevance. They connect learning to individuals’ sense of includes competencies we know students will need purpose and passion to help students envision possible for success after high school, aligned schools promote future selves, and they validate individuals’ personal rigorous deeper learning that continually build these and cultural identities so that learning and professional knowledge and skills. If purpose is developed to include the environments are relevant. In all these ways, competency- goals and values of communities and families, stakeholders based systems cultivate a culture of connection and share accountability for every student’s success. If relevance so that students can participate as active agents purpose is truly shared and culturally relevant, then diverse in their learning. 35 i NACOL

38 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION stakeholders can collaborate and persist through the Examples of Red Flags inevitable challenges of transitioning to a competency- In many cases, Superintendent defines the vision. 3 based model. In these ways, becoming purpose driven is superintendents as the leaders of a district set the the first step in creating a personalized, competency-based vision for the school system. Although that vision might system. be just what the community would have intended, it nevertheless creates challenges in sustainability with the departure of one superintendent and the arrival of Policies and Practices to Look For the next with a different vision. In addition, the process Shared vision, a graduate profile and guiding principles used of setting (and revisiting) a shared vision created for decision-making are developed through a community with community, parents and students establishes engagement process. a foundation of trust that is needed for mutual accountability. The process of community engagement • Staff can explain the rationale and connections between in setting the vision can also be very useful in the stages instruction; learning experiences; assessments; and of early implementation when there may be bumps and meaningful career, college and life competencies. mid-course corrections. • The definition of student success drives how student The transition to competency-based education 3 progress is measured and monitored. Multiple ways is driven by compliance, not a student-centered of measurement are used including quantitative and purpose. In many cases districts and schools turn to qualitative data. Assessments include demonstrations, competency-based education because they have portfolios, and capstone projects. realized that the traditional model is flawed and limits • Proactive, culturally relevant strategies are used for the ability to serve all students well. They turn to engaging stakeholders with a focus on including personalized, competency-based education because marginalized voices. they believe that students will achieve at much higher • Educators have ongoing conversations about alignment levels by drawing on the learning sciences, customizing and continuous improvement in the context of the learning and ensuring students actually learn rather than shared purpose and vision. passing them. However, there are some cases, especially in states that have boldly set the direction toward • District organization has been redesigned to support transforming their education systems, where the late mission, strategies and support to schools. Districts and adopters are changing in response to state policy rather schools have revisited structure and job descriptions than because it is good for students. These districts and human resource policies—including evaluation—to may put into place a few practices or focus solely on reflect values, mission and strategies. the technical changes without changing culture or pedagogy. For these districts, it may be valuable to take a step back and engage in an inquiry-based study about the research on learning and to what degree their policies, culture and instruction align. 36 i NACOL

39 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs Key Characteristics Commit to all students succeeding. Districts and schools • articulate a comprehensive definition of student success and commitment to ensuring all students can achieve this success. Furthermore, they put into place structural and pedagogical systems that support students equitably #2 Commit to Equity and use continuous improvement to adjust systems that are not effective. We aren’t just trying to close the Schools honor Create inclusive multicultural schools. • achievement gap. That’s using a deficit “ and respect each individual: their personal, cultural, model. When we started designing the historical and community identities. They foster greater school, we wanted to have a place where empathy and understanding between community members. They make cultures and languages of power students discover the things that make them explicit, simultaneously helping students navigate them special. In this way, we are recognizing and working to make a more inclusive community. students as assets and affirming their Diversity is not just touted as a matter of representation, but also leveraged to improve performance. The creativity and intelligence...something that a perspectives most likely to be marginalized are actively lot of schools fail to do.” sought and integrated into school decision-making to David Weinberg, Principal, EPIC High School North, New York City generate new practices and innovations. 36 Department of Education in 2014 • Districts and schools recognize that all Address bias. forms of inequity—racism, classism, ability, gender, Description orientation, religious discrimination and others—live A culture of equity starts with conviction that every child in the individual and collective consciousness of can learn at high levels in conjunction with a commitment community members. Individual teachers, leaders and to meeting all students where they are with timely supports. students are supported to investigate and address their A culture of equity supports these aims by prioritizing own biases. fairness. Fairness tells us that each person receives what Interrupt inequitable practice. • Districts and schools they need to succeed, whereas equality tells us that each recognize that inequity lives not only in individual bias, person receives the same as everyone else. A culture of but also in the structures and policies that make these equity takes root in trusting relationships that demonstrate biases operable and enduring. They seek to eradicate respect and support dialogue, reflection and learning. systemic barriers to equity including resource allocation Districts and schools pursuing equity design to ensure and policies. that each student’s needs are met and embed culturally responsive approaches to promote belonging. Continuous improvement efforts and professional communities of practice root out bias and institutional practices that contribute to inequity. 37 i NACOL

40 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION point, consider what might happen if equity strategies are A culturally responsive teacher must not aligned and robust. If a school attempts to promote be willing to engage in deep introspection equity by meeting students where they are but does not “ also have critical data and support structures to ensure of personal biases and their impact on that every student has the right resources, and is making classroom instruction. Part of the job of appropriate progress toward proficiency, inequity may the principal is to provide professional be exacerbated. Or, if a school makes the shift toward personalized competency-based education but does not learning which will forward this work and support teachers to moderate their understanding of what elicit strategies to address the results of it means to be proficient or to unpack their biases, teachers this introspection. Because so few teacher may wind up unintentionally tracking and sorting students preparation programs support pre-service on learning pathways with differing levels of rigor. teachers through this type of personal As part of the 2017 National Summit on K-12 Competency- analysis, principals are left to guide their Based Education, participants looked deeply at the issue staffs through it. But, a principal cannot of equity and what would be needed to ensure that competency-based education led to improvements in lead where he or she is not willing to equitable achievement. This definition of educational equity go. School leaders must also engage in developed by the National Equity Project was selected effective professional development to guide to guide discussion on equity as it powerfully reminds us introspection of their personal biases and that to reach equity, states, districts, schools, educators and communities must work at three levels: systemically, develop ways to work around them.” organizationally within schools and classrooms, and as Joseph Ellison, Principal, Martha Layne Collins High School, Shelby 37 individuals. County Public Schools, KY, 2017 38 According to the National Equity Project: How Is a Commitment to Equity Related to Quality? Educational equity means that each child receives what The pursuit of quality and the pursuit of equity have a he or she needs to develop to his or her full academic and reciprocal and reinforcing relationship. Equity is a moral social potential. Working toward equity in schools involves: imperative that pushes relentlessly to achieve greater Ensuring equally high outcomes for all participants in • equality for all. It is both a set of strategies that help our educational system; removing the predictability of students be fully supported by schools and a commitment success or failures that currently correlates with any to continually adjust practice and improve to help every social or cultural factor; student succeed. Quality is an imperative for effectiveness • Interrupting inequitable practices, examining biases and that drives equity by promoting instructional strategies creating inclusive multicultural school environments for grounded in the learning sciences, organizational agility to adults and children; and respond to student learning and consistency in determining proficiency. Operating together, quality and equity help • Discovering and cultivating the unique gifts, talents and districts and schools move past rhetoric about all students interests that every human possesses. achieving and move closer to making this reality. Please note, referring to students’ “potential” runs the risk When designing for equity, it is important that individual of reinforcing a fixed mindset or notions that students strategies are coherent and reinforced by energetic have a predetermined amount of potential, some having continuous improvement efforts. To emphasize this more or less than others. Alternatively, “potential” can be 38 i NACOL

41 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs understood in a more aspirational way, pushing us to look Engage in community participation and empowerment. • beyond what students have accomplished to date to focus Beyond transactional engagement, equity-oriented instead on what more is possible. It is not for educators systems validate, elevate and integrate community to determine potential, but to help students discover and voices in all aspects of design, implementation and reach their own. improvement. They proactively and respectfully seek to include the voices of communities who have been The following 10 cornerstones of equity-oriented practice historically excluded. 39 delves aligned to the National Equity Project’s definition into how to create an equitable competency-based system. Address Bias The intersection with the quality principles are numerous, • Districts, Invest in adult culture and development. including purpose-driven, transparency, consistency, schools and educators commit to ongoing examination inclusive cultures and educators as learners. In fact, of beliefs and biases that may be affecting education and equity is such an important aspect of creating effective opportunities for students of color and other historically competency-based systems a companion report that looks oppressed groups. They promote a strengths-based deeply at these key design principles, Designing for Equity: approach, equitably high expectations for all, and the Leveraging Competency-Based Education to Ensure All belief that all students are capable of achieving high Students Succeed, has been prepared to fully explore this levels of academic success. issue . Interrupt Inequitable Practice Commit to All Students Succeeding Confront historical and institutional oppression. • • Recognize broader goals and purpose of education. Equity-oriented systems recognize, validate and seek to Alongside academic competency, equity-oriented dismantle to the dynamics of historical and institutional systems prioritize college and career competencies and racial and socioeconomic oppression. skills for lifelong learning. They recognize student agency Address disparities in resources, supports, care and • as an important learning outcome and seek to ensure expectations. Equity-oriented systems provide these that students have the knowledge and skills to make supports to students, and perhaps also to families, to meaningful choices about college, career and life. ensure all have equal foundations for success, and the • Promote accountability and transparency. All aspects resources and opportunities to build on their natural of the learning experience—especially progress, pace, strengths and abilities. and proficiency—are explicit and accessible to students Ensure equal access and opportunity. Equity-oriented • and families to empower informed decision making and systems never sort or track students based on perceived continuous improvement. ability. Further, they address previous patterns of sorting • Invest in continuous improvement. Equity oriented and tracking by proactively creating opportunities systems respond and adapt to students to ensure every and ensuring that marginalized students receive the student’s needs are met. supplemental resources necessary to access, engage and achieve success in rigorous learning opportunities. Create Inclusive Multicultural Schools • Equity- Allocate resources through an equity lens. Learning experiences Prioritize belonging and inclusion. • oriented systems allocate and invest resources through reflect and validate students’ personal and cultural an equity rather than an equality lens, focusing on identities and experiences. They promote awareness and need and accounting for historical practices of empathy across these backgrounds and actively support underinvestment and oppression. positive cultural identity development. 39 i NACOL

42 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Equitable Education Systems Include and Personalize Disrupt Institutional Inequity Ensure Equal Outcomes Discovering and cultivating the unique Interrupt inequitable practices, Ensure equally high outcomes for all gifts, talents and interests that every examine biases, and create inclusive participants in our educational system; human possesses. multicultural school environments for remove the predictability of success or adults and children. failures that currently correlates with any social or cultural factor. The only way to ensure every student is fully ready • The school/district engages stakeholders in decision- for college, career and life is to identify and remove making and proactively seeks out stakeholders who have been previously marginalized. systematic barriers to equitable outcomes, eradicate inequitable practices and ensure all students can access • Intentional efforts to identify bias and patterns of inequity relevant, effective and empowering learning experiences. within professional learning communities and through Individually, we must each take responsibility for management reports. uncovering, unpacking and addressing the biases that we carry consciously and unconsciously in our hearts and Competency-based learning is about minds. getting everyone on the same page in terms “ In short, achieving equity is the result of action. And of common high expectations of mastery. It furthermore, it is not piecemeal action—it is strategic and allows teachers to work together to do their coordinated action. We recognize that this is an ongoing very best for kids.” challenge for individuals, organizations and systems. This work cannot be done all at once, and it will not happen Karen Perry, Special Projects Coordinator, Henry County School 40 District, GA, 2016 overnight. The key is to know where we have come from and where we want to go and to have a plan to engage and sustain others along the way. Examples of Red Flags 3 Student skill or motivation at one point in time is Policies and Practices to Look For The goal to have all misinterpreted as their potential. • The school or district’s vision expresses a commitment students succeed is a commitment to equity. Districts to ensure every student succeeds, supported by an and schools pledge to do whatever it takes to ensure analysis of which students and subgroups are and are that students have opportunities to pursue college and not succeeding in terms of growth and grade-level work upon graduation. Although some may choose proficiency. to pursue trades or go immediately to work after graduation, it is likely that at some point they will want • Students describe having strong relationships with their to pursue either college or postsecondary training to teachers and that they feel respected and supported access higher wage jobs. When schools determine that in discovering positive identities and their potential. students are not “college material” too early and fail to Students often articulate a sense of belonging and ensure they have the skills they need to enter college describe their school or classroom as a family. without remediation, they are at risk of failing to support 40 i NACOL

43 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs students in discovering their potential. Certainly, they are at risk of breaking the social compact with students and families. 3 Grouping students around academic need has slipped into grouping by perceived ability level. Flexible grouping is a strategy used to better meet the needs of Nurture a Culture of #3 students based on their own learner continuum rather Learning and Inclusivity than delivering one curriculum to all students. This can be a highly effective practice, allowing teachers to organize instruction through a student-centered lens. Kids don’t say, ‘I’m so stoked to make However, this practice can easily slip back into tracking this standard today.’ They come to school “ if students are grouped based on their perceived ability because people care, there is meaningful and held to different expectations accordingly. Tracking and relevant curriculum and clear learning has proven to be ineffective and to replicate inequity. Thus, it is important for schools to use flexible grouping targets. We need to offer great teachers and carefully, to balance homogeneous and heterogeneous engaging curriculum. For students below grouping strategically, and to regroup often. Most grade level, we have to get to know them importantly, monitor that students are showing growth and able to advance upon demonstrated mastery. really, really well. We want to know what motivates them because they are going to Learning is “culturally relevant” but not rigorous. When 3 teachers initially build skills in culturally responsive have put in extra work and time to catch practices, they might introduce symbolic efforts yet fail up. We will customize a path for them. The to use the learning sciences to design robust learning bottom line is that they need to feel loved environments and experiences. However, culturally relevant strategies require rigorous learning experiences every day so that they are willing to put in based on high expectations. An effective practice is to some extra work every day.” “tune” learning experiences by having a set of criteria 41 Derek Pierce, Principal, Casco Bay High School, ME in 2015 and review by other teachers to strengthen the initial designs. Description When a culture of learning and inclusivity is in place, students and adults—including those who have been the most marginalized—are respected and empowered to take their place as an active learner within the learning community. Belonging and inclusion are built through intentional structures that strengthen trust and relationships that are then reinforced through rituals and routines. When they are respected and included, students and adults experience optimal conditions for learning and growth. Emotional engagement promotes cognitive engagement: 41 i NACOL

44 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION safety and trust enable risk-taking which is critical to How Is a Culture of Learning and Inclusivity Related productive struggle. Learning ceases to be time-based, to Quality? sequential and truncated. Rather, everyone continually grows with the instructional support they need to master This school is run based on how we skills and concepts, including the self-regulation and learn...If you are struggling, the teachers “ metacognition that power lifelong learning. will help you. You can tell the teachers really Key Characteristics care about us, because they care that we are • Culture fosters collective For learning through learning. learning.” responsibility for ensuring students succeed. Schools Student, EPIC North High School, New York City Department of 42 draw on learning sciences and practice continuous , 2014 Education improvement to help students and adults learn and grow. Reflection as an important step in learning. • Reflection A strong culture of learning and inclusivity is the bedrock is an ever-present routine. Students reflect to build of a competency-based system. Schools seek to create a metacognition, self-regulation and habits of success. culture in which students and adults feel valued, respected Adults participate in do-plan-act-adjust cycles to and have a trusting relationship—all essential for learning. improve practice and policies. Students and adults learn best when they experience a strong sense of belonging and can connect with others Growth mindset. • There is shared understanding that as they construct new knowledge. They will put forth intelligence is not fixed and that learning requires more effort and take more risks if they feel cared for and effort and appropriate supports. Culture actively takes optimistic that they can succeed. advantage of mistakes and failure as a part of learning and improvement. This culture enhances the technical changes that are • Relational belonging and inclusion. Culture fosters required to transition to a competency-based system authentic relationships between the students and in multiple ways. For example, it contributes to the teachers. Culture and strategies actively promotes trust, professional culture seen in successful systems like in empathy, collaboration and social learning across all Finland and New Zealand where inquiry-based approaches elements of diversity including culture, race, ability, social to professional learning drive improvements in instruction class, sexual orientation and gender. Additionally, [#13 Educators as Learners] and assessment. Relationships, learning Cultural responsiveness. • a strong culture of learning and inclusivity challenges environments and learning experiences respect each the assumptions and beliefs of the traditional system. By student’s personal and cultural identities. Culture challenging notions of fixed intelligence and hierarchy, it actively supports all stakeholders, especially adults, to helps to phase out the habits and routines of institutional identify, investigate and address unconscious bias and inequity that may impede implementation of a high-quality stereotypes. competency-based system. Finally, it is instrumental in sustaining students and adults through the challenges of the change process itself. 42 i NACOL

45 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs The culture of learning has both individual and respect when they receive direct and responsive and [#2 Equity] feedback. organizational dimensions and implications. At the individual level, research demonstrates the importance 43 44 and positive beliefs for learning of growth mindset There are very few rules that were actual and development. Students learn optimally when they barriers. You pull back the onion skin and “ believe that they can improve with effort and support, they aren’t rules that are preventing change. when they believe that they are capable of learning at high levels and when they believe that learning has personal They are traditions that can be replaced with value for their lives. Mindsets and beliefs are not innate. new practices once people feel it is safe to They are malleable: they can be shaped by experiences, let go.” rituals, routines, systems and structures. In a culture of learning, features such as incentives, grades, assessments Aaryn Schmuhl, Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Leadership, 45 Henry County School District, 2016 and feedback processes align to support this view of [#4 Growth Mindset] intelligence and learning. Policies and Practices to Look For Beliefs and mindsets are also important at the • District and school leadership monitor school culture and organizational level. Nurturing growth mindsets can speed can explain strategies to address areas of improvement. and ease the transition to competency-based systems, There are formal strategies to seek and apply feedback as adults need to feel confident that they can become on culture including focus groups and surveys. competent in the new instructional and leadership • Formal structures such as professional learning strategies. The culture of learning drives continuous communities explicitly take responsibility for culture and improvement that is central to organizational learning and share strategies that reinforce the desired culture. to creating a system of education that can quickly adapt, improve and innovate so that more students are achieving • Educators work with students through an asset-based [#15 Continuous Improvement] at the highest levels. lens that views language, culture and family background as strengths that can contribute to a student’s learning. Given the broader social and historical contexts that have • Students and educators have opportunities for choice, long shaped education systems and that continue to voice and leadership within the school and school create inequities, creating a culture of inclusion requires governance. intentionality. Those schools that are deliberate about • Students and educators see their cultural, racial, disrupting inequity purposefully investigate individual social class, sexual orientation and gender identities bias and seek strategies to dismantle systemic barriers to acknowledged, affirmed and reflected around them. equitable outcomes. They cultivate dialogue, engagement and ritual that honor and reflect students and their families • Educator and administrator workforce reflects the thereby opening doors to genuine trusting relationships. diversity of the student population and actively works Their goal is for all students and adults, especially the most toward attaining cultural competency. marginalized, to feel safe and respected. At the same time, • Disciplinary policy recognizes that behavior problems they acknowledge the existence of a dominant culture. are opportunities to form stronger relationships with They help students who lack fluency in the language and students and address underlying issues. social cues of mainstream culture understand and navigate • Teachers have opportunities to work collaboratively to these systems of power, while also working to make the pursue inquiry-based professional learning. school culture more inclusive and empowering. Culturally responsive education strategies promote positive identity within a growth context; students and adults experience 43 i NACOL

46 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Examples of Red Flags I have too often listened to school The school is diverse but the staff is not. Staffing 3 administrators find every reason to explain “ patterns send signals to students and parents about away their poor culture. They blame the who is valued and who is not. Too often district staffing patterns do not reflect the diversity of the communities Department of Education, the parents, they serve. To correct this situation, districts and schools Central Office and even the students. I too nurture a culture of inclusion in which diverse staff will blamed the external environment until I want to work. They seek to open dialogue to identify routines or practices that are perceived as disrespectful realized that the culture of my school is or exclusionary. They upgrade hiring policies and the one thing I can impact directly. Once I practices to ensure a multi-racial candidate pool. understood that culture is the organizational They integrate culturally responsive approaches that values, what people believe and are willing recognize the assets everyone brings to the workplace. to work for, I realized that I can affect what 3 Buy-in rather than engagement strategies are used in communicating with the community. Districts is happening for our students. By focusing and schools often make decisions internally and on school culture, I can impact student then use strategies to market the idea to gain buy- achievement, graduation rates and teacher in from the community. Engagement strategies that invite community members, parents and students to effectiveness. This is why I assess culture share their ideas early in a process are more likely to early and often.” demonstrate respect and enhance trust. Districts that Bill Zima, former Principal at Mt. Ararat Middle School and currently are committed to building a culture of inclusion will 46 Superintendent, RSU2, ME, 2013 seek out ways to build relationships with historically marginalized groups and neighborhoods, understanding that generations of mistrust are not going to disappear overnight. 3 Grading practices penalize students for taking risks and failing, even when these risks and failures are part of the learning process. Traditional grading systems privilege those students who have all the prerequisite knowledge and skills and penalize students who do not. The policy that students should continue to practice and revise while receiving additional instructional support is an essential pedagogical principle aligned with the culture of learning and inclusivity. Competency-based districts that implement grading policies too soon without attention to the culture and needed technical infrastructure often turn or return to elements of the traditional grading system. In many cases what is termed standards-based grading is actually standards- referenced: students are still passed on without opportunity or supports to fully master knowledge and skills. 44 i NACOL

47 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT concepts, as well as knowledge about how to construct effective feedback related to the learning target. 48 Students are supported in Building blocks for learning. • building the skills and traits related to building a growth mindset and become active lifelong learners, including metacognition, self-regulation and perseverance. Foster the Development #4 Meeting students where they are. • Stakeholders in of a Growth Mindset growth-oriented systems believe all students can learn with the right effort and support. Accordingly, they It starts with a growth mindset that commit to meeting students where they are on a learner values all of us as works in progress. It’s the continuum and providing timely and differentiated “ supports to ensure they progress. joy of learning that motivates all of us to do • Opportunities for improvement. Growth happens our best. We have to let go of fixed mindsets through trial, error, sustained effort, feedback and that make us afraid of taking risks that might supports. Growth-oriented systems provide students and lead to failure. We must have a culture that teachers with opportunities to practice, fail, revise and learn. Grading systems provide meaningful feedback and understands failure is temporary, focusing increase engagement of students in their learning. one’s efforts and supports to conquer the Professional support. Teachers are supported to create • challenge.” the culture and provide the coaching for students to Don Siviski, former Superintendent of Instruction, Maine Department develop a growth mindset. Likewise, they are supported of Education and currently School Change Coach, Center for 47 Secondary School Redesign, 2018 to develop the competencies necessary to teach in highly personalized environments. Finally, teachers experience the same growth context as students: they, Description too, need opportunities to receive timely supports, Undergirding the traditional system is a belief that there collaborate, fail, revise and learn. are winners and losers based on the idea that intelligence is fixed, and there is little to do about it. The result is some How Is a Growth Mindset Related to Quality? students are well-served receiving the education that prepares them for college and others are underserved. By contrast, a growth mindset culture means believing that We used to understand that failure was intelligence is malleable. It anticipates failure and uses it to part of learning. Now we take advantage of “ advance learning. The importance of the growth mindset failure. We talk about it and discover what applies to students and adults alike. Competency-based we can learn from it.” districts and schools strive to create growth-oriented cultures and structures to support learning. Terry Schmalz, Principal, New Emerson Elementary School, District 51, 49 CO, 2017 Key Characteristics The traditional system of education is built upon the belief • Productive feedback. Students receive productive that intelligence is fixed: there are smart people and not- feedback to learn and grow. Teachers have strong as-smart people, winners and losers, and little anyone can assessment literacy related to the domain-specific do to change someone’s innate ability or potential. As a 45 i NACOL

48 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION result, the traditional system expects that some students how failure promotes progress toward their goals, just as a will do well and receive an education that prepares them scientist has systems to capture hypotheses, findings and implications. for college, while others will not. This worldview, when combined with bias, can normalize inequitable allocation of Schools working with students (especially older students) resources and outcomes that vary predictably along lines of who have had overwhelmingly negative learning race and income. experiences have a particular challenge to help students By contrast, a growth mindset culture believes that overcome past failure and trauma and see themselves as intelligence is malleable and that all students can learn with lifelong learners with potential. This requires “unlearning” as effort and support. On its own, growth mindset is a theory well as learning. Students who have been disenfranchised in and traumatized by their past educational experiences of psychology. We speak of growth mindset as an internal will need help to critically analyze their past experiences, phenomenon: it primarily resides within the individual, understand the systemic and individual forces that shaped influenced by individual’s experience in the world, and it their experiences and identify and move past negative affects how the individual makes meaning of learning, effort perceptions of self and school. They are likely to need and performance. While all of this is true, it is not complete. help in adjusting the ways they have learned to cope in the As a cultural phenomenon, growth mindset is important for quality because it enables learning that improves individual past as they begin to think of themselves as learners and and organizational performance. Without trying things, scholars. In these situations, educators have to invest more discovering what works and what does not, and using that deeply in building relationships, provide more frequent check-ins and pay more attention to emotional issues. knowledge to guide future action, neither individuals nor organizations can improve learning and performance. Thus, Furthermore, they have to attend to gaps in students’ we introduce the idea of “growth-oriented organizations.” metacognitive, self-regulation skills and other building blocks of learning. Districts and schools that are growth-oriented promote continuous learning and progress, and they anticipate and 50 When an organization becomes growth-oriented, investing [#15 exploit failure to advance learning and progress. in everyone developing a growth mindset and establishing Continuous Improvement] They attend to the pedagogy of structures that support growth, the learning becomes adult learning and help adults become more adept through collective. It becomes greater than the sum of its parts. personalized professional learning in response to data on Beyond contributing to better performance for individual [#13 Educators as Learners] student learning. students and teachers, collective learning results in better There is a reciprocal relationship between growth performance for the entire system. Learning protocols such mindset as an internal phenomenon and as a cultural as plan-do-study-act cycles can help leverage individual and organizational property. As described earlier, specific learning to promote collective learning. These protocols organizational practices and structures can help individuals allow learning communities to focus on improvement develop growth mindsets. Curriculum can include teaching in shared priorities and contribute individual learnings about brain science to help students understand how to the common improvement process. It can also occur intelligence is malleable. Grading and assessment practices through learning infrastructure that captures, surfaces and can allow for revision and emphasize growth. Projects and shares key individual learning, making it available to others. tasks can be designed to include opportunities for failure Whatever the process, the important point is this: growth and revision. Feedback structures can be put in place to mindset matters for quality because it enables individuals help students and teachers reflect and adapt. Students and learning communities to improve performance over [#15 Continuous Improvement] including identify and monitor progress toward a goal time. 46 i NACOL

49 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT • The district and school recognizes that the effectiveness Not every student is going to have of continuous improvement efforts depend on the intrinsic motivation. It is something we effectiveness of adults as learners. “ help develop over time. Thus, the role Examples of Red Flags adults play is very important in helping There are posters about the growth mindset on the 3 students to understand that it is never too walls but traditional grading practices do not allow for late to learn, never too late to go back and revision in pursuit of mastering the learning targets. learn what was supposed to be learned in The walls of some schools are decorated with posters about growth mindset. However, teachers have not elementary school. Adults play a critical role been fully supported in coaching students in how to in providing hope for students that they develop a growth mindset, and many practices remain can succeed and that they can graduate. aligned with a fixed mindset. For example, teachers may provide grades on summative tests without helping We don’t allow previous performance from students to understand and correct misconceptions. keeping students getting back on track to Students do not have opportunity for revision, and they graduation.” move on to the next unit with gaps in their learning. Kristen Kelly, Mastery Learning Specialist, Cleveland School District, 3 Incentive and performance structures reinforce a 51 OH, 2017 culture of competition and the idea that there are The GPA is a powerful good students and bad students. Policies and Practices to Look For artifact from the traditional system used to rank and sort • Districts and schools invest in nurturing a growth mindset students. When schools continue to offer daily ranking among students including providing knowledge about of students, they emphasize competition between the brain and building specific skills, such as managing individuals and label some students as good students self-talk and goal-setting. and the others as mediocre or poor. Although parents will raise concerns that students will be disadvantaged • Students receive feedback, instructional support and time by proficiency-based transcripts, colleges and for revision in the pursuit of fully reaching mastery. universities have consistently stated that as long as • Grading policies reward learning and do not penalize there is an accompanying letter the proficiency-based mistakes. transcript is acceptable. See Great Schools Partnership’s • Students are taught the building blocks of learning list of colleges and universities accepting proficiency- 52 including metacognition, self-regulation and habits of based transcripts. success. • Adults have opportunity to learn about and strengthen their growth mindsets for themselves before teaching it to students. • Teachers receive ongoing feedback and support in building their competence. • Staff can provide an example when there was a mistake or failure and how they or the organization learned from it. 47 i NACOL

50 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION upon a bureaucratic culture and top-down management The kids don’t like how much the strategies. Distributed leadership encourages schools to teachers expect of us. It feels like too much become more adaptive by providing the autonomy to “ those closest to students to respond to their needs in pressure. Mr. Dash expected so much from real time. When students are building agency and having me. We all had goals to write a page but he voice in their education, it is important that teachers are wanted me to write three pages per section equally empowered to engage and co-construct learning experiences. A competency-based school without this for a total of 30 pages. I wanted to give up feature will be hard-pressed to reliably meet students and not do any of the work. I thought I where they are. should just drop out. But he pushed me and wouldn’t let me give up. I’m glad he pushed Key Characteristics me. I found out that I had more strengths Leadership. Leadership sets the tone for the culture • of empowerment. Leaders model specific values and than I realized” behaviors, including seeing mistakes as an opportunity to Student, EPIC High School North, New York City Department of 53 , 2016 Education learn rather than one for blaming. Students and educators are able to make Empowerment. • or participate in decisions that support their personal learning paths and progress. Empowerment is reflected in management and operational structures. Transparency. For distributed decision-making to • work, stakeholders need access to timely and accurate information, guiding principles and opportunity for #5 Cultivate Empowering consultations and collaboration. and Distributed • Collaboration. While decision-making is distributed, it is not solely autonomous. Students and teachers Leadership make decisions in partnership with others. Partnerships may occur through conferences, professional learning I’m asking teachers to allow students communities, knowledge management processes or to drive their learning. That means I need other structures and protocols. “ to allow teachers to drive the policy, the While decision-making is Clear decision-making. • distributed, it is not random or disorganized. There culture, and the decision-making.” are clear criteria, processes and protocols for making Juan Carlos Ocón, Principal, Benito Juarez Community Academy, 54 decisions, as well as clear parameters (sometimes Chicago Public Schools, IL, 2017 thought of as “tight loose” definitions) to define the boundaries of decision-making. These parameters ensure Description that decision-making is distributed, while also ensuring Distributed leadership and a culture of empowerment that all decision-making contributes to collective enables schools to create the flexibility to personalize success. learning, respond to students’ changing needs and rapidly • Flexibility. Decision-making is located as close as respond to emerging issues. This view of leadership is possible to students and teachers. Accordingly, students distinct from most traditional schools that generally draw and teachers (and leaders and schools) have the 48 i NACOL

51 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT people who are closest to learning: students and teachers. flexibility to make these decisions. Unlike top-down management approaches that expect them to follow set A culture of distributed leadership contributes to quality by curriculum, rituals and routines, students and teachers in generating greater flexibility and responsiveness to meet [# 9 student needs and address issues as they emerge. competency-based systems have the room to exercise Responsiveness and #14 Organizational Flexibility] personal and professional judgment vis-à-vis critical aspects of learning environments and experiences. And yet, we also understand the concerns and fears that • Empowering decision-making requires Risk-taking. can accompany distributing leadership: creating a safe environment for employees to take risks. • If we “let a thousand flowers bloom, how will we know Strong cultures of learning and professional learning what’s working or even know what is happening? communities are essential to building the respect and trust that enables risk-taking. • If we empower teachers, can we rely on them to make good decisions? • If everyone does something different, how will we have When we started down the road to the resources to support them all? transformation, we had to deconstruct the “ • If we “let go,” will teachers retreat into silos? systems that were in place. We redesigned Will students simply spend all their time on devices? • with the goal of student ownership, involving them along the way. If students These are not unreasonable fears. If distributed leadership is are going to be empowered, so must the understood as a free-for all, it could certainly detract from quality, and it could lead to disorganization. Therefore, workforce be empowered. The only way specific structures and parameters are necessary to ensure to manage an empowered workforce with that distribution promotes quality and does not detract empowered students is through a middle- from it. First, in competency-based schools leaders up-down management approach that manage decision-making processes as much or more than they make decisions. Leaders play vital roles in leading constantly seeks input and opportunities to the effort to create a shared purpose, guiding principles, distribute leadership. Superintendents who structures and protocols that guide decision-making. separate leadership and management do so There is clarity about where decisions are made (e.g., what is tight, what is loose), as well as how decisions are made at their own peril.” (who is involved, what data is used and how decisions are Dr. Bob Crumley, former Superintendent, Chugach School District, AK, 55 evaluated). Explicit criteria or guiding principles based on 2016 the shared purpose are used to help teams make strong organizational decisions. Similarly classroom management How Does Cultivating Empowering and Distributed practices create shared visions and codes of cooperation to Leadership Relate to Quality? enhance relationships and guide student decision-making. The culture of traditional districts and schools value order [#1 Purpose Driven] and compliance. Likewise, they value hierarchical processes that slow decision-making down as it moves problems Second, leaders understand that their job is to cultivate up and decisions down the bureaucratic ladder. Although leadership of others. Distributed leadership holds that the one-size-fits-all approach of the traditional education leadership qualities can be nurtured in everyone. Not only system could be directed and coordinated by a central do leaders set the tone for distributed leadership, they also office, personalization cannot. Personalization requires play a key role in hiring and developing the right talent empowered, strategic and coordinated action from the 49 i NACOL

52 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION to participate in distributed leadership environments. schools need autonomy to manage budgets, schedules, organizational structure, staff roles and hiring. It is one They also seek to help others build decision-making skills through coaching, supports and commonly used protocols. thing to empower others to make decisions, but there is much more value when resources can be allocated to In this way decision-making is closer to the customer (students). One of a leader’s most important leadership support action. With the expectation that teachers will tailor functions is to support professional learning communities, instruction for students and cultivate student agency, they must also be empowered to have professional agency. making sure teachers have the time to meet and are [#14 staying true to the norms that allow them to be a source of This requires them to use their professional judgment. Organizational Flexibility] collaborative, professional learning. In turn, teachers play a critical role building these same skills in students. While Fifth, professional judgment is highly valued. Therefore, skill-building will look different for a six-year-old and a professional learning is valued as well. Teachers are fifteen-year-old, all students will need support developing supported in personalized professional learning to build the competencies required to act as agents of their own their knowledge and skills in the context of student [#7 Student Agency & Ownership] learning. learning. Professional learning communities support Third, leaders uphold transparency and consistency as the development of collective professional judgment [#13 core features of the district or school. Transparency is an drawing from the knowledge of multiple teachers. Finally, leaders understand that their Educators as Learners] important part of creating an environment that empowers actions, words and behaviors can lead to strengthening others. Teachers are empowered to respond to students’ or weakening the culture of learning. Being empowered unique motivations and learning needs in real-time. In the means being open to risk-taking. Students and teachers, classroom, the learning process and the learning targets even when they use the best data and follow all protocols, are explicit so students can take more ownership of their simply cannot know whether something is guaranteed education. Transparency is cultivated by a combination to work. They must use their personal and professional of relationships, holding consistent expectations and judgment to do what they think is best, evaluate the timely, accurate data. Through relationships and open outcome and adjust course. This does not happen if there dialogue, especially regarding mistakes and disagreements, is a feeling of being unsafe or no margin of error to be stronger understanding of the shared purpose develops. wrong. In competency-based schools, being wrong and Leaders play a vitally important role in creating systems of learning from it are called “smart failures.” Making mistakes consistency and transparency where measurable learning produces valuable knowledge about what’s working and objectives, rubrics and moderated understanding of how to what is not. These are fostered through connection and determine proficiency supports teachers’ decisions about collaboration. While distributed leadership empowers student progress. Without transparency and consistency, individual action, it results in quality when it is also teachers might make different decisions about different [#3 Culture of supported by profoundly cooperative action. students based on inconsistent definitions of progress and Learning & Inclusivity] [#12 Transparency] proficiency. Fourth, leaders recognize that centralized control can inhibit responsiveness and pursue greater autonomy for schools and teachers. To best respond to student learning, 50 i NACOL

53 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT We want our learners to be empowered. We support our learning facilitators [teachers] in developing their own leadership capacity to empower learners. Everyone on this campus “ shares this goal, and we can see the difference everywhere. Empowering learners and staff has had a huge impact on the culture of the school. Learners and staff recognize that they have an impact on the school community. Our disciplinary issues have dropped dramatically and our school spirit has increased dramatically. Learners feel respected. They feel empowered to hold each other accountable.” 56 Jaime Robles, former Principal, Lindsay High School, Lindsay Unified School District, CA, 2015 Policies and Practices to Look For based education as an act of compliance. Thus, it is difficult to create the necessary empowering culture • Clear decision-making processes are established so that needed to transform the school to do what is best everyone knows when and how decisions are developed. for students. Teachers are more likely to implement • Decision-making includes representatives of those who technical practices without first taking on the inquiry- are impacted by the decision, including students. based stance needed to continually learn and improve • Decision-making is based on predetermined criteria that in response to students. Consider a period of shared values and weighs what is good for students above all inquiry about the learning sciences, the limits of the else. traditional system and why a personalized, competency- based system may be a better way of organizing schools • Reflection is a routine used by adults and students during followed by asking educators to vote whether they want and after learning new skills or projects. to go forward. • Teacher evaluation has been updated to reflect the values Hierarchical decision-making continues with 3 and culture. Teachers are supported in their learning decisions being pushed up to the school leader or new skills before it has been included in the teacher In some districts and schools, the superintendent. evaluation. leaders are more comfortable with top-down decision- • Educators have the autonomy and resources they making and continue to have problems that emerge in need including time to plan, strong professional the conversion to competency-based education lifted learning communities, and effective feedback on their to the administrative level. The result is bottlenecks instructional skills and assessment literacy. This may with educators waiting for a response, implementation seem obvious, but many schools try to move forward slowing down and frustration on the rise. These are without having these elements in place, only to find that lost opportunities for engaging staff in reflecting on the they are important ingredients. values, beliefs and norms that operate in the traditional system as compared with personalized, competency Examples of Red Flags education. Some districts begin the process of moving 3 Making the transition based on compliance rather to competency-based education by investing in When state leadership has bravely than empowerment. leadership teams, reflecting on leadership strategies and set the course toward next-generation education, it learning what is required to manage the process, not can create an unintended consequence. Instead of the decision. starting from an empowered commitment to equity, districts and schools start the transition to competency- 51 i NACOL

54 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION The school has begun implementation with the 3 You can’t empower people by just saying development of a learning framework or continuum it. We have to create the conditions for our but professional learning communities are weak “ Helping all students master all the or non-existent. teachers to succeed. We foster a culture knowledge and skills they need for success begins where teachers can find success through with adult learning. If adults don’t have the opportunity networks and structures, and where they to plan and learn it is unlikely that the school will be able to move beyond a standards-referenced have the freedom to work together to find approach. Professional learning communities for solutions and make decisions. We also have monitoring student learning, planning, collaboration systems in place. You need both a strong and professional learning are simply non-negotiables culture of learning and the systems to for the transition to competency-based education. The first step in preparing for the transition to competency support.” education begins by making sure professional learning 57 Doug Penn, District Principal, Chugach School District, AK, 2016 communities are healthy. 58 What Are Your School’s Shared Beliefs In competency education, an explicit set of shared values and beliefs drive decision-making, culture and learning design. Educators who have started down the road to competency education often discuss the fact that competency education is a second-order change. Whereas first order-change focuses on altering inputs and practices, second-order change is based on embracing a different set of underlying beliefs and relationships. These values and beliefs breathe life into the competency-based education structures. They empower students and educators to work together under a shared purpose and shared way of relating to one another. The following set of beliefs was developed by education leaders from across the country. An Effective School Begins with the Commitment to Students, Their Education and Discovering Their Potential. Students need to learn academic knowledge, the skills to apply it and the lifelong learning skills to be able to use it. 1. Each and every child, from every background, race, gender, ethnicity, income level or disability status, can learn to 2. levels of high achievement. 3. Improving equity—access, opportunities and outcomes—requires intentional strategies to ensure every student feels valued and that they belong, to identify and correct bias and to dismantle inequitable systems and patterns. 4. Transparency of expectations, the cycle of learning and student progress is essential for creating a culture of learning and accountability. A Shared Theory of Learning and Teaching Centers on Students and Is Grounded in Evidence. 5. Instruction and assessment should be grounded in learning sciences—cognitive, engagement and motivation. 6. By educators building trusting relationships with students and cultivating a growth mindset, self-regulation, social- emotional learning and habits of success, all children can propel their learning. 7. Learners in a personalized competency-based education environment develop increasing capacity to make informed decisions about their education when they receive explicit instruction, opportunity to practice and effective feedback. 8. Mistakes and failures are opportunities to learn. 9. Adults are learners, too, with the beliefs and principles described here benefiting educators and students alike. An Effective School Requires Intentional Alignment. 10. School culture, structures and instruction and assessment are all equally important in creating an effective school. 52 i NACOL

55 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT Teaching and Learning Design Principles B. We are focused on improving the quality of instruction by building a common belief system of what is good instruction and creating the instructional culture to support collaborative “ dialogue. The structure of mastery-based learning allows us to focus more closely on how students are progressing, allowing us to use instructional models that will work for students and provide more opportunity for them to be active learners.” 59 Susan Bell, former Superintendent, Windsor Locks School District, CT, 2016 “Increases in student learning occur only as a consequence Shared pedagogical principles strengthen collaborative of improvements in the level of content, teachers’ relationships among teachers. Common knowledge 60 In his knowledge and skill, and student engagement.” about student learning gives teachers shared language seminal work on education reform, Dr. Richard Elmore about instruction and assessment. Shared language makes the case that the improvements in education opens doors to allow teachers to engage in continual and cannot occur without improvements to the instructional collaborative inquiry processes that build their professional core. While technical adjustments and add-on programs knowledge, skill and judgment. Specifically, they improve can make changes around the periphery in education, the capacity to use the learning sciences, building blocks of 61 (growth mindset, self-regulation, metacognition, it is primarily the quality of pedagogy, defined as the learning perseverance and social and emotional skills), instructional interaction between the student and teacher and content, content knowledge and assessment literacy to improve that contributes to academic growth. Therefore, creating student motivation, agency and achievement. Inquiry- a high-quality school requires the districts and schools to based approaches ensure that professional improvement is consider the effectiveness and alignment of instruction, responsive as teachers learn from the needs, interests and assessment, professional learning and student support assets of their students. As a result, they continually deepen strategies. Competency-based schools will find they their shared “well” of instructional expertise. need to draw upon the strongest research and evidence- based practices to drive improvement in the heart of the Some districts have launched their efforts to creating instructional core. personalized competency-based systems by clarifying their pedagogical philosophy. Others started by making Identifying shared pedagogical principles is an important structural changes and then clarifying their pedagogical part of the transition to becoming a personalized, philosophy over time through the process of alignment. competency-based education system. Transformation However, given the importance of the learning processes start with and continually engage with the sciences as a driver for shaping culture, structure and questions, “What do we know about the ways our students 62 doesn’t it make sense to have an early step pedagogy, learn? And what must be true of content, instruction and in implementation to include the review of the learning assessment as a result?” These questions catalyze progress sciences and their implications for learning experiences, toward becoming a student-centered learning system that 63 teaching and assessment? empowers students as active learners and toward creating a professional culture in which teachers have common language about learning, instruction, and assessment. 53 i NACOL

56 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION It’s important for teachers to have a common language and one that is precise enough to help them build their instructional strategies and skills in formative assessment so they can “ identify why a student isn’t understanding something.” 64 Mike McRaith, Principal, Montpelier High School, Montpelier School District,VT, 2016 Description Competency-based systems leverage instructional P approaches and systems of assessments all of which are u r #6 Base School Design and p o s based on the learning sciences. Teachers design learning e & C u experiences, select instructional strategies and use Pedagogy on Learning s l t e u l r p i e assessments based on their knowledge of their students’ c D n i Sciences e r s cognitive, psychological and biological development. The P i g n n g learning sciences have implications for all aspects of school i P s r e One of the biggest changes is from i n design and pedagogy, including transforming the practice D c e i p r assuming that the stand and deliver l u of teaching to a more student-centered approach in which “ e t s c u students are active learners. r t approach to learning in which teachers S deliver curriculum and students are Key Characteristics expected to just give it back on tests • Learning sciences. Pedagogy reflects the most recent actually works. We are inching along in research about how people learn and develop—cognitive, our understanding that scholars have to psychological (motivation and engagement), and biological—ensuring learning environments and learning be active learners and that we need to experiences result in powerful learning outcomes for build on what they already know. We can’t students. assume what they know – we need to Teachers internalize Shared understanding. • discover it. Without the data, we are at risk understanding of the learning sciences and corresponding pedagogical expectations. Students also of just making up stuff and spinning our have opportunities to understand how learning happens wheels. If you are making me learn letters so that they develop metacognitive abilities and the skills when I already know them, you are not to monitor their own learning. helping me reach my potential. When first- Educators have powerful Development opportunities. • graders are ready for second- or third-grade and personalized opportunities to develop the competencies required of practitioners of the learning standards, we need to be able to scaffold up. sciences. Professional development also reflects the Practitioners [teachers] are going to have to learning sciences so that teachers learn in the ways they know and understand the content and have are expected to teach. access above grade level.” Cynthia Lamkin, Lead Learner, Otken Elementary School, McComb 65 School District, MS, 2018 54 i NACOL

57 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs Drawing from cognitive, psychological, developmental Design to the edges. Instructional strategies that address • the educational needs of historically underserved and biological domains, the learning sciences can inform school design, curriculum and learning experiences, students are embedded into the core instructional instruction and assessment. Although the body of strategies. research on the science of learning is greater than can be summarized here, the following are nine cornerstones Teachers are used to being the source of the learning sciences that should drive teaching and of power, the source of knowledge, and the learning, as well as culture and structures. “ source of learning. It’s hard to give that up. 68 Cornerstones of the Learning Sciences 69 It’s hard to let go of being in front of the Learning is an activity that is carried out by the learner. Students do not simply absorb information and skills. classroom and moving everyone at the same Rather, learning requires active engagement and effort. time. We start to reach a tipping point when Effort is influenced by motivation. Similar to intelligence, teachers are able to step back from being motivation is malleable. Beliefs about intelligence shape the 70 in the front of the room and depending Those who amount of effort students are willing to invest. hold a growth mindset will put more effort toward learning solely on whole group instruction. In than those who hold the misconception that intelligence order to accomplish this, they need to is a fixed trait. Providing incremental opportunities to have developed a number of the effective experience growth reinforces that effort will result in success. Learners will be more motivated when they value practices, including growth mindset, shared the task and if they are confident they will be successful vision, code of cooperation, and standard 71 with supports available if needed. operating procedures and workshop. The challenge is that performance-based Learning results from the interplay of cognition, emotion 72 The brain does not clearly separate and motivation. learning isn’t just a set of new practices. The cognitive from emotional functioning, so optimal learning key is in the understanding of the pedagogy environments will engage both. Motivation is important to upon which these practices rest.” learning but it is also dynamic and changes in response to a number of factors. In fact, as students learn more about Scot Bingham, Principal, Broadway Elementary School, District 51, CO 66 2017 their cognitive processes, they develop a greater sense of competence and thereby increase their motivation. The relationship between cognition, emotion and motivation is How Is Developing a Shared Pedagogical dynamic. Philosophy Based on the Learning Sciences Related to Quality? Learning does not occur through a fixed progression of age-related stages. The mastery of new concepts 73 The more educators give students Learning is shaped by multiple happens in fits and starts. factors, some of which are related to the neural, social and choice, control, challenge, and collaborative “ emotional development of children. Others are dependent opportunities, the more motivation and on the types of experiences and contexts provided for the engagement are likely to rise.” learner to build new understanding on prior knowledge. Practically speaking, this means that biological factors are Eric Toshalis and Michael J. Nakkula, Motivation, Engagement, and 67 Student Voice only a part of the story. Frequent challenges matched by 55 i NACOL

58 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION 78 social and emotional support can strengthen cognitive People Learning builds on prior knowledge and context. learn new knowledge optimally when their prior knowledge and psychological development. Rich learning experiences is activated. Learners need to have structures to organize facilitated by helpful guides along with recurring and retrieve information. Thus, attaching new information opportunities to experiment, practice and improve will help to what they already know in a context where that students learn, develop and achieve. knowledge is accessible, relevant and responsive to cultural Intrinsic motivation leads to better long-term outcomes understanding can be helpful in mastering new ideas and 74 Extrinsic or controlled than extrinsic motivation. skills. motivation (systems of reward or punishment such as the traditional grading system of 0-100 points for assignments Acquiring new knowledge and skills requires effective 79 Effective feedback focuses on the task (not and behaviors) may be useful in the short-run but often feedback. the student) and on improving (rather than verifying produces the unintended consequence of disengagement performance). Assessing student learning, identifying and resistance. Self-determination theory explains misconceptions or gaps in understanding and providing that motivation will increase when learners experience feedback are critical steps in the learning process. competence (I can be successful), relatedness (I have Assessment information is as important to helping teachers meaning and connection) and autonomy (I have control 75 It’s important to remember that to adjust their teaching strategies or improve their skills over the process). motivation is dynamic. It increases and decreases. It can be as it is for helping students adjust their learning strategies. 80 helps teachers to shaped by cognitive processes, and external expectations Research on learning progressions understand how students are understanding concepts can become intrinsic motivation. and processes not just whether they reached the correct Effort is dependent on motivation and self-regulation. answer. When learners are able to self-regulate—when they can 81 Learning occurs in a socio- Learning is a social process. successfully manage thoughts, behaviors and emotions— cultural context involving social interactions. Individuals they are better able to initiate and sustain focus and effort need opportunities to observe and model behaviors—both on difficult tasks. Students may be highly motivated but from adults and peers—to develop new skills. Dialogue with not have the skills necessary to manage the emotions others is needed to shape ways of thinking and construct they experience in the process of learning. Thus, students knowledge. Discourse and collaborative work can need coaching to build the social and emotional skills to strengthen learning when they allow students to assist each manage the stress they experience from situations in or other and take on expert roles. out of school, the metacognitive skills to monitor their learning and the self-regulation skills to change strategies 76 Learning occurs through interaction with one’s as needed. environment. The human brain, and therefore learning, Learning is shaped by the way information is processed develops over time through exposure to conditions, 77 New and transferred into long-term memory. including people, experiences and environmental factors. A information is processed in working memory before it can person’s culture may also serve as “context” that influences 82 Learning occurs best in conditions that support be transferred into long-term memory. Working memory learning. healthy social, emotional and neurological development. has limitations to how much new information it can absorb, Students will be more motivated in schools when they requiring students and teachers to consider the cognitive 83 believe that they are accepted, belong and respected. load. Strategies can be used to reduce demand on working Optimal learning environments attend to and seek to memory and helping to transfer new information and ameliorate status differences and social hierarchies so that concepts into long-term memory. students do not feel marginalized, ostracized or threatened. 56 i NACOL

59 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT a district or school tailoring education to meet students where they are will need to design to the edges and Five Misconceptions of How People Learn understand its students deeply, seeking opportunities to 84 The Science of Learning, Deans for Impact know them before the beginning of school and think about what is going to be needed to ensure they succeed. They Cognitive development does not progress via a » ensure that pedagogical principles are adequately flexible fixed progression of age-related stages. to support the diversity of needs that will inevitably present themselves in a school, and even in a single classroom. » Students do not have different “learning styles.” They also recognize that oftentimes designing for students » Humans do not use only 10 percent of their with the most “extreme” needs can result in benefits for brains. all students. In other words, if a classroom is doing a good job of serving the student who is the farthest behind and People are not preferentially “right-brained” or » the student who is the most advanced, they are almost “left-brained” in the use of their brains. certainly meeting the needs of all the other students. Novices and experts cannot think in all the same » ways. Policies and Practices to Look For • There is a clearly articulated pedagogical philosophy or set of beliefs that drive instruction. When districts and schools consult the learning sciences, • Professional learning gives educators the opportunity they find clear evidence that learning occurs when the to develop the skills necessary to enact the shared 85 learner drives and owns the learning process. They’ll pedagogical philosophy. It draws upon the learning begin to think more strategically about how to design sciences and is personalized for educators. Within learning experiences around students’ zone of proximal professional learning communities educators engage in development, activate prior knowledge, manage the inquiry to understand research to better support students limitations of working memory and the transfer to long- that are struggling. term memory. They will also find that intrinsically motivated • Instructional strategies take into consideration that 86 motivation and performance will learning is optimal: students start with different sets of academic skills, social increase when learners experience competence (I can be and emotional skills and life experiences. successful), relatedness (I have meaning and connection) 87 • There are schoolwide approaches for helping students Districts and autonomy (I have control over the process). develop the building blocks of learning or self-directed and schools that turn to the learning sciences to define learning skills such as growth mindset, metacognition, their pedagogical philosophy will inevitably find themselves self-regulation and perseverance. focusing on student ownership, engagement and motivation. This focus will improve learning and teaching, • Learning experiences and instructional strategies are and contribute to the culture of empowerment necessary designed to meet the needs of diverse learners. It is to sustain a competency-based system. learner-centered and culturally responsive, including, but not limited to, communication of high expectations, Competency-based systems “design to the edges” active learning teaching methods, student-driven with their entire student population in mind. Traditional discourse and small group instruction. education systems have relied heavily on instructional • All students have opportunities to apply learning and 88 They strategies that are designed to “teach to the middle.” build higher-order skills supported by performance tasks design for a “typical” student, often using a definition of and performance-based assessment. “typical” that is rife with bias and assumptions. However, 57 i NACOL

60 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION • Systems of assessments include assessment for begin at different places in their learning and have learning that are embedded in the cycle of learning with variation in the tempo of their learning, why would we actionable feedback and structured reflection to build expect them to all be prepared on the same day to metacognition. take a test or an assessment? If assessments are going to be used formatively to inform instruction and guide • Grading practices are aligned with the learning sciences. the next steps of learning, it may make sense to have assessments given on the same day. However, if the Mastery-based grading makes the assessments are summative, it is important that students relationship between the student and have had adequate support and time to become “ proficient. Deadlines matter as an important part of teachers more intimate. It becomes a two- time management skills. However, that value diminishes way relationship rather than a one-way when students simply need more time because they are relationship where the teachers just give putting forth effort to repair gaps and master rigorous expectations. you the grades. I can talk about my struggles with my teacher in a very clear way that is focused on specific skills and specific There are many who don’t realize that performance tasks. I know what I need to do delivering grade-level curriculum day “ in order to get the grade I want.” after day to kids regardless of whether they 89 are learning or not is based on an archaic Student, Young Women’s Leadership School pedagogy. Many students are harmed by Examples of Red Flags this – they end up thinking that they aren’t There is no shared understanding of how people learn 3 smart or give up on school. We know so and implications for teaching. Teachers may share much more about how students learn today, a common curriculum or an instructional model (i.e. and our schools should be shaped around project-based learning), but cannot articulate common expectations for how students will actually learn. it. But if they don’t know that they are Learning environments and learning experiences look doing something harmful, are they really very different classroom to classroom and students are responsible? Once you see personalized, not consistently engaged in meaningful, challenging work. performance-based learning in action, you Students are expected to listen and learn, with little 3 face a moral question. Are you going to Direct instruction opportunity for practice or feedback. be like Thomas Jefferson who knew that and lecture has its place in the set of instructional slavery is wrong but kept doing it anyway? strategies teachers use. However, if most classrooms Or once you realize that there is a better way have students sitting and listening to teachers with little opportunity for students to practice, receive feedback or to help students learn, are you going to do it, actively apply their learning, there is a good cause to be even if you bump up against other parts of concerned that the school has not fully understood or the system?” explored the implications for the learning sciences. 90 Darren Cook, Teacher, East Middle School, District 51 Assessments rely heavily on tests that all students 3 If students all are expected to take on the same day. 58 i NACOL

61 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT Key Characteristics Active learning. Schools and pedagogy are based on the • learning sciences with students actively engaged in their own learning. • Opportunities for agency. Instructional strategies are P u #7 Activate Student r p designed to help students build skills and have some o s e & degree of autonomy in their learning. Teachers construct C Agency and Ownership u l t opportunity for students to make choices in their learning u r e D and co-design learning tasks. Students learn to set and e s In the beginning it was hard. There were i reflect on a goal. They have voice and ownership in g n P decisions about their learning and increased leadership in projects rather than textbooks. But then r “ i n c classrooms, school activities and school governance. i p I realized I was learning a lot of things. I l e s • Students are supported to Building blocks for learning. learned to manage my time and resources. I build developmental skills, mindsets and character traits set goals now and plan my day. I’ve learned of learning. Learning experiences provide opportunities to self-regulate myself. I even plan to give for practice and feedback. There are additional supports and learning opportunities for students that have not yet myself free time every day.” learned or are struggling to master the building blocks for Student, EPIC High School North, New York City Department of 91 learning. Education , NY 2014 Timely and transparent information. Students have • access to accurate information to support informed Description decision-making. The learning sciences point out that learning is • Educator support. Educators are supported and have something done by students, not to or for students. Thus, opportunities to develop their own competency in competency-based schools use strategies to help students coaching students on the building blocks for learning, build agency: the skills and ability to direct one’s course designing learning experiences in which students have in life and become a lifelong learner. When students have opportunity to practice and effectively assess student agency they find purpose in learning, are motivated to development with attention to cultural differences. put forth the effort needed to persist through challenges and are able to manage their progress in learning. Agency requires both mindsets and skills, including growth mindset, self-regulation and other social and emotional skills, metacognition and perseverance. Districts and schools can help students to develop these skills; they can design learning environments and experiences that teach these mindsets and skills explicitly, give students opportunities to practice them and give students time to reflect as they grow. When students take ownership of their learning, they transform the learning environment so that teachers are better able to provide tailored and targeted instruction. 59 i NACOL

62 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION These skills and mindsets include growth mindset, How Is Supporting Students in Building Skills for self-regulation and other social and emotional skills, Agency Related to Quality? [#4 Growth Mindset] metacognition and perseverance. Agency is the capacity and propensity Empowering students means Meaningful Information: • providing them with meaningful choices. Students can to take purposeful initiative—the opposite “ only make meaningful choices about their learning when of helplessness. Young people with high armed with adequate information about the cycle of levels of agency do not respond passively learning, learning targets, what proficiency looks like, and to their circumstances; they tend to seek concepts and skills they needed to reach proficiency. For this reason, schools and teachers must provide students meaning and act with purpose to achieve with timely access to information about learning targets, the conditions they desire in their own and moderated definitions of mastery and where they are in 92 others’ lives.” [#12 Transparency] their learning progress. The Influence of Teaching Beyond Standardized Test Scores: • Opportunities: Empowering students also means Engagement, Mindsets, and Agency by Ronald F. Ferguson with Sarah providing them with real opportunities to practice the F. Phillips, Jacob F. S. Rowley, and Jocelyn W. Friedlander, 2015 skills necessary to be independent learners. Teachers can proactively develop these skills in students and construct One of the most transformative changes in personalized, learning experiences that let students practice self- competency-based education is the shift from compliance regulation and develop academic behaviors. Classroom to empowerment. Whereas the traditional system expects management strategies can enable students to practice students to be compliant, passive learners, high-quality decision-making at appropriate developmental levels. competency-based systems engage them as productive, Teachers support students to build skills, using gradual active learners. There is powerful evidence that agency is release that empower students and increase agency, vital to student learning and development. For this reason, not simply handing over the reins. Many schools create high-quality competency-based education systems turn opportunities for students to expand their agency by to instructional strategies that help students find authentic taking on increasing levels of responsibility from the purpose in learning and motivate them to put forth the classroom to activities to clubs to school governance effort needed to learn. They are intentional in helping at the highest levels. These opportunities build skill students build intrinsic motivation and with graduated development and contribute to a culture of respect and release provide opportunity for students to learn to make empowerment. It is important to ensure they are offered [#6 Learning decisions about and co-design their learning. to a range of students and that, over time, all students Sciences] have opportunities for leadership roles. There are at least three capacities that schools need to As students become active learners with increasing ability build to support students in becoming active learners and to guide their learning, the roles and power dynamics in build the skills for lifelong learning: coaching, meaningful the classroom will change. With the help of classroom information and opportunities. management strategies and routines, students can take Coaching: Although one can argue that we are all born • more responsibility for their learning and free teachers with agency, it requires skills to be able to become strong to work purposefully with small groups or individuals. In self-advocates and lifelong learners that can successfully classrooms where students have high degrees of agency, navigate new environments and challenges. Multiple skills an observer might see groups of students working and mindsets are needed for student agency and have collaboratively and independently on projects, guiding been best described as the building blocks for learning. themselves through learning through student-to-student 60 i NACOL

63 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs inquiry and student-directed learning tools. A teacher or I learned to trust kids. It was really scary teachers might circulate between groups asking critical at first, but I decided, ‘I’m just going to go questions to push their learning, provide targeted supports “ to a small group of students struggling with a similar for it – I’m all in.’ Then my students started concept or skill, or provide virtual feedback on student coming up to me, asking, ‘Can I show you work. Thus, a virtuous cycle is created: when learning is that I learned it?’ It is totally mind-blowing. personalized and students become active participants in their education, greater degrees of personalized learning I saw so much more growth in my students, are enabled. Teachers are better able to meet students and they were becoming confident learners.” where they are and students feel more engaged when Jennifer Denny, Teacher, Red Bank Elementary School, Lexington they have more autonomy of how they learn, how they School District, SC, 2016 demonstrate their learning, and more opportunity to pursue tasks that are of interest to them. Policies and Practices to Look For This shift in power within the classroom is significant not • Classroom management, learning experiences, only for its impact on learning outcomes, but also for its instruction and assessment are designed to develop impact on students’ lives. When students develop agency the mindsets, motivations and skills that promote they build the skills to take active roles in their learning. agency. Students have opportunities to develop these These very same skills also allow them to make change in competencies in their core learning experiences, through their lives and in their communities. Promoting agency also coaching and advisement and in extended learning promotes equity by ensuring that students develop into opportunities. adults who have the capacity and resources to direct the • Students have timely access to information about course of their own lives and counteract injustices in the learning targets, definitions of mastery and their own [#2 Equity] world around them. progress to make decisions about their learning. • Common assessments and common outcomes enable It is critical that educators are supported in learning how to students to have access to flexible pathways, co-design help students build the skills needed for agency. For many projects that reflect their interests, multiple ways to learn teachers, this will require building new skills and addressing and multiple ways to demonstrate learning. certain mindsets. It is not at all uncommon to hear teachers express fear that agency is “good for some kids, but not for • School strategies to nurture student agency are my kids.” While it is certainly true that some students might intentionally monitored to ensure that all students, need more support or different supports to develop agency specifically historically underserved and marginalized than others based on their learning and life experiences, students, are receiving the feedback and coaching they we caution teachers and leaders against assumptions need to build skills. about who can have opportunities for leadership and self- • Teachers use similar classroom management routines direction and who cannot. As districts and schools create and practices to support students taking ownership. opportunities for teachers to learn instructional strategies Navigating different routines and dynamics in each for building agency, they might also want to provide classroom is minimized to increase the sense of safety opportunities for discourse and reflection that challenge and lessen demand on working memory. [#13 assumptions about what students can learn to do. • Students can explain what they are working on, why it is Educators as Learners] important, what they need to do to demonstrate learning, and what they can do if they are struggling. 61 i NACOL

64 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION • Students, regardless of academic achievement levels, are Teachers do not receive support in how to coach 3 encouraged to take on leadership roles and participate in or assess the building blocks for learning needed Schools often highlight some or all of for agency. governance. the building blocks for learning to help students take • Student-led conferences are used to engage parents and ownership and build the lifelong learning skills but fail guardians in which students prepare and present their to remember that educators need support themselves growth academically and as learners. in building these skills and in coaching these skills. In addition, coaching and assessing the building Examples of Red Flags blocks for learning is a potential area for bias: without 3 Student agency is thought to be the same as choice. consciousness or intention, bias can undermine efforts Too often schools interpret the concept of student to support students in building agency by skewing a agency as equivalent to choice. This misconception teacher’s perception of who has agency or is capable of shows up in many ways: teachers think students have having agency. For example, a common attribution bias agency if they get to pick which book they read or is assuming that students who are late don’t care about where they sit, or think that having longer playlists their education. However, the exact opposite might equals more agency. There is nothing wrong with these be true. There are students that care so deeply about practices—choice provides a limited form of autonomy education that they may wake up before dawn to take for students to exert control over their learning process. three buses to get to school or may have helped their Providing choice is only one technique to help students three younger siblings get to school. build agency, but it is not adequate on its own. Choice needs to be meaningful, grounded in a student’s Everything starts with relationships. awareness of where they are in their learning, what they need to do to progress and what matters most to them. The kids learn that they have to have “ Without cultivating purpose, metacognition and self- agency within relationships. We expect regulation, choice can be superficial. our students to ask ‘Who says?’ and ‘What 3 Students are encouraged to participate in governance makes you say that?’ so that they build and leadership opportunities but only if they are on their own understanding and learn how to . Privileging students who are track (i.e., at grade level) on grade level or on track is a trait of the traditional give productive feedback and advocate for system. It is important to check assumptions about themselves.” gateways to other learning and leadership opportunities Kim Carter, CEO, Making Community Connections Charter School, in a school. At first glance, it may make sense to not 93 Manchester, NH, 2014 let a student who hasn’t completed their learning objectives for a semester participate in leadership or other extracurricular activities so that they can direct their time toward learning. However, if they are on a trajectory to getting on track by filling gaps and learning at a growth rate of 1.5 or 2 performance levels per year, they should be commended not penalized. Pay attention to growth, not just grade-level standards. 62 i NACOL

65 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs learning process. Feedback and data is used to improve their performance and deepen their understanding. • Performance-based. Students demonstrate mastery by showing what they know by submitting evidence of transferring knowledge and skills, participating in P u performance tasks or through performance-based #8 Design for the r p o s e assessment. & C Development of Rigorous u l t Learning experiences encourage • Productive struggle. u r e 94 D and support students to experience productive struggle Higher-Level Skills e s i g as they engage with cognitively challenging work within n P their zones of proximal development and to experience r i What is honors? We realized that it n c failure as a necessary part of learning. i p l wasn’t more work, or faster. It was deeper e “ s • Processes are in place for Moderation and calibration. learning, something all students should teachers to build shared understanding of higher order have access to.” skills and consistency in grading to improve the reliability of their decisions about student learning so that students Jennifer Gay, Personalized Learning Project Manager, Luella High 95 School, Henry County School District, GA, 2016 are not passed on with gaps in knowledge or skills. How Is Designing for the Development of Rigorous Description Higher-Level Skills Related to Quality? Competency-based education supports students to not only learn academic content, but also to apply it in different contexts. Through application or engagement in deeper In the beginning I didn’t like the school. learning students develop higher-order skills often referred I didn’t understand what we were learning “ to as transferable skills. These skills include evaluation, or why we were learning it. In my old synthesis, problem-solving, creativity and communication. Instruction, learning experiences and assessment, including school we rarely had projects. Here it was all performance-based assessments, are aligned so that all projects. I really didn’t like it until I got a lot students can experience deeper learning by applying their of help from teachers. When I realized that I learning in the classroom and in the community. was going to get help, the projects became interesting.” Key Characteristics Definitions of success • Definition of student success. Student at EPIC High School North, New York City Department of 96 , NY 2014 Education include academic knowledge, transferable skills, and lifelong learning skills. They explicitly value the higher- The concept of competency is the capacity to transfer level skills students will need to be successful. knowledge to new contexts. Competency-based systems Application and transfer. Students engage in higher-level • raise the bar in two ways: they expand the definition of thinking by applying knowledge and skills to challenging, student success to include higher-order skills needed to interdisciplinary contexts and problems. they expect that all students will transfer knowledge and • Reflection and revision. Not only do students apply meet this bar. Thus, districts and schools need to design and demonstrate knowledge in meaningful ways, they systems of learning and assessment that ensure all students also have opportunities to use assessment as part of the 63 i NACOL

66 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION have opportunities to experience and demonstrate rigorous How might teachers scaffold problem-solving? How can 97 deeper learning. teachers balance deeper learning and meeting students where they are with the very real pressure to accelerate Traditional districts and schools were organized around the learning for the students who are the farthest behind? How assumption that intelligence was fixed, and that students can teachers build their capacity to support performance- should therefore be ranked and sorted to determine who based assessment? What mechanisms for moderation and was “college material.” In these systems, only students calibration exist so that teachers have shared understanding in honors or advanced courses had access to rigorous and grading practices for assessing higher-order skills? learning, while other students—usually those students who had been historically underserved—were only expected to Without strategic design, setting this doubly high bar memorize and comprehend. By contrast, competency- for student success is merely aspirational: there is little based education systems ensure all students have reason to believe that all students will meet a higher bar opportunities for building higher-order skills and inquiry- of competency if we have not designed for the edges. based learning. Gaps in knowledge will need to be repaired and learning experiences designed to ensure all students engage in While deeper learning is not tied to any one instructional rigorous higher-order learning at every step along their model or pedagogy, it can be seen in high-quality educational path. applied learning such as capstone projects, inquiry- based, project-based, problem-based, expeditionary Furthermore, this high bar cannot be met without attention learning, and extended learning in the community, to equity. Rigorous deeper learning isn’t something that is among others. These types of learning experiences are made available to students after they are proficient. If the interdisciplinary and required students to select and definition of student success is academic knowledge and develop the appropriate mix of knowledge and skills to the expertise to apply it, then students have to have the all use. Teachers find that collaborative design processes are opportunity to build higher-order skills through rigorous helpful for creating robust applied learning experiences deeper learning regardless of their proficiency level. Many as so many instructional aspects need to be integrated. schools set a level 3 to indicate proficiency and a level 4 to For example, teachers will want to draw on culturally indicate deeper learning or honors level work. When this responsive education strategies in recognition that happens, students who are performing below their grade how students demonstrate higher-order skills may be level are pressured to “move on” when reaching proficiency influenced by culture and intergroup dynamics. Districts in an effort to “catch up” to grade-level standards. The and schools will want to ensure that capacity is developed result is that they never have the opportunity for extending for performance-based assessments so that teachers have their learning or engaging in deeper learning. a moderated understanding of proficiency in higher-order To prevent this situation from occurring, deeper learning skills. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that there are can be embedded into the design of all learning no barriers to deeper learning, such as course placement experiences through core instructional strategies, prerequisites. intersessions, capstone projects or extended learning To promote rigor for all, districts and schools usually need in the community. Some schools do this by including to consider the number of strategic design questions. What performance-based assessment or performance tasks that social, emotional and noncognitive supports will students let students demonstrate their learning in ways other than need to engage and persist at higher levels of learning? quizzes and tests, which tend to emphasize lower levels How will schedules promote deeper learning? How many of depth of knowledge. In this way all students, no matter community partnerships are needed to create authentic their performance levels, can have the opportunity for problems to be solved and opportunities for internships? learning how to apply skills. 64 i NACOL

67 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT memorization and comprehension. Assessment If you focus on pace, it becomes a linear strategies that deem students proficient based on march through the curriculum. When the 80 percent pass rates, often embedded into digital “ instructional software, may result in reinforcing lower focus is on speed, it’s easier to fall into the expectations. Students are passed on with potential trap of low cognitive demand instead of gaps in knowledge and without the expectation or emphasizing deeper learning.” opportunity to apply and transfer skills. As districts are guided by the beliefs and principles about teaching and Michael Martin, Director of Curriculum & Technology, Montpelier 98 School District, VT 2016 learning, many find themselves turning to performance- tasks and performance-based assessments to help lift their instruction from the knowledge levels of recall Policies and Practices to Look For and comprehension toward analysis, synthesis and • Students are involved in at least one meaningful project evaluation. that makes connections to the real-world. School schedules are still based on 50-minute classes. 3 • All students, including those who are learning at levels Inquiry-based learning and project-based learning all below their age-based grade, have opportunities to apply require time for deeper discussion and exploration. knowledge and skills. Students need blocks of time for collaboration, creating • The schedule and calendar have been aligned to ensure and innovating. More developed competency-based students can receive extra help, participate in deeper schools create schedules to support deeper learning learning such as project-based learning and take including block schedules, inter-sessions for project- advantage of extended learning opportunities. based or work-based learning and flexible opportunities to pursue research and inquiries. • Teachers have time each week for planning, learning, collaboration, as well as professional learning Students can only do projects, community-based 3 opportunities, to build their capacity in instruction and learning or elective learning when they have reached assessment for higher-order skill development. proficiency. Students who are behind grade level have to move on when they meet proficiency rather than go • Performance tasks and performance-based assessments deep. Understandably, many teachers feel that this is the are used to ensure students are building higher-order best way to help students who are behind; with all the skills. best intentions, teachers rush their struggling students • Moderation and calibration processes are in place to along. But there are problems with this approach. First, ensure consistency in credentialing higher-order skills. students who are the farthest behind are often the • There is a school-wide strategy for helping students same students who are the most disengaged. When understand graduation-ready competencies and an these students do not have the chance to go deep opportunity to work on cross-cutting, transferable skills into something that intrigues them, they are less likely in multiple classes so students can see how they differ to persist. Second, a student who pushes forward to within different domains. grade level but never has time to apply their learning in have demonstrated academic only meaningful ways will deeper learning. They may have not content knowledge, Examples of Red Flags become proficient in the academic knowledge but not 3 The graduate profile includes world-class skills or in the higher-order skills needed to use that knowledge. transferrable skills but students advance based on While it may look and feel (according to standardized multiple choice assessments or other forms of tests assessments) like this student has closed the gap, there The traditional system for comprehension and analysis. will still be a “deeper learning gap.” In other words, has emphasized the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy— 65 i NACOL

68 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION students who entered the education system more Description privileged will still leave the system more privileged if Schools need to meet students where they are to help they are the only ones who get to experience deeper them master learning targets and build the competencies learning. they need for college, career and life. When schools commit to ensuring that every student can succeed and recognize that students have different knowledge, skills and life experiences, they quickly find that a one-size- We want students to stretch themselves fits-all approach will not work. Instead, schools need toward going deeper in their learning. “ to be responsive: meeting each student where they Too often we are still expecting students are and providing the right supports at the right time. A to memorize facts even if they are at critical aspect of responsiveness is maintaining consistent expectations of proficiency and monitoring student pace our fingertips. It is an entirely different to ensure students are receiving effective instruction and experience when it is inquiry-based. Facts supports. are sucked into the vortex of a kid who is engaged by a big question. They gain Key Characteristics meaning because they can be used, not just Based on the learning Meeting students where they are. • sciences, schools promote instructional strategies and memorized.” adequate supports to meet students where they are in Bill Zima, former Principal, Mt. Ararat Middle School and currently 99 their zone of proximal development. Within the current Superintendent, RSU2, ME, 2016 policy context, districts and schools likely seek ways to balance between pursuing grade level proficiency and progressing students along the personalized pathway of the learner continua. Districts and schools Addresses foundational skills. • ensure students are mastering the foundational skills and take responsibility for addressing key learning gaps. Ensure Responsiveness #9 Students are not passed on without support. Teachers work with students to create plans to address gaps even We don’t blink if you are at the second- if it will take several years. grade level when you are in the fourth grade. “ • Schools have intentional Deeper learning for all. If teachers really understand the standards strategies for ensuring all students have opportunities to develop deep, enduring and transferable knowledge and the progressions that are needed to help regardless of where they are in terms of grade level students move, then we can bridge the gaps. proficiency. We don’t pretend anymore that students can Teachers coach students in • Personalized instruction. do higher level work if they don’t have the the building blocks of learning to become independent prerequisites. It makes teaching much more learners, increase motivation and engagement through offering choice and co-design opportunities to pursue complex as we are teaching students, not interests and use a variety of instructional strategies to just going through a curriculum.“ support student learning. Jennifer Denny, Teacher, Red Bank Elementary School, Lexington School District, SC,2016 66 i NACOL

69 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT and life. Likewise, there is little reason to believe that • Timely, differentiated supports. Districts and schools districts will close persistent equity and opportunity actually ensure students have access to the supports they need to gaps. Thus, responsiveness is a critical element of building keep pace toward graduation. a more equitable system. High-quality competency-based Resources, including time, space, • Flexible resources. districts and schools build the capacity to monitor every modality and technology are flexible to support single student’s growth and respond quickly when students responsive and personalized instruction. are not progressing. Data on student learning and • Data-driven practice. student work is used to diagnose and address learning As previously discussed, a culture of empowerment and gaps, monitor pace and inform professional learning. agency requires access to accurate and timely information. Likewise, responsiveness requires transparency about How Is Ensuring Responsiveness Related to Quality? student progress and proficiency relative to grade-level standards. Transparency eliminates mixed messages and false signals to students and families about student learning, When I arrived at Parker-Varney three helping them to make informed decisions. Transparency years ago, we were program driven. We “ also promotes teacher development and improvement. The depended heavily on curriculum programs wealth of student learning data generated in competency- based districts and schools provides powerful feedback to drive our instruction. The problem is that to educators about their effectiveness and highlights when you use products like Every Day Math areas for improving instruction. It also allows districts and or America’s Choice curriculum, you are schools to monitor disaggregated growth data and address completely tied to that curriculum. There is [#12 inequity and bias as a part of continuous improvement. Transparency] no flexibility or strategy to meet the needs of students who are at a different level.” In their purest form, competency-based systems are Amy Allen, Principal, Parker-Varney Elementary School, Manchester fully student-centered. They are designed to ensure 100 School District, NH, 2016 every student is working toward successful completion of competencies with access to instructional supports Consider the following analogy. Asking two students with that challenge and support them within their zone different learning backgrounds and needs to master the of proximal development and progressing along a same rigorous content at the same time with the same continuum of learning at a pace that ensures they will supports is like asking one student to hop over a puddle, reach proficiency. We know that some worry “meeting and another to leap the Grand Canyon. Meeting students students where they are” is code for lowering rigor of where they are means ensuring that all students can instruction and might perpetuate learning gaps. On meet the same rigorous standards by providing actually the contrary, meeting students where they are is about students who are behind with the tools, supports and time equity because meeting students where they are is they need to make that larger leap. highly aligned with learning sciences and standards for equitable practice. When students are met where they are Responsiveness is critical to quality because without it— in their learning, they can attach new knowledge to prior the ability to meet each student where they are, provide knowledge and advance their learning. When they have them with the right instructional strategies, resources and opportunities to be supported on personalized pathways supports, and monitor their progress toward proficiency— with targeted supports to keep pace toward proficiency, actually there is little reason to believe that all students will they are consistently engaged in their zones of proximal learn at high levels or graduate ready for college, career development and can therefore develop true mastery. 67 i NACOL

70 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Furthermore, meeting students where they are is Students aren’t self-paced at Building inextricably linked to the practice of closely monitoring 21. If they enter with gaps, then we work student pace and progress. Teachers work with each other “ and with students to create individual learning pathways with them to create a personalized growth that show the pace and progress students need to make, pathway. Their pace needs to mirror their critical milestones and the supports they will need. They plan so they are in their zone and on a path monitor student progress frequently to make sure students are on pace and that supports are effective. In other words, toward graduation. If they can get adequate meeting students where they are does not mean being growth per year we can get them on track to complacent about a student who starts behind. It means being college ready.” figuring out what that student needs to move forward and Sandra Moumoutjis, Educational Consultant, Building 21, School adjusting the course as needed along the way. 102 District of Philadelphia, PA, 2016 The key to meeting students where they are lies in three Most districts and schools in the early stages of becoming core capacities: 1) personalizing learning so that students competency-based will continue to think about the starting take more responsibility for their learning and teachers are point of student learning as the beginning of the semester able to work with small groups or individually as needed; 2) and the beginning of a course or a grade level, i.e. a grade- ensuring that students can access additional support when level learning continuum. This focuses their attention on they need it; and 3) closely monitoring growth and aligning covering standards rather than taking a more student- the level and intensity of support as needed to ensure centered approach. While a standards-based orientation is students are making progress. For a deeper discussion a reasonable starting point for districts and schools earlier Meeting Students Where They on this issue see the paper 101 on the pathway to becoming fully competency-based, Are. it is a limited strategy in the long-term. The problem is it truncates learning for those above grade level proficiency There are several challenges in fully implementing a system while creating risk that students are not receiving the that can respond to students and monitor student growth instructional strategies they really need. and progress. One of the largest challenges derives from the fact that competency-based systems continue to Teaching to grade-level standards and using scaffolding to operate in the context of federal and state accountability build access to the grade-level content cannot be effective policy: teachers and leaders navigate the tension if it’s done without the commitment to helping all students between meeting students where they are and assessing address and fill gaps in their skills. This is hard, even students based on grade level. Instead of focusing solely impossible to do, if teachers do not know what students’ on providing the most effective instruction to students gaps are; do not have instructional flexibility to personalize regardless if they are above, at or below grade level, for students; or do not have the ability to flex time in the teachers may feel that it is only fair to cover the standards day, unit, or year to ensure that all students are actually and curriculum upon which the students will be assessed at mastering standards. If, or when districts and schools find the end of the year. Some will do this by planning content themselves ready to fully transition to learner continuum around grade-level standards and building in strategic rather than grade level, they will find that student-centered scaffolds for students who are behind. Others will prioritize information management systems (rather than those that “keystone” or “power” grade-level standards and go deep are organized by grade-level standards within courses) on them to build students’ enduring understanding. are helpful in enabling educators to monitor and record student progress along their learning continua. 68 i NACOL

71 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT students should expect that they can pick up where Policies and Practices to Look For they left off when they begin the next semester and • Schools are using a learner continuum that spans several educators should be able to have easy access to grade levels rather than grade level standards. information about where students are in their learning. • Students are able to tell you what level they are working Teachers or students refer to “fast learners” or “slow 3 on, what they are working on, what they need for learners. ” It is important to guard against language of support, and how they will know when they reach students being “fast learners.” It is a red flag for two proficiency. reasons. First, it is possible that students are not being • Teachers plan for responding to students where they are offered enough opportunities for deeper learning, by organizing and making available learning tasks and/or which generally takes more time. They may be fast only units that span the learner continuum. because the level of rigor being asked is closer to recall • Teachers and leaders have honest conversations about and comprehension than it is to higher-order skills of how well the school is meeting students where they are synthesis and evaluation. Second, the so-called slow and producing growth for all sub-groups. Discussions student may actually be learning much more, addressing clarify what could be done differently as part of gaps in the prerequisite knowledge that is needed for continuous improvement. the task. Thus, students might be “fast learners” only because they are operating in a much narrower zone • Students have multiple opportunities to access extra of proximal development. Third, the term “fast learner” support and instruction. implies a fixed mindset—you are or you aren’t. • Data is used to monitor student growth in academic If your culture of learning is strong, students will domains, success in deeper learning/higher order skills, be comfortable talking about their grade levels and and developing lifelong learning skills. Measures of academic levels even if they are on academic levels student achievement recognizes both the growth rate below their grade level. Pay attention to language about based on a personal student trajectory and the age- progress—emphasize efficacy, depth of learning and based grade level. working harder to tackle challenging material rather than falling into the trap of referring to students as fast Examples of Red Flags or slow. To keep your culture of learning robust, focus Students are passed on at the end of the year with gaps 3 on effort rather than comparison. in their learning without a plan for how to ensure they Scaffolding only helps students have access to 3 fully master knowledge and skills. Competency-based a curriculum. Students often have gaps in their education is often described with the adage “learning knowledge including the highest achieving students. is the constant and time the variable” as compared Scaffolding that only provides access to a curriculum with the traditional system’s use of time as a constant. without ensuring that students actually repair the gaps However, the amount, quality and intensiveness of means that the next year and the year after they may support is also an important variable. Students may be continue to be ill-prepared for higher level coursework. building prerequisite skills or simply need more support With a shared commitment to filling gaps, teachers will and time when they are struggling. Some may not have collaboratively develop strategies to repair those missing completed all the learning targets, either personalized gaps, even if it takes longer. Sometimes plans will need expectations or based on grade-level standards, by to be made so that students can continue to get support the end of a semester or year. Some schools create in the summer and when they return the next fall. The additional time at the end of semesters to support importance is that there is continuity in their instruction students while others have organized summer school and support. as a natural extension of the school year. Bottom line: 69 i NACOL

72 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION The beauty of transparency is that teachers are not afraid to come to us to look at student work and have a conversation about what we can do. With some targeted professional “ development, our teachers are better able to identify early on if we are dealing with dyslexia or some other issue that needs special education specialists or if students are missing skills.” 103 Penny Panagiosoulis, Principal, KAPPA International High School, New York City Department of Education, NY, 2016 C. Structure Design Principles It is helpful to think of the structure of a district or school Mastery-based learning operates on a as the architecture of a house: the foundation, frame different set of assumptions. Even if you “ and load-bearing walls. It is essential that each part of have two or three colleagues working the architecture is strong on its own and that all parts fit together to form a solid and resilient frame. The structure, together, it is difficult to bring mastery- the formal arrangement and relationships between policies, based learning to life in the classroom processes and practices influences and upholds the ways without a district vision. As a teacher, you in which people interact and how learning occurs. The can focus on standards and develop your culture and structure of a school are highly interdependent with culture shaping how people interpret the rules and units around them, but there is no way to operating procedures defined by the structure. create a greater understanding of how the standards fit together to create a sense of At a minimum, competency-based education requires school-wide structures. A district-wide approach produces purpose for learning if you are working even greater opportunity for alignment, innovation and in isolation. Teachers can organize their sustainability. Making the transition from the traditional classrooms around standards, but we want system to a competency-based one requires the process of dismantling certain existing structures and creating new so much more for kids. It takes a much ones that intentionally reinforce the underlying values and broader vision. The vision of the district and beliefs of competency-based education. Although some the philosophy of the school shape how schools attempt to introduce pilots as a way to begin the people relate to each other, determine what transformational process, it is impossible to produce the full benefits with just a classroom or two. A shared purpose, is important and where attention is directed, culture of learning and organizing the school schedule to and sets the values.” provide rapid responses when students need additional Caroline Messenger, Curriculum Director, Naugatuck Public Schools, support are beyond the scope of what innovative teachers 104 CT 2016 can do in their classroom alone. 70 i NACOL

73 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT This section will explore seven design principles that constitute the infrastructure and capabilities needed to support competency-based education. The first three principles in this section—alignment, consistency and transparency—seek to create confidence on the part of teachers, principals, district leaders, students, families and #10 Seek Intentionality and the broader community that schools are using the most effective strategies. When a school credentials a student Alignment as proficient, we can all count on it being so. These three principles are powerful in reducing the mixed messages, One of the biggest benefits of mastery- false signals and seemingly intractable inequity of different based learning is the clarity for teachers. “ expectations for different students within and across We have had so many good conversations schools. Although highly related, they are treated separately here as each introduces significant changes to how districts with teachers about what they are teaching, and schools operate. The next three principles—educators what they want students to be able to as learners, organizational flexibility and continuous know and be able to do, and why they are improvement and organizational learning—are all related to moving beyond the bureaucratic rigidity of the traditional teaching it. We know we are doing a good system to create growth-oriented systems that rapidly job at implementation, as it is making respond to students. The final principle of advancement alignment a natural process. The selection upon mastery is a culmination of all the other principles in of activities are more likely to be based on creating systems that ensure students are developing the competencies they need to succeed in their next level of the skills students need and what students studies and in their future. need to practice. There is more focus on what students need to do to learn something Many districts and schools launch into the change process by focusing solely on the technical structural changes. rather than simply covering the content.” However, it is important to remember that without 105 Greg Baldwin, Principal, New Haven Academy , CT, 2016 clarifying pedagogy and seeding an inclusive culture of learning, beliefs of the traditional system will impede high- Description quality implementation. Fidelity requires attention to all three aspects: culture, pedagogy and structure. Coherent systems align all of their parts around a common purpose and vision for student learning. A report, Alignment in Complex Education Systems: Achieving Balance and 106 by the Organisation for Economic Co- Coherence , operation and Development (OECD) describes how the majority of developed countries around the globe build alignment of three areas of their education systems: defining the knowledge and skills students need to know and be able to do at progressive stages through graduation, creating curricular frameworks that illustrate 71 i NACOL

74 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION the competencies and learning objectives in standards A transparent learning • Common learning framework. and measuring learning and attainment through student framework is developed and used to align instruction and assessments and school evaluations. The OECD reports, “If assessment. Furthermore, the learning framework and these systems are misaligned, it is impossible to draw valid what proficiency looks like at each performance level is conclusions about the success of student learning or to available to students and families. 107 develop effective strategies for school improvement.” On-going alignment processes. Processes are in place • to ensure ongoing processes of alignment and that Coherence is the result of intentional design: districts, the school and district systems support an aligned schools and educators are deliberate in aligning every instruction, assessment and learning experiences part of their system, school and classroom. The process (curriculum). Leaders manage implementation so that of alignment of school design, instruction, assessment educators have opportunity to pursue personalized and learning experiences is well-managed, recognizing professional learning to build their skills to implement that with alignment comes changes in policies, practice an aligned system. Educators draw on collaborative and the capacity of staff to implement with fidelity. There processes to help fine-tune the design of learning is a clear rationale for each decision point in design, experiences to ensure that in addition to building implementation and continuous improvement. Intentional academic knowledge, students will have the opportunity design is thoughtful about the sequence and pace of the to develop building blocks of learning and higher-order implementation process so that staff have opportunities skills. to build capacity as needed. Alignment is not something • Clarity and capacity. Instructional, operational and that is done in one fell swoop. It is a step-by-step process structural systems only matter if people understand of refinement and sometimes innovation. The best them, understand their roles and actually know what to change strategies embody the values and beliefs of the do. Competency-based systems provide the balance competency-based system to build trust, individual learning of detail and simplicity—so called “elegance”—that and organizational knowledge. enables people at all levels to actually know what they are supposed to do. Resources are provided to support Key Characteristics educators in building the knowledge and skills needed. • Purpose-driven. Districts and schools begin alignment Continuous improvement processes take • Improvement. with the the purpose of ensuring each and every student into consideration the interdependence of an aligned is fully prepared for college, career and life. The graduate system. As improvements are considered, alignment is profile emphasizing academic knowledge, transferable maintained by asking, “if we change x, what will it mean skills, and the skills for lifelong learning drive decisions. for y?” There is shared understanding that all decisions should come back to our central mission. Student-centered. • The purpose to ensure every student is mastering knowledge and skills places students and what it takes to help them learn at the core of the alignment process. 72 i NACOL

75 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT Alignment Around What? How Is Seeking Intentionality and Alignment Alignment is the process of making sure all the pieces fit Important for Quality? together to create a coherent structure that will support learning. But alignment around what? Alignment begins Without clear learning objectives, with the shared purpose and desired outcomes . Usually this teachers—purposefully or not—focus on “ is the graduate profile and definition of student success. When systems align around the goal of students being able engaging students for the sake of order to apply their knowledge and be independent learners, and discipline. Instead, proficiency- there are clear implications for learning and teaching. based learning leads teachers to plan the instructional environment to meet Alignment also takes into consideration the student . Districts, schools and teachers to get to population specific learning goals. Proficiency-based know their current students, asking many of the following learning pushes teachers to think about questions. What is the culture of their families and how to intrinsically engage students with communities? What has been their educational experience so far? Districts and schools experiencing demographic relevant material and the opportunity to changes in their communities will find that they need to see themselves getting better over time. be more adaptive and possibly develop new capacities to Our students know that success is possible. align with their students. Schools are designed to support Proficiency-based learning shifts teachers relationship building so that teachers are better able to know their students. Teachers take into consideration what practices—we are always asking, ‘What do students know and can do, their social and emotional skills, you want students to know, where is each and the things they care most about in meeting students student in their learning and how can we where they are. create engaging projects that will help them The final focal point of alignment is the set of strategies get to the next step?’” determined to best help students learn and succeed , Casey Fuess, Teacher, Lindblom High School, Chicago Public Schools, which are shaped by learning sciences and equity. Districts, 108 IL, 2017 schools and educators will want to turn to the research on the science of learning to shape policies, schools design Creating a high-quality school and system doesn’t and instruction. They will also want to draw from the occur by happenstance. It requires intentional effort to research on equitable strategies that have been developed align the culture, structure and pedagogy around three to ensure historically underserved populations reach high things: purpose, students and strategies that will lead levels of achievement. This doesn’t always mean integration to reaching the purpose. Intentionality is an ongoing of strategies: it may also require ending inequitable creative design process that empowers people to have the practices. ability to change and improve their environments. When intentionality is a feature of a district and school, leaders, Levers and Logic Models: A Framework to In the paper teachers and even students are part of an ongoing process Guide Research and Design of High-Quality Competency- to create and improve the school. Intentional design 109 four logic models are outlined Based Education Systems, creates and is created by a strong collaborative culture of to identify the elements of culture, student learning learning and a sense of urgency. experience, professional practice, district and school systems. As depicted in Figure 4, these logic models must be aligned within the levers of desired student outcomes, 73 i NACOL

76 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Figure 4. The Levers and Logic Models of Competency-Based Education mediating factors of local context and student population competencies at a later point in implementation. The and the drivers of the learning sciences and equity value of beginning with competencies are two-fold: 1) strategies. competencies demand rigorous deeper learning instruction and assessment and 2) competencies can reinforce a sense The Common Learning Framework of purpose and make connections for students about why Districts and schools develop a central learning architecture it is important to reach proficiency on standards. Once or common framework that clarifies what is expected the learning framework has been agreed upon it may be for students to know and do at each performance level translated into more student-friendly language. or grade level to which instruction and assessment are then aligned. In most cases, performance levels are Clarity and Consistency the same as grade levels, although some districts have A critically important step in alignment is the process of established unique performance levels. This common building a shared understanding of what it means to be learning framework may be organized around higher level proficient in each of these competencies and standards competencies and the standards that contribute to each. at each performance level. The processes of building However, many districts begin with the state standards consistency through moderation and calibration catalyzes with which they are already comfortable and introduce 74 i NACOL

77 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT the collaborative professional learning of teachers. By are likely to discover substantial areas of misalignment looking at student work and discussing the features that between learning objectives, assessment, instruction and indicate proficiency at different performance levels, curriculum. This may require sequencing capacity-building teachers begin to think more deeply about the instruction across the school as well as supporting individual teacher’s and assessment needed to help students master the professional growth. Teacher professional learning, based [#11 Consistency & Reliability] on where teachers are in their own skill development learning targets. and the stage of development of the competency-based system, is likely to focus on how to support students in It starts with having a cohesive developing the building blocks of learning, classroom philosophy and a dedication to constantly “ management for personalized learning, instruction for the improving the school. New ideas have to development of higher-order skills and deepening content [#13 Educators as instruction and assessment literacy. be able to be integrated into our holistic Learners] approach. It’s a constant conversation to maintain coherence and sustain a Aligning School Design and Operations shared vision. We have to make sure that Districts and schools will often find that they need to rethink schedules for more applied learning, expand improvements, innovations, and new efforts community partnership for offering real-world problem- build on each other. “ solving and building capacity for performance-based Deanna Sinito, former Principal, Carroll Gardens School for assessment. Schools may also want to develop or extend 110 Innovation, New York City Department of Education, NY, 2014 the array of wraparound services that students can access. Aligning Instruction and Assessment Opportunity for Broader Systemic Alignment Every high-quality school aligns instruction, curriculum or Although it is beyond the scope of this publication, there what we refer to as learning experiences, and assessment. are opportunities to align competency-based structures However, competency-based education is intentional between K-12 and postsecondary institutions—colleges, about also considering the definition of student success universities, training and employers—to create more included in the purpose and the student population. Thus, transparent and meaningful credentials. the structures that support instruction, learning experiences and assessment need to have the following capacities: able Quality requires intentionality and alignment: every aspect to respond to students where they are including above of cultural, instructional and operational systems must or below grade level, designed to help students build the support student learning, student success and the vision lifelong learning skills and aligned with higher-order skills. driving the district or school. Like a complex machine, all parts of a quality system work in concert to produce Aligning Professional Learning desired outcomes. Furthermore, all people in the system Aligning instruction and assessment tends to trigger must understand their part in the coordinated effort increased attention to professional learning for educators. to produce desired outcomes: their role, the needed For those schools that include clarifying the pedagogical capacities, and their connection to the other parts. Finally, principles and fully embedding learning sciences the system must maintain this focus and alignment through into instruction and assessment in the early stages of the critical processes of continuous improvement—as implementation, the process of aligning the capacity of people and parts adapt to meet students’ needs, systems the educator workforce is a natural step. Those schools must learn to manage and integrate these micro changes that begin with creating a common learning framework into the larger whole. 75 i NACOL

78 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION • School designs, learning experiences and professional Mastery-based grading forces you to be learning opportunities for educators are based on intentional. First, I identify all the big ideas outcomes and informed by data on student learning. “ that students need to know and do. Then I • Districts and schools adapt or redesign structures to support the development of outcomes and the strategies design all the assessments that will be used used to help students reach them. by the end of the year. I also weave in all • Learning experiences are designed to provide the things I want to make sure the students opportunities for students to strengthen their social and don’t forget. Throughout this process, I can emotional skills. add word problems or interesting context • Instruction and systems of assessments support (like hip hop artists) in ways that students application of skills and development of higher- order skills. Districts and schools build capacity for don’t expect. This intentionality means performance-based assessment and assessment literacy. I have to be strategic about the structure and flow of the curriculum. For example, It starts with having a cohesive I agonized this summer over whether I philosophy and a dedication to constantly “ should bifurcate deriving linear equations improving the school. New ideas have to into rate of change and y intercepts. I love be able to be integrated into our holistic math, and this gives me an opportunity to approach. It’s a constant conversation think even more deeply about it.” to maintain coherence and sustain a Jared Sutton, Teacher, Carroll Gardens Middle School, New York City, 111 NY 2014 shared vision. We have to make sure that improvements, innovations, and new efforts Policies and Practices to Look For build on each other. “ • Measures of student outcomes are well articulated, Deanna Sinito, former Principal, Carroll Gardens School for 112 Innovation, New York City Department of Education, NY, 2014 including how equity in outcomes is being measured. The outcomes or graduate profile clearly explains the knowledge and skills students should learn accompanied Examples of Red Flags by examples of student work to clearly indicate Graduate profile emphasizes deeper learning and 3 performance expectations. higher-order skills but curriculum, instruction and • A common learning framework is well-developed and assessments are primarily set at memorization and teachers are knowledgeable with instruction for the level As districts begin the process of comprehension. above and below the grade level they teach. aligning instruction and assessment to the common • Teachers have opportunity to experiment and innovate in learning framework of competencies and standards, pursuit of greater alignment. they often discover that instruction and assessment are not aligned with the depth of knowledge of the • Teachers have opportunity to plan, collaborate and learn. standards. They soon begin to make adjustments to Professional learning communities are supported and have more applied learning opportunities, performance nurtured. tasks and performance-based assessments. 76 i NACOL

79 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT 3 The school knows that many students are entering at levels several years below age-based grade level but continues to emphasize delivery of grade-level instruction. Alignment isn’t just between standards, #11 Establish instruction and assessment. It involves aligning with the student population as well. In early implementation Mechanisms to Ensure stages, districts often use the semester as a beginning Consistency and point of monitoring learning with all students expected to master the learning objectives by or soon after Reliability the end of the course. This is unlikely to be achieved if students have multi-year gaps in their knowledge. In the traditional system, it can Although schools use different strategies to meet the mistakenly feel more precise because we needs of students with gaps they may continue to pass “ students on to the next course without developing use mathematics to determine the grade. In long-term strategies to address gaps. The failure to have the mastery-based system, we have to make honest conversations with students about the level they sure we are as objective as possible – we are performing does a disservice to students. They will never know what is really expected until they are forced have to be subjectively objective. We used to to take remediation courses at college. Thus, districts have teachers say that they wanted to give and schools need to invest in long-term strategies that students who had worked hard the benefit truly meet students where they are and help them to of the doubt. Why is there any doubt? We reach graduation competencies. need to have a system in which we can be Mastery blew our minds. It forces you to confident of what students know.” think about how you use time. In fact there “ Susan Bell, former Superintendent and David Prinstein, Principal, is no such thing as time, only the intentional Windsor Locks Middle School, Windsor Locks School District, CT, 2016 114 way we can can help students learn and get ready for graduation. Our job is to think Description about the ways we can create additional In competency-based systems, students advance upon demonstrated mastery of learning. In order to do so, those opportunities for students. For those who learning objectives must be clearly articulated and reliably need more help or have lots of gaps to fill, understood by all. Moderation builds shared understanding how do we provide more instructional of proficiency, and calibration creates consistency of support? For those who are ready to move grading practices to improve consistency in credentialing learning. Creating cross-district and cross-school clarity ahead, how do we make sure they always and consistency reduces variability in expectations. Systems have that opportunity? Mastery has totally of assessments are aligned with appropriate level of depth opened up our thinking about how to of knowledge as defined by the learning objectives. support students.” Key Characteristics Ryan Reynolds, former Principal, PACT High School, Cleveland School 113 District, OH, 2017 • Valid and reliable. Districts and schools have accurate, standards-based definitions of proficiency. These definitions are transparent and available to all educators 77 i NACOL

80 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION and students. Rubrics, examples of proficient student what it means to be proficient between schools (higher- work and other tools are used to communicate income communities often have higher expectations than proficiency. lower-income communities), between educators (different definitions in every classroom or school) and between • Systems of assessment are Authentic assessment. students (different definitions being applied to students, valid and reliable, and produce data that accurately often based on their race, class and perceived ability). Many assesses student mastery of standards. Assessment is factors contribute to this variability, including educators also meaningful and valuable to the learning process by working in isolation, A-F grading systems based on student supporting reflection and guiding further instruction. behaviors, assignments and summative tests, biased • Systems of assessment Aligned to learning objectives. educator perception and different expectations for students are aligned to competencies and standards at the within and across schools. In these contexts, inequities appropriate depth of knowledge. are produced. Students are told they are proficient when Teachers are supported in using Assessment literacy. • they are not resulting in widening learning gaps. Neither different types of assessments and providing productive students nor educators can access accurate information feedback to students. Teachers build capacity in about what students know and can do to inform assessing building blocks of learning, transferable skills instructional decision-making. The results are many: each and performance-based assessments. year teachers are challenged by the number of students with gaps in their knowledge from the previous year. • Moderated. Districts and schools have systems and Students without prerequisite knowledge and no avenue processes to ensure consistency in the way that to build it become less engaged and motivation decreases. proficiency is understood across schools. Students with high GPAs go off to college only to discover • Educators work together to ensure inter-rater Calibrated. they need remediation, and parents and communities lose reliability of grading of student work and assessments. trust in the educational system. How Is Establishing Mechanisms to Ensure By contrast, competency-based systems emphasize Consistency and Reliability Important to Quality? consistency and reliability. Rather than relying on seat- time as a weak proxy for learning, competency-based systems develop structures to build confidence and To ensure equity and fairness, it is transparency about student learning. Competency-based important to have uniform expectations “ education systems value consistency and transparency and values. The grading policies reflect as strategies that interrupt the replication of inequities. Quality and greater equity are rooted in evaluating student our values and need to become a school- outcomes against a constant criterion—a standard wide set of expectations that are applied with rubrics clearly outlining expectations for what consistently. A well-designed grading evidence is needed for successful outcomes—rather than system should be able to answer the evaluating student outcomes against a single educator’s estimation of proficiency. Learning targets and proficiency question, ‘How would I know that this determinations are transparent. Scoring proficiency is student is making progress?’” calibrated; educators work collaboratively to define what Mike McRaith, Principal, Montpelier High School, Montpelier School proficiency looks like using evidence of student work, District, VT, 2016 use common rubrics and calibrated grading practices to increase inter-rater reliability of scoring. Student progress is Traditional education systems demonstrate high degrees measured based on outcomes demonstrating proficiency. of variability: they permit different understandings of The efforts of a few leading states to create proficiency- 78 i NACOL

81 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs based diplomas is another strategic effort to create more populations or across schools. Usability refers to how consistency and confidence that students are mastering policymakers, school leaders and teachers make sense of and respond to assessment and evaluation results. what they need to be successful in the future. Alignment of assessments and evaluations with standards Creating consistency in teachers’ judgment of learning and curriculum is crucial to usability. begins with the development of the common learning framework that identifies the learning targets, common In the most developed competency-based systems, rubrics for each performance level and example of summative assessments are organized to meet students [#10 Intentionality & Alignment] where they are rather than based on pacing guidelines for proficient student work. From there several structures play key roles in creating covering grade-level standards. Students show evidence consistency: of learning or are assessed summatively after a teacher has determined that the student is proficient. Thus, summative assessments are designed to confirm proficiency as a form Balanced System of Assessments of quality control. Competency-based systems emphasize a balanced approach to assessment that drives powerful learning that leads toward common outcomes. Elements of a Assessment Literacy balanced system of assessment includes: strong emphasis Given the critical role assessment plays in the cycle on formative assessment for learning including productive of learning, competency-based systems invest in feedback, multiple opportunities for students to reach building assessment literacy throughout the districts proficiency, multiple measures used to determine and schools. Assessment literacy—the knowledge and proficiency, assessment aligned with depth of knowledge of skills to use the full range of types of assessment which learning targets including performance-based assessment are developmentally appropriate on behalf of helping and opportunities for students to pursue personalized students to learn—becomes a priority after the first stage strategies to provide evidence of learning. of implementation. As districts and schools advance in implementation, attention to the system of and knowledge Districts and schools integrate assessment and grading as about appropriate assessments increases. Professional part of the learning process: assessment illuminates what learning about assessment often includes attention students need to know, provides students with low-stakes to formative assessment including the use of learning 115 opportunities to practice and self-assess what they know to better understand how students are progressions throughout the learning cycle and develops feedback that solving problems. Student knowledge around self- students and educators can use to improve. The result assessment gains in importance. Districts and schools is that students understand the role of assessment as frequently invest in building the capacity and professional meaningful to their learning. They see it as the doorway learning around assessment literacy, especially around through which they are able to receive the feedback performance-based assessment, if they do not yet have and differentiated instructional support to help them be it integrated into their ongoing pre-service and in-service successful. Assessment is the way teachers show they [#8 Rigorous Higher-Level Skills] professional learning. care for the student by wanting them to be successful, not something by which they are judged. Clear definitions and Moderation and Calibration criteria to evaluate evidence of proficiency are core to a Two processes are critical for creating the consistency meaningful system of assessments. Validity refers to the need for a high-quality, equitable competency-based degree to which assessments and evaluations measure system: moderation and calibration. Moderation is a what they are intended to measure (i.e., how well they are process used to evaluate and improve comparability. aligned with standards and curriculum). Reliability refers The process involves having teachers (or others) work to to the consistency and stability of results across student 79 i NACOL

82 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION develop a common understanding of varying levels of It is by creating these structures that districts and schools quality of student work. Calibration describes the process can consistently know that students are learning, and of creating consistent, shared understanding of what credential learning authentically. The result is that teachers, proficiency means for learning targets for specific levels of students and parents can all have confidence that they performance (or grade levels) and requires teachers to look know where a student is performing along the learning at student work together. Moderation processes must take continuum (i.e., grade level) and growth (where they started place within and across schools, and even across districts, and how they are progressing on their learner continuum). to ensure that students are all held to high standards. Then, there is a need to calibrate the grading practices so Policies and Practices to Look For that teachers can consistently determine proficiency and • Structures and processes are in place to ensure that identify what students need to learn to reach proficiency. the instruction and assessments are fully aligned with Calibration, like moderation, builds professional knowledge the learning objectives and offer rich and frequent while also operating as a formal mechanism that ensures opportunities for students to perform at the highest students are advancing upon mastery. possible depth of knowledge. • Teachers engage in calibration or joint scoring of student As schools begin to integrate rigorous deeper learning, work to ensure inter-rater reliability. moderation and calibration will be needed to help teachers consistently determine higher-order and transferable skills • Teacher-generated performance assessments are demonstrated through performance tasks, performance- strengthened by engaging in task validation protocols. based assessments, portfolios and capstone projects. In • States, districts and schools establish moderation the future, it is likely that moderation processes will need processes to ensure that levels of proficiency and to be expanded even further to support teachers in the mastery (application of the skills and knowledge) are process of understanding levels of development in the aligned to state standards and shared among teachers. building blocks for learning such as metacognition, social • Professional learning communities seek to create and emotional skills, self-regulation and traits such as consistency in determining learning. Teachers provide perseverance. Moderation processes can take place within feedback to their colleagues if they credential students as schools, across schools and across districts in a state. reaching proficiency when they haven’t. Proficiency-Based Diploma • Transparency in the learning cycle and grading Proficiency-based diplomas are being developed to provides feedback on student progress and is designed create consistency in what students know and can do to recognize and monitor growth with improved upon graduation. Essentially, the graduate profile drives consistency and reliability. Students are able to see alignment and also the requirements for graduation. examples of proficiency work on the walls of classrooms When used as a high leverage policy, the introduction or in other resources. of a proficiency-based diploma can catalyze districts • Districts and schools have mechanisms in place for and schools to become more responsive to students so quality assurance to ensure that variation is not creating that they are fully supported in their learning starting in situation of lower expectations for some students or elementary school. However, if districts don’t make the students advancing without the opportunity to fully necessary adjustments to ensure students are building master skills. mastery for all the critical learning objectives in the younger years, pressure builds at the high school level about how to respond to students with gaps in their learning within the four years, so that they can demonstrate mastery of all the graduation competencies. 80 i NACOL

83 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs proficient. Students know which teachers have high Examples of Red Flags expectations and which ones don’t. The so-called “hard” Teachers are spending substantial time on unpacking 3 teachers have high expectations and will make students standards and writing rubrics, without looking at stretch to receive a high grade. In competency-based The student work to moderate their understanding. systems all teachers should be “hard” holding high development of the common learning framework with expectations for all students. High-achieving students clear learning targets and rubrics can easily slip into in competency-based schools will often remark that a bureaucratic process rather than one focused on they have to work harder because they are expected to teaching and learning. Make sure teachers are spending demonstrate their learning, not just memorize for a test. time looking at student work, talking about what proficiency looks like, and building their assessment literacy. Manage refinements of documents on an annual basis so that it doesn’t take up too much of teachers’ precious time together. Great professional development can take place when teachers talk about student learning, instruction and assessment as they Maximize #12 design and refine the learning continuum. 3 Standards-based grading is introduced too early Transparency without the structures for consistency in place. Many districts turn to standards-based grading too early in We started along the path toward the process, often based on the misconception that mastery-based learning when we began to “ by doing so they will be considered competency- based. The infrastructure of the learning framework to ask ourselves: Why do we assess? Why do ensure consistency and mastery—aligned instruction we grade? We realized that every teacher and assessment, the mechanisms of moderation did it differently. The transparency and and calibration and flexibility for students to receive intentionality of mastery-based learning support when they need it—should all be in place before introducing grading practices organized around makes a huge difference for our teachers standards. Too often districts say they are doing and our students. Our teachers are much standards-based grading with the intent to make sure more intentional about what they want every student fully masters the standards when they are actually using standards-referenced processes that to achieve in their classrooms. It has also provide feedback based on common standards without opened up the door to rich conversations making the commitment to help every student achieve about what is important for students to them. An additional risk is that students may only be learn, pedagogy, and the instructional receiving feedback based on grade level standards without attention to addressing gaps. Thus, students strategies we are using. For students, are not being held to same standards and false signals the transparency is empowering and about student progress continue. motivating. They are more engaged in Students can tell you who are the “easy” educators and 3 taking responsibility for their own education the “hard” educators in which the hard educators have expectations for students to master the knowledge than ever before.” and skills. In the traditional model, teachers have Lara Evangelista, Principal, Flushing International High School, New 116 autonomy over grading and what they determine as York City Department of Education, 2016 81 i NACOL

84 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Assessment for learning. • Students receive feedback so Description that they understand exactly what they need to learn The common learning framework of student learning and do to reach proficiency. Teachers are skilled in objectives is transparent to all. Students know where they assessment for learning to provide effective feedback are on their learner continuum, their progress and growth. for students to address misconceptions and successfully Transparency of the teaching and learning philosophy also reach proficiency. facilitates student ownership and builds intrinsic motivation for students. Distributed leadership depends on access Instructional and assessment level of knowledge. • to guiding principles and data to support collaborative Teachers are aware of and align the instruction and decision-making. As a result, everyone can be actively assessment to the appropriate depth of knowledge called engaged in the process of continuous improvement. for by the learning target. Transparency isn’t only about information. It is also Grading is an indicator of progress, not judgment • relational in creating open, honest and when needed or comparison. Schoolwide grading policies provide dialogue that addresses problems and challenges bias. Trust feedback on how students are progressing toward builds as understanding of different perspectives deepen. mastering learning objectives with transparency about performance level of student. Key Characteristics Timeliness. • Information on student data is available in Common learning framework. A common learning • a timely fashion that supports instructional decision- framework or continuum of learning has been agreed making. upon and shared among teachers, students and families Students and educators can monitor • Student-centered. about what knowledge and skills students are expected learning across a variety of domains and performance to learn. The framework includes learning targets along levels. with rubrics and examples of proficient student work. • Responsive supports. Data on student learning supports In early stage competency-based schools, this tends to educators to provide students with targeted supports to be similar to grade-level state standards. Districts and help them advance. schools may choose to organize around competencies that describe the core sets of skills students are expected • District and school leadership Decision-making criteria. to know upon graduation that are then organized to and teams have shared purpose and agreed upon criteria communicate specific performance or grade levels. to help guide decision-making. The most developed districts and schools use a “learner Investing in quality of relationships. The culture of the • continuum” that includes multiple performance or grade school is nurtured to support strong relationships that levels to indicate student progression based on where can look honestly and deeply at individual, group or they are rather than where they should be based on their systemic issues related to student learning. age. Information is available and accessible Student progress. • to students, educators and families on where students are in terms of advancing upon targeted learning objectives including grade level targets and personal growth based on a learner continuum. 82 i NACOL

85 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs advance and making it increasingly challenging for students How Is Establishing Transparency Related to to progress toward college and career readiness. When Quality? learning is transparent, however, educators and students know where gaps are and can address them proactively Competency education has helped with timely and differentiated supports. Students advance the entire school and students get on the “ with confidence that they have skills to tackle more advanced challenges. Furthermore, when transparency same wavelength. With transparency in leads to honest conversations between teachers, students competencies, conversations focus in on and families about how to help students become learning. Transparency allows for an entirely successful in their learning, trust blossoms. Trust rooted in different type of relationship between relationships fosters support for students to be persistent in spite of challenges. Awareness, trust, effort and persistence students and their teachers to form.” are catalytic: they empower students to take ownership and Brian Stack, Principal, Sanborn Regional High School, Sanborn continually move toward mastery. 117 Regional School District, 2015 Transparency is particularly essential in competency- The traditional education system is highly opaque and based systems that include personalized pathways. demonstrates significant variability in defining what it Transparency ensures educators can monitor whether means to be proficient. Traditional mechanisms like students on different pathways are progressing toward grades and transcripts do not accurately reflect how well common rigorous outcomes. Additionally, transparency a student actually knows content or demonstrates skills. helps students and educators integrate learning that occurs This inaccuracy makes it harder for students to drive their across a variety of learning environments: in the classroom, own learning and for educators to meet students where in the community and online. This can be an important they are. Trust and confidence in the schools is shaken part of helping students to make connections and co- when students and families receive false signals and mixed design learning experiences that are relevant to their messages about student progress. lives. There are several aspects of transparency that are critically important for operationalizing competency-based Competency-based systems ensure that goals, learning education: common learning framework, student agency, targets, exemplars of proficiency and student progress are grades and information management/reporting. fully transparent and available to students and educators on a timely basis. They build capacity for comparability, validity Common Learning Framework and Learning Targets and reliability in assessments and grading practices to The common learning framework is the structure to which ensure that data is meaningful, and that students are truly all other aspects of the competency-based systems align. [#11 Consistency & Reliability] mastering content and skills. When the learning framework is transparent, teachers can build a shared understanding of proficiency, align Transparency plays multiple roles in creating high- instruction and assessment to the appropriate depth quality and more equitable systems. First and foremost, it of knowledge, and share knowledge of instructional eliminates the practice of signaling that a student is doing [#10 Intentionality & Alignment and #8 Rigorous strategies. fine with an A, B, or C grade even though they may be Higher-Level Skills] Students can understand learning targets performing at two, three or more years below grade level. and what proficiency looks like, which helps them to take When schools fail to help students master content and skill, more ownership of their learning, seek and use feedback students move forward with holes in their learning that limit to reach proficiency and use different ways of learning and and impair future learning. These gaps compound over [#7 Student Agency & Ownership] demonstrate their learning. time, becoming harder and harder to mitigate as students 83 i NACOL

86 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION In the early stages of creating transparency about the Grading and Transcripts Once the common learning framework, moderation learning goals and aligning assessments, teachers may recognize that they are teaching and assessing at lower and calibration mechanisms and system of supports for levels of depth of knowledge than what is called for by the students are in place, districts and schools can replace traditional grading practices with ones based around the standards. This may cause frustration, disappointment and even a hint of shame. This is an important opportunity to learning targets. Competency-based schools use rubrics for each learning target. Grading provides feedback instill the culture of learning—helping teachers to recognize on the progress toward reaching proficiency. Progress the value of a transparency system, collaboration and learning from mistakes. This can also be a place to develop reports or report cards provide feedback to students and teacher leaders who embrace the mantra of “doing right for parents about student growth as well as where students are in terms of grade-level expectations. Students value our kids” to help move past the frustration, turning it into a the competency-based grading practices as they provide drive to do better. specific feedback on what students need to learn or Student Agency improve to reach mastery. Transcripts are beginning to In addition to the building blocks of learning, students need change as well to show what students know and can do. information about the learning process, the learning targets To date, many admissions offers at colleges and universities and their own progress to take ownership of their learning. say that they value proficiency-based transcripts as long as In competency-based schools, students know the specific 119 there is an accompanying letter of explanation. learning targets they are working on, what proficiency looks like and the options they have for learning, practice and The thing that convinced me is that in demonstrating learning. They learn to set and reflect on the traditional grading systems, when a goals for learning with their teachers. “ student would come and ask how they could Transparency is a powerful aspect of the learning cycle. do better in a class, all I could really say was Assessments for learning make it clear to students what study more. The grades didn’t guide me as a they need to continue to work on. They know exactly what they need to learn and demonstrate to reach teacher. There was no way to help students proficiency. Similarly, effective use of assessments enable improve. With mastery-based grading, we teachers to tailor instruction and supports so students talk about specific learning outcomes. I reach their learning targets. Schools often turn to learning know exactly how to help students and they progressions, research on how students best move from concept to concept, to better understand how students are know exactly where their strengths and developing understanding and solving problems. weaknesses are.” Rosmery Milczewski, Teacher, Flushing International High School, 120 It takes bravery to want to have more New York City Department of Education, NY, 2016 transparency. It takes bravery to say your “ eighth grader has been getting Bs, but they are in fact reading at sixth grade level.” John Duval, former Director of Model Redesign Team in the Office of Postsecondary Readiness, New York City Department of Education, 118 NY, 2016 84 i NACOL

87 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT Pace processes that include instructional strategies, effectiveness of structures and resource allocation. We’ve learned that it is important to Given the current accountability policy environment, focus on helping students to learn skills. “ most competency-based schools are trying to meet Without the skills or habits of work, students students where they are while still covering the standards. This tension may lend itself to innovating more effective are self-paced. With the skills, they become instructional strategies. However, there is tremendous risk self-directed learners.” in continuing to turn our backs on the learning sciences 121 Matt Shea, Coordinator of Student Achievement, RSU2, ME, 2016 that clearly guide us to meet students where they are. We need to address the misalignment in the traditional system that forces teaching at one grade level and pace instead of In competency-based education, pace is based on student meeting students where they are. Instead, a competency- mastery of the learning targets, not the teacher pacing based education system would allow us to measure both guide to deliver the curriculum. It allows us to think of pace pace and depth of learning as key indicators for quality differently, based on student learning and progress. Pace and equity. If we fail to address the issue of meeting is a ratio of individual student growth and time, and it is an students where they are and holding them to the same high important indicator in personalized, competency-based expectations with criteria for deeper learning, this is going systems as it indicates whether students are adequately to result in students continuing to receive a lower quality of progressing along their trajectory and receiving timely, education. responsive additional supports. If a student entering school with significant gaps in academic knowledge and skills is progressing two grade levels over one year, it is a pace of Information Management 2.0 whereas a student at grade level may be learning at a pace of 1.0. It is easier to think of the student at grade level The students can’t hide by sitting in the as being “faster” but in fact that student is covering less back of the room quietly. We know who they “ distance on the learning continua. With transparency about pace, teachers, students and families are able to work are, not because of an early intervention together to ensure student progress. system, but because our system is based on knowing exactly where students are Schools monitor student learning to ensure that students in their academic journey and how they are progressing at a pace that puts them on a pathway to graduation, always seeking to balance accelerated learning are progressing. We know if a student with opportunities for deeper learning. Monitoring pace is is entering from one of our elementary an important function in driving toward quality and equity. schools with higher math skills but is still As districts and schools monitor growth, other questions arise. Are students receiving effective instructional struggling with writing in English. We know strategies that take into consideration what they know the ones who need extra coaching because and don’t know? Are they receiving supports they need their self-directed lifelong learner skills when they need them? Do they have opportunities for aren’t very well developed.” deeper learning? Are students learning at a rate that is moving them forward and not leaving them behind? These Brett Grimm, Assistant Principal of Curriculum & Instruction, Lindsay 122 High School, Lindsay Unified School District, CA 2015 discussions form the crux of the continuous improvement 85 i NACOL

88 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Transparency becomes an even more powerful design can tell you what they are working on, how it relates to principle when data on student progress is made available competencies they will need in their future and how they to students, teachers, families, and school and district are going to demonstrate their learning. leadership. Districts and schools are still handicapped • Students are using the learning targets to co-design by information technology products that continue projects with community partners where they will be to be grounded in grade-level standards rather than able to apply their knowledge and skills. Students can student-centered approaches. Information management demonstrate their learning as it relates to their passions, systems will need to be designed to aggregate data for interests and goals by partnering with local and global accountability purposes, or what might be thought of as community members to create service learning or quality control. This would include the effectiveness of entrepreneurial experiences that contribute toward schools in producing student growth and helping every graduation requirements. student get on track for graduation. Finally, with the • There is a high-functioning system in place to track goal of helping students discover their potential, student students’ progress, to capture and store the evidence information systems will need to be designed to allow for that demonstrates their progress and communicate their tracking information on the personal pursuits of students progress. Students use the reporting systems to identify beyond common outcomes. The hope is that eventually goals, store their body of evidence and reflect upon their transcripts become meaningful tools for students to tell the lifelong learning skills. story of who they are, what they know and what they want 123 to achieve in the future. Examples of Red Flags 3 Schools create rigid linear paths for learning that all Policies and Practices to Look For students must follow. Transparency should enable • The learning objectives such as competencies and flexibility. When students have access to the common standards are explicit and transparent. Examples of learning framework that defines what they should student work at proficiency for each performance level know and be able to do, they should also have input are easily accessible. Learner continua are student- on how they advance. Students may bring ideas of centered to reflect where students are in their learning demonstrating mastery in after school programs, church journey. activities or their summer job. Advancement upon • Assessment criteria is transparent so that students can mastery implies ensuring every student learns but not bring evidence of learning from other classes and from exactly in the same pathway. Professional judgment activities beyond the walls of the classroom. should always be used so that advancing upon mastery • Districts are open and honest in all communication. does not become a bureaucratic checklist that confines Clarity of intentions, expectations, learning targets and students to rigid linear pathways. Some academic feedback ensures everyone has the information to domains, such as math, have prerequisite skills, and advance their goals. students may need to learn some before doing others. However, it is possible that doing the higher-level • Students and parents understand that there is a studies may actually help students to make connections difference between age-based grade level and and see how other lower-level skills are applied. personalized performance level and where students are The common learning framework or continuum is only 3 in each academic domain. In many schools, available for age-based grade level. • Grading practices and policies are clear, fair and the focus is still on covering grade-level standards. It communicate student progress in their learning. is expected that all students start at the same place in • Students understand where they are in their personalized the curriculum at the beginning of the semester and pathway and the cycle of learning. When asked, students 86 i NACOL

89 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs expected to finish by the end. Grade books only include Description grade-level learning targets. The problem is that many Educators, both teachers and leaders, are active learners students need to repair gaps that require them to focus who have regular opportunities to engage with colleagues on targets at lower levels. Or they may have already to deepen their knowledge and skill. Educators progress on mastered the grade-level standards and are ready to a personalized learning trajectory as they build instructional work at the next level. Neither students or teachers are strategies to support higher-order skills and student recognized for repairing gaps or learning beyond grade agency, personalized classroom management and deeper level. Therefore, more student-centered approaches to domain-specific instructional strategies. Adult learning is the learning framework are needed by creating learner driven by student needs, which are used to define school- continua that represent multiple grade levels within or district-wide improvement goals, as well as personalized which students are learning. Learning continua create goals for every educator. Districts and schools put in place transparency about where students are working in the systems for educators to be supported in developing terms of level and growth. This can also help reduce the the mindsets and skills consistent with a culture of learning linearity of only focusing on grade level standards. and inclusivity including addressing bias. Once teachers have organized the learning continuua, be prepared for frustration that curriculum isn’t Key Characteristics designed well for the competency-based classroom. Shared definition of professional competency. Districts • Publishers create curricular resources on specific grade and schools articulate shared definitions of professional levels, with different products for elementary, middle competence: the knowledge, skills and mindsets and high school. Thus, a teacher in seventh grade trying that educators need to support student success in a to teach students with gaps at the fourth- or fifth-grade competency-based system. level may not have appropriate resources or be familiar Educators model growth mindset Teaching as learning. • with the elementary school curriculum. and continuous improvement in their practice. They take risks, learn through failure and reflect with their students. • Personalized development. Educators have access to opportunities for growth and learning that meet their individual needs and help them achieve professional goals. Invest in Educators #13 Educators have opportunities Collaborative practice. • to work together: they collaborate around instructional as Learners s design and continuous improvement practice. Educators e l p i c share responsibility for student success and for one Sure, we could make it easier for n i r P another’s development. n teachers, but then our students don’t “ g i s e Districts and schools support • Cultural competency. succeed. The other option is to admit that D e educators through the processes of investigating r u t teaching is a complex system, invest in c their own racial and cultural identities, identifying and u r t the systems, nurture the culture to support S addressing bias and developing skill sets for culturally responsive relationship and instruction. professional teachers...and have the kids Educator evaluation is aligned Aligned evaluation. • actually learn. It’s obvious which one is the with culture of competency-based education and the better choice.” pedagogical philosophy. This includes meeting teachers Jed Palmer, Head Teacher, Tatitlek Community School, Chugach where they are, feedback and supports in response to 124 School District, AK, 2015 mistakes and incentives for growth. 87 i NACOL

90 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Professional Practice and Educator Competencies How Is Investing in Adult Mindsets, Knowledge and Skills Related to Quality? Administrators at the district and school We are growing mastery at all levels, level worked shoulder to shoulder with “ supporting adults in the system as teachers as we became a competency-based “ respectfully and as meaningfully as we district. Our students have benefited as well support our learners in the K12 system.” as our teachers. We have developed a cadre Rebecca Midles, formerly Performance Based Learning Specialist, of teachers who are always seeking to build Lindsay Unified School District, CA and currently Executive Director of 125 Performance-Based Systems, District 51, CO, 2015 their expertise in instruction, assessment, grading, and technology. We are drawing on The importance of the principle that educators need to be the collective expertise across the district as supported as learners is very simple: for each and every we constantly improve our ability to support student to learn to high expectations, each and every our students.” adult needs time and support to build their professional competency. There will be some teachers already Ellen Hume-Howard, Curriculum Director, Sanborn Regional School 126 District, NH, 2015 familiar with many of the practices used in personalized, competency-based school. For others, competency education will demand learning new mindsets, new Educator Competencies for Personalized, Learner- In knowledge and new skills. Adult learning reflects the same , the Council of Chief State School Centered Teaching beliefs about learning that are held for students: it is based Officers and Jobs for the Future provide a helpful overview upon the learning sciences and seeks to meet teachers of the landscape of what teachers need to know and be [#6 Learning Sciences] where they are. able to do. Figure 5 introduces the four domains with the competencies listed below. As a result, districts and schools will want to have Cognitive Domain / Need to Know: the academic content frameworks for effective professional practice and offer and knowledge of brain and human development that meaningful opportunities for personal development personalized, learner-centered educators need to know to accordingly. For those districts that begin by clarifying the foster students’ cognitive and metacognitive development. principles of teaching and learning upfront, it is simply • Utilize in-depth understanding of content and learning a next step to then define the necessary competencies. progressions to engage learners and lead individual For those districts and schools that begin with structural learners toward mastery. changes and then discover their pedagogical principles through the process of alignment, it will be more likely an • Have knowledge of the sub-skills involved in effective ongoing process of refinement. communication and apply it to instructional strategies that develop learners into effective. • Communicators understand and employ techniques for developing students’ skills of metacognition, self- regulation and perseverance. 88 i NACOL

91 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT Figure 5. The Four Domains of Educator • Demonstrate an orientation toward and commitment to Competencies for Personalized, Learner-Centered lifelong professional learning. Teaching • Analyze evidence to improve personal practices. From The Educator Competencies for Personalized, Learner- Centered Teaching produced by the Council of Chief State School Interpersonal Domain / Need to Relate: the social, Officers and Jobs for the Future personal, and leadership skills educators need to relate with students, colleagues, and the greater community, particularly in multicultural, inclusive and linguistically diverse classrooms. COGNITIVE • Design, strengthen and participate in positive learning W NEED T O KNO environments (i.e., school and classroom culture) that support individual and collaborative learning. • Build strong relationships that contribute to individual and collective success. INTRAPERSONAL INSTRUC TIONAL • Contribute to college and career access and success for O PROCES S NEED T O DO NEED T all learners, particularly those historically marginalized and/or least served by public higher education due to differences in background, demographics, learning style, or culture. INTERPERSONAL • Seek appropriate individual or shared leadership roles O RELA NEED T TE to continue professional growth, advancement, and increasing responsibility for student learning and advancement. Instructional Domain / Need to Do: the pedagogical Intrapersonal Domain / Need to Process: the set of techniques that educators use—what they need to do—to “internal” skills and habits of mind that personalized, sustain a personalized, learner-centered environment for all learner-centered educators need to process, such as students. a growth mindset, high expectations for students and inquiry-based approaches to the teaching profession. • Use a mastery approach to learning. • Convey a dedication to all learners—especially those • Use assessment and data as tools for learning. historically marginalized and/or least served by public • Customize the learning experience. higher education—reaching college, career and civic • Promote student agency and ownership with regard to readiness. learning. • Demonstrate an orientation toward and commitment to • Provide opportunities for anytime/anywhere and real- a personalized, learner-centered vision for teaching and world learning tied to learning objectives and standards. learning. • Develop and facilitate project-based learning • Engage in deliberate practices of adapting and modeling experiences. persistence and a growth mindset. • Use collaborative group work. • Facilitate and prioritize shifting to and maintaining a learner-centered culture. • Use technology in service of learning. 89 i NACOL

92 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Districts and schools will set priorities for building capacity own contexts, they share certain attributes. Professional based on what they have already put into place, their roll- learning is inquiry-based and collaborative, as professional out strategies, and what is most important to respond to learning communities study data and student work to their student population. Many start with introduction of deepen understanding of student learning and adjust classroom management practices that create a culture of practice. Professional learning is personalized so that each learning and student ownership of their learning. Some teacher can build their skills in the context of their own schools prioritize laying a foundation of the growth mindset practice. And, professional learning is growth-oriented; it and building capacity around social and emotional learning. expects and even encourages learning from failure. Others with a strong focus on equity have emphasized introducing cultural responsiveness and building the Development, Growth, and Evaluation capacity to challenge bias as a critical step in improving Most districts and schools find themselves on a journey instruction and enhancing the culture of inclusivity. of intense learning and discovery in the first years of Teachers may well have many of these competencies converting to competency-based education. Teachers developed in their years in the classroom. Some may be frequently reflect that their first year in a competency- new to them or their school. It is unlikely any teacher is based context was their hardest year of teaching and going to become an expert in all of these areas quickly. their most meaningful. Because these shifts can be so Thus, schools may want to begin to think of assessing monumental and challenging, it is important to view and investing in collective organizational expertise with growth developmentally. Dramatic changes to professional the assumption that teachers will draw from each other’s practice will not happen overnight. These changes are likely knowledge as needed. to require corresponding changes in beliefs, assumptions and mindsets for some teachers. Changing beliefs will Inquiry-Based and Personalized Professional Learning require dialogue and opportunities to test assumptions. Some teachers will have a harder time than others when asked to let go of the idea that talent alone determines This is professional development at achievement (i.e. a fixed mindset) and from their its best. It’s not one-shot PD, it’s deep “ experiences in traditional school. conversations with colleagues, sometimes Professional growth happens optimally when evaluation, one-to-one and sometimes in groups incentives and reward structures are aligned with the talking about expectations, assessments, purpose, values and culture of competency-based and instruction. It was beneficial that we had education. It is harder for teachers to fully commit and put forth the effort to try new practices in their classrooms also begun the shift toward more inquiry- when they worry that they will be penalized for it in based learning, as we needed to have a evaluations. Thus, leaders will want to align evaluation, pay, shared understanding of pedagogy to make and have other structures to reinforce the growth mindset decisions.” in which failures are anticipated and taken advantage of to further learning. Andrew Clayman, Assistant Principal, Flushing International High School, New York City Department of Education, 2016 In a competency-based system, educators model the process of learning for students as they engage in their own development. While districts and schools will develop different approaches to professional learning based on their 90 i NACOL

93 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs based on their prior knowledge and goals for improving It’s not that teachers are going to be instructional skills. replaced by technology. We need them “ • Teachers are able to explain what they are learning and more than ever. Their jobs are changing what it took for them to learn new knowledge, skills and practices. to become more challenging and more meaningful. Teachers are increasingly Examples of Red Flags embracing a growth mindset for themselves Introducing personalized, competency-based 3 education without time for educators to meet, learn so that they truly believe they can learn to or plan together. Too many times, schools start down teach students higher order skills, coach the path toward competency-based education without students in the habits of work, and deeply first laying the groundwork for educators to become learners. Schools need to create schedules that have know their disciplines. Our job at the district adequate time for teachers to plan, collaborate, review and for principals is to create the conditions student data and learn. Robust professional learning for teachers to grow.” communities or similar structures are a non-negotiable. John Duval, former Director of Model Redesign Team in the Office of Integrating new knowledge and skills into teacher 3 Postsecondary Readiness, New York City Department of Education, NY 127 2016 evaluation systems without providing opportunities With the impetus to fully for personalized growth. align structures, districts may begin to revise the Policies and Practices to Look For teacher evaluation system too soon. Teachers may not • Teachers are supported in building the necessary feel comfortable taking risks to learn new practices knowledge and skills well before the new knowledge if they believe it will have consequences if they fail. and skills are integrated into high-stakes professional It is important to sequence building a system of evaluations. support to teachers to build the new knowledge and • There are frequent opportunities for educators to skills well before the day they are evaluated. More meet, plan and learn together. Professional learning advanced competency-based districts find they need communities are valued, resourced and nurtured. to rethink teacher evaluation to be consistent with the organizational culture and guiding beliefs about learning • Teachers have opportunities to collaboratively pilot new and motivation. There are likely to be inconsistencies approaches. between the values and beliefs undergirding the • Student data and student work is used to inform personalized, competency-based approach and professional learning. those informing the state teacher evaluation systems • Teachers support each other in identifying and and state professional teaching standards. These are eliminating bias and inequitable practices. Leadership opportunities for the school community to recommit to is responsive when teachers bring forward examples of the shared purpose as well as engage state leadership in inequitable systemic policies and practices. understanding ways they can create policies that are fit for the purpose of ensuring every student successfully • Educators are supported in their learning and taking risks reaches readiness for college, career and life. at a level they feel comfortable. For some, this means jumping into personalized classroom management, and for others it means trying one new practice at a time. • Professional development has been personalized so that educators are accessing coaching and training 91 i NACOL

94 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION School leaders value organizational agility and use distributed leadership so that decisions can be made by people closest to students. Districts provide schools with autonomy to manage budgets and resources so that they can be responsive to students and have the freedom for improvement and innovation. #14 Increase Organizational Flexibility Key Characteristics Learning resources, Strategic resources and practices. • From day one, I have always shared including time, space, materials, people and money, can be used flexibly to best support students’ unique with our staff that we can approach and “ motivations and learning needs. reach our mission and vision a thousand • Decision-making clarity. There are clear frameworks for different ways, but we can not have a decision-making to ensure that flexibility has guardrails thousand different mission and visions...we and to support collaborative responses to students and will always have one. We are all committed emerging implementation issues. to our mission and vision, and it’s just the • Autonomy. To be responsive, empowerment and autonomy is needed. Schools have autonomy to manage way that we do business. However, we can resources and teachers have ample autonomy to select have a thousand ways to get there. We are instructional practices to meet student needs. always innovating, and with that comes • Schools are organized to Timely differentiated supports. new approaches to supporting learning and provide flexibility so that students can have access and teachers can provide supports in a timely manner. building opportunities for our students.” While resources are flexible and used to support Equity. • James Murray, Principal, Waukesha STEM Academy, Waukesha School 128 District, WI, 2017 every student, they are also levers for equity. Among the many considerations that drive how resources are utilized, teachers and leaders prioritize ensuring that Description students who have been marginalized or who need more Schools require autonomy to be responsive and flexible to supports can access them. Decisions are made as much meet student needs. Once we know where students are in as possible around ensuring a growth rate of one or more their learning, it is incumbent upon a competency-based performance levels per year. system to respond in ways that will engage, motivate and Districts and schools have high- Responsive systems. • provide the needed instructional support. This adaptability functioning systems that can manage and accommodate requires a flexible structure. The organization of districts flexible practice. They strike the right balance of and schools enables educators to respond to students managing autonomous practice within established with personalized and differentiated strategies. Resources parameters, and promoting flexibility through proactive, are flexible—learning spaces, materials, modalities, customized approaches to support. Some refer to this as support, time and technology are used strategically to a “customer service” orientation; districts and schools do ensure each student has what they need to succeed. not set out to enforce classroom practice, but rather to Instructional strategies are also flexible and may call for ensure that teachers and students have what they need direct instruction, small groups or project-based learning. to succeed while operating with the bounds of shared Teachers have autonomy to organize tools and resources, agreements. including hands-on and online instructional strategies. 92 i NACOL

95 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT structural lens. For individuals to take leadership, they must There is ongoing questioning What’s best for kids. • of the habits, routines and practices of the traditional operate in a system that has the adaptive capability to system to understand the underlying beliefs, rationale support flexible practice. and implications for students and learning. Decisions are made as much as possible based on what’s best for Shared Purpose, Decision-Making Clarity & Autonomy students. Leaders then navigate these decisions within Creating an agile organization begins with a shared their current policy context, modeling creative leadership . Many districts reduce this to [#1 Purpose Driven] purpose rather than a compliance mentality. the powerful mantra “What’s Best for Kids?” that renews the commitment to why districts and schools turned to Improvement. • Systems need to understand the competency-based education in the first place. An agile relationship between resources, practices and outcomes. organization has shared criteria for decision-making that Districts and schools have systems to examine how enables distributed leadership strategies. The strategic resources are used and to observe correlations between plan or guiding principles are often placed on the wall their usage and student success. These data are used to in a conference room where team meetings are held, improve resource allocation in the future. not hidden in a notebook on a shelf, to be considered in making decisions. Autonomy is negotiated so that How Is Increasing Organizational Flexibility Related boundaries are clear. Schools need autonomy to deploy to Quality? resources and teachers need autonomy to use their professional judgment to provide what is best for students. We are challenging everything except for state-required credits and the concept “ Learner Continuum Once the learning framework is developed, some districts of courses. Courses end up being helpful that are fiercely dedicated to meeting students where ways of organizing learning. But they don’t they are turn to a learner continuum rather than relying all have to run the same period of time. only on grade-level learning objectives as defined by state We use seminars that are four to six weeks standards. The difference between the two is that the learner continuum is student-centered and shows the and shorter one to two week workshops to span of performance levels and standards the students are organize learning as well.” working on. Thus, one learner’s continuum may span three Kevin Erickson, Director of KM Perform, Kettle Moraine School District, performance levels as they perform at level 8 in math, 7 129 WI, 2017 in reading and writing and 6 in science. However, many districts are finding it difficult to shift away from frameworks In competency-based systems, schools and teachers are that are organized solely around grade-level standards. This able to respond to student needs: to engage, motivate and is due to three dynamics: federal and state accountability provide them with the resources and support they need policies that drive statewide assessment based on the to succeed. This adaptability requires flexibility—schools age/grade of students, information management systems and teachers cannot respond to students if they have no for tracking student learning that are organized around wiggle room in a bureaucratic, top down system. Earlier course and grade and teacher preparation that has trained we describe this as an element of culture and clarify how teachers for delivery of grade-level curriculum rather than leaders create systems and structures that encourage instructional strategies that meet students where they are. teachers and students to take leadership over their learning [#5 Empowering & Distributed and professional practice. Here, we look at a similar principle from a Leadership] 93 i NACOL

96 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Planning for Not Yet and manage relationships with community partners to develop real-world experiences and problems to solve, and deploying staff flexibly so that students below or above I have to be creative with the budget. We grade level are well served. monitor how students are doing so we can “ anticipate the numbers that will be in school Investing in Professional Judgment in summer. Last year, I put aside funding for Professional judgment is highly valued in competency- based systems. A culture of distributed leadership develops the ‘not yet’ students.” processes to ensure that teachers—the people who are Juan Carlos Ocón, Principal, Benito Juarez Community Academy, 130 closest to students—can make optimal decisions in support Chicago Public Schools, IL, 2017 of student learning. The shared pedagogical philosophy developed by districts and schools provide common The phrase “factory model” is often used to describe guardrails or boundaries within which teachers build their the traditional education system because of its rigidity. capacity for a variety of instructional strategies. Most Students enter a time-based system that passes them along important, teachers are fully supported in building their regardless of whether they learned what was expected of knowledge and skills to better support students in their them. The system rarely slows down or adjusts to students’ [#13 Educators as Learners] learning journey. needs. Students graduate with tragically inadequate skills, or do not graduate at all. It is paradoxical that federal Challenging the Habits and Practices of the Traditional accountability policies that exposed gaping achievement Model gaps in the traditional education system have also Once educators begin to deconstruct the traditional reinforced some of the practices that produce those very education model, a door swings open to question many same gaps by requiring grade level assessments that inform of the policies and practices that shape what we have accountability but do not contribute to student learning. known as school. In addition to replacing completion of [See Fit for Purpose: Taking the Long View on Systems Change 131 a semester or a course as a proxy of achievement with and Policy to Support Competency Education for alternative demonstration of learning, districts and schools begin to approaches to accountability.] question grading, what makes effective curriculum, grading and staffing patterns. Many districts are turning to new In contrast, competency-based districts and schools are structures designed to build stronger relationships: organized around the assumption that at some point every student is going to encounter challenges in their learning, • Introducing multi-age bands has helped teachers learn and that those challenges will require additional instruction, to focus on meeting students where they are rather than support and time. In other words, they plan for students covering the curriculum. to be “not yet proficient.” It is a common misconception • Ninth-grade academies allow a small group of teachers that competency-based education is self-paced. It would to take responsibility for ensuring students are fully be better thought of as “responsively paced,” as schools prepared for the transition to high school with attention persevere to figure out what is needed to help students to repairing gaps and strengthening the building blocks succeed. Structurally, this includes budgeting for additional of learning so students are ready to take more ownership instructional support; scheduling for extra support during of their learning. the day, after school, on the weekends, or even for a • Micro-schools or programs of 75-150 students create few days after the semester and through the summer. ease in adjusting to students based on their progress. Additionally, this includes investing in capacity to build 94 i NACOL

97 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs Districts and schools are also adjusting the calendar and that students have to endure not understanding new schedules to offer “courses” that run for different periods content because they didn’t get the chance to fully learn the prerequisite skills. Competency-based districts of time, opportunities for students to put all their attention and schools often create “flex time” during the school to robust projects and creating time for students to pursue day. Some schools use lunch or after school for extra inquiry-based research or capstones. support but these are not sustainable strategies and may create inequity for those students that have after Policies and Practices to Look For school responsibilities. It may take moral courage and • Policies, operations and resource deployment strategies creativity to create a schedule that values providing ensure that every student has access to timely, timely support if there are state policies that are rooted differentiated instruction and supports. in archaic time based policies such as not considering • Time is flexible to ensure students can master support provided to students as instruction. content without having to repeat courses or grades. Students repeat courses and go to summer school for 3 Competency-based schools provide flex time during “retake. ” Having students sit through an entire course the day for students to receive additional instructional rather than receive targeted instruction based on their support. individual needs is an inefficient use of resources and • Schools have a high level of control over their budgets can lead to boredom if students already know some and hiring to increase agility to respond to student needs, of the material. Furthermore, students that may be interests, changing demographics and opportunities. performing at a lower grade level or have gaps should be able to participate in summer school not because • Scheduling is designed to offer frequent support they failed a course but because they need time and for students who are struggling and opportunities support to accelerate their learning so that they can get for teachers to work within professional learning on track to graduation. communities. • Districts and schools support teachers in creating high- quality learning experiences and building the professional Our community doesn’t want a fully judgment of teachers. online experience for their kids. They “ • Summer school is arranged for students to focus on are wary of too much screen time. So we specific learning objectives based on students’ learner are looking for ways that technology can continua, not repeat courses. enhance the experience and enhance the • Schools and teachers seek out information about the personalization.” learner continua of entering students or students that will be in their classes so that they can prepare to continue to Karen Perry, Special Projects Coordinator, Henry County School 132 District, GA, 2016 support students are in their learning journey. Examples of Red Flags 3 The school schedule only provides a flex time for Students individual support once a week or not at all. are going to begin to disconnect from their learning if they have to wait several days or weeks before getting the help they need. And in some classes it might mean 95 i NACOL

98 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Accountability is balanced with systems of support for improvement, growth and development. • Courageous conversations. Continuous improvement efforts are rooted in strong, trusting relationships and the skills for dialogue around uncomfortable discussions about inequity and bias. Develop Processes #15 Data systems provide valid, reliable, Robust data systems. • for Ongoing Continuous s e timely data to support continuous improvement practice. l p i c Districts seek to have data on student growth and rate of Improvement and n i r P learning based on learner continua, not just grade-level n g i Organizational Learning s standards. e D e r Districts and school have regular, Robust data practice. • u t We aren’t done innovating until 100 c collaborative and rigorous data practices in place. u r t S percent of our students are graduating.” “ Multiple measures. • Districts and school use multiple Ty Cesene, Principal, Bronx Arena, New York City Department of measure of quantitative and qualitative data. Multiple 133 Education , NY, 2014 measures (formative, summative, diagnostic and looking at student work) are used to understand trends and patterns in student growth and achievement. Multiple Description measure also include social and emotional data points to Quality systems model the same learning orientation understand students holistic development. and growth mindset that they seek to foster in students. They continuously innovate and improve to overcome • District and school operations have Agile operations. challenges and optimize systems in service of equitable the flexibility to be adapted as continuous improvement student outcomes. At the classroom level, teachers are processes reveal the need for new practices, systems and able to respond to student learning and adjust practice to supports. monitor pace, progress and growth. At the organizational level, districts and schools are agile enough to adjust How Is Continuous Improvement and systems and structures based on student data. As they Organizational Learning Related to Quality? adjust one piece of the system, they are mindful to modify adjacent or interdependent pieces to maintain coherence. We have to be courageous to confront Continuous improvement helps overcome bias and inequitable practices, redirect resources toward students activities that aren’t moving kids in their “ who need support, and test new ideas that can improve learning. We can’t be afraid to confront the overall learning and school performance. truth. If a process isn’t working, either refine it or scrap it.” Key Characteristics Virgel Hammonds, former Superintendent of RSU2, ME and currently • Growth-oriented. Improvement is approached as a 134 Chief Learning Officer, KnowledgeWorks 2014 learning process where failure is an opportunity for reflection and learning. Creating an intentional and aligned system requires Educators, students and families Mutual accountability. • continuous improvement to monitor processes and take collective responsibility for student learning and continue to build organizational knowledge needed commit to improving so that all students succeed. for fidelity in implementation. Furthermore, creating an 96 i NACOL

99 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs equitable education system demands that we reduce the Continual improvement starts with questions to guide predictive value of race, gender, class and disability in action-based research. Inquiries posed and studied surface the classroom. Instead of pointing to external policies or evidence-based insights. This process generates ideas for children and their families as the problem when students future action, which in turn leads to hypotheses that can aren’t successfully learning, competency-based education be tested, outcomes that can be evaluated and changes engages in continuous improvement to revisit school in practice. Districts and schools use different protocols to designs, culture, structure and pedagogy. The fundamental inform their continuous improvement. What matters most belief at the core of continuous improvement practice is is the quality of their questions, hypotheses and tests; the all students can learn at high levels when provided the this: consistency and rigor of their process; the degree to which right experiences and supports in the right environment, their learning is collaborative, reflective, and trust-building; — we, the educators and leaders, in and it is our job and the strength of their ability to implement changes in — partnership with students and families to continue to learn practice that emerge from their inquiry. and improve until we have provided them these things. Questions that educators and leaders may want to ask Competency-based education is learning-centered. include the following. Students continue to learn until they reach mastery. • What patterns do we see about students who are Leaders and educators continue to learn about instructional struggling and those that are thriving? What may be strengths and weaknesses, negative impact of bias and contributing to these patterns? What contributing factors institutional policies, and how to provide the right mix of result from our own practice? supports to students until all students succeed. To make • What patterns do we see about student’s mastery of this possible, improvement practices balance learning and specific content and skills? At what point in a process are accountability. Learning processes focus on continual students disengaging or struggling to master these skills progress toward desired outcomes, while accountability and strategies? What might we infer about the content practices focus on providing feedback to leaders and and skills themselves? How might our own practice be teachers on their effectiveness in supporting students. strengthened to help students master these concepts? Learning and accountability structures are embedded into the system through transparency and sophisticated data- • Which strategies are most effective in supporting driven continuous improvement processes. Competency- students with prior knowledge significantly less than based schools – in their commitment to one hundred grade level expectations? What strategies are most percent of students succeeding – constantly engage effective in repairing the gaps on the path toward in reflection, learning and adjusting culture, structures, mastering the grade level content? [#12 policies and instructional and assessment practices. Transparency] Multiple sources of data, including qualitative interviews and surveys, can help identify where inequity may be The power of data cannot be underestimated in seeking undermining programming and/or where stronger equity out pockets of inequitable practices and spotlighting areas strategies are needed. where educators, schools, and districts can learn and grow. Within the traditional, top-down systems, data is often Valuable data is not only based on the academic content considered something that you send on to the next higher students know. It also needs to consider how well students level of governance rather than an action. In competency- are developing the skills to learn. Districts and schools also based education, data is a tool to test new strategies, empower students as self-directed learners to engage in change practices and reduce bias. continuous improvement. Like educators and leaders, they engage in cycles of inquiry about their learning processes to improve their own outcomes. 97 i NACOL

100 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION • Districts and schools have the autonomy to use school We expect students to revise and finances and resources flexibly in response to student revise and we ourselves are in a constant assets and needs. “ process of revision. How can we deepen • Resources are distributed to maximize the number of students who gain one or more performance levels per the learning? How can we better engage year and to ensure that those students who are two or students? How can we offer them even more performance levels behind their grade levels are better learning experiences? There isn’t a prioritized for additional targeted support. perfect mastery-based system. It’s a process of continually improving.” Examples of Red Flags Districts and schools engage in data-driven 3 Allison Persad, Principal, The Young Women’s Leadership School in 135 Astoria, NY, 2016 continuous improvements but fail to seek out root causes. It is always easier to add something new than it is to seek out the root causes of a problem or Policies and Practices to Look For deconstruct the flawed policies, processes and practices • Data is available and used to identify and respond to of the traditional system. Districts and schools may be individual students not making adequate progress in thoughtful about identifying a problem or trend but try terms of academic growth and grade-level proficiency, to address it through additional programs or services development of transferable skills, and lifelong learning rather than engaging in the complex challenges of skills. changing the culture or structure. To deconstruct the • Schools know what students know and can do based on barriers to learning embedded in the traditional system a broad learner continuua and monitor the repair of gaps it is important to take the time to search out the root in learning. causes and address them. • Data is available and used to support evidence-based 3 District policy does not provide autonomy to schools instructional strategies, monitor effectiveness of to use funds flexibly. Too often districts retain control support and intervention strategies, inform personalized over allocating the school budget and exactly how professional learning for educators and catalyze the budget can be spent. This limits responsiveness continuous improvement to improve effectiveness of to students and innovation. Schools need to be able instruction, assessment, services and school design. to manage budgets so that they can direct resources toward those students that need more instructional • Districts and schools develop and use management support and time to repair gaps and accelerate their reports to monitor pace, progress and ensure students learning. This may include deploying staff before school are building the full range of skills. Management reports starts, after school or weekends or extended support are designed to help identify exceptional situations in during intersessions and the summer. which students are not progressing and when students are advancing rapidly to better understand effective 3 When students are not progressing or are not processes. motivated, students or families are seen as problems rather than schools and educators reflecting on how • Teachers, paraprofessionals and case managers have the school culture, instruction or assessment may opportunity for collaboration, learning and planning. In a system that has a fixed mindset be contributing. • Schools and educators have autonomy to respond to the culture, it is easy for adults to shirk their responsibility changing strengths and needs of students and to tailor for helping students to learn and say that “students learning experiences to needs of students. didn’t learn because of something wrong with them or 98 i NACOL

101 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT their family.” In competency-based schools cultivating a challenging. Policies and processes organized around growth mindset, adults and students share responsibility student advancement based on demonstration of mastery to understand challenges and find solutions. Schools include: investing in the building blocks of learning that know that the areas in which students struggle enable students to manage their learning, targeted and also provide feedback about where educators can timely instruction, coaching that supports students as strengthen instructional skills. But the root cause may they strive for the next level of mastery, transparent also lay elsewhere, such as the need for more timely feedback and grading practices, multiple opportunities to support, strengthening the building blocks for learning demonstrate learning and monitoring pace and progress. such as social and emotional skills or deepening the relationship with the student and their family. Key Characteristics • Transparency and pace. Teachers and students are both aware of learning targets, milestones and the pace that students are and should be making toward mastery based on their learner path. Students receive “just in Timely differentiated support. • time supports” to help them keep on pace to achieve #16 Advance Upon mastery. As they become self-directed learners, students will begin to independently identify and seek the supports Demonstrated Mastery they need. • Assessment practices Assessment for learning. Mastery is about knowing something promote learning. Diagnostic assessments identify and like the back of your hand. You can use it “ anticipate knowledge and skill gaps before learning again and again.” commences. Formative and summative assessments 136 Student, Cleveland School District (i.e., demonstrations, products, tests) are authentic: they support application and transfer of key ideas to drive deeper learning. Students have choice about how they Description demonstrate mastery. When students advance upon demonstrated mastery Students have multiple Multiple opportunities. • instead of seat time, educators direct their efforts to where opportunities to demonstrate mastery. There is no students require the most help and make sure they learn penalty for unsuccessful attempts at demonstrating the skills needed for more advanced studies. Consistency mastery; these attempts generate feedback that support in determining proficiency ensures that students are not reflection, revision and improvement. Students continue passed along with gaps in knowledge. learning until they are successful, but they do not simply “redo” or “retake” the same content or assessment. Key features of mastery-based advancement are consistent Rather, they use feedback to adjust strategies and target with research on motivation, engagement and learning. necessary supports with each iteration. Students are more engaged and motivated when grading provides feedback that helps them focus on where Flexibility. • Resources including time, learning supports they need to focus their attention. With feedback and and staff are all flexibly deployed to help students on opportunities for practice, students spend more time their path to mastery. working in areas that are most difficult for them. They There are Consistency in credentialing proficiency. • may even advance beyond grade level in some academic clear and calibrated expectations for demonstrations of domains, while taking more time in those that are more mastery. These are transparent to students, their families 99 i NACOL

102 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION which students advance upon mastery is developmental. and to teachers, and teachers work collaboratively to “tune” their calibration. Consistency is vital to ensure Rather than seeking to determine if a district or school is in what competency-based or not, it is more helpful to ask mastery is meaningful. way is your district or school competency-based (and in what ways isn’t it)? What are the next steps toward creating How Is Advancing Upon Demonstrated Mastery a high-quality competency-based approach? Related to Quality? In creating a system that advances students upon The mastery-based grading helps demonstrated mastery, districts and schools draw upon all the other design principles. Mastery-based advancement me understand what I need to learn or “ ensures that: do differently. In the old way, when I got • Each and every student is expected to reach proficiency a number, I wouldn’t know what to do with gaps in knowledge repaired; differently. With the learning targets, I can • Students receive targeted instructional support that is make better choices and revise things.” provided until students reach proficiency; 137 Student, Young Women’s Leadership Academy • Knowledge and skills are transferred to new contexts so that students demonstrate their competency; and Advancement upon mastery is a catalytic notion in that it • There is consistency in credentialing learning. challenges many of the habits, policies and practices of the traditional system. It demands that student readiness A system organized around mastery begins with a is taken into consideration across the academic domains foundation based upon the science of learning. In order even if it means working at different grade levels in different for students to take ownership of their learning they will domains. Thus, a 10-year-old student may be doing fourth- need to be coached in the building blocks of learning grade math but reading at the eighth grade level. A high including growth mindset, metacognition, self-regulation school student may be taking algebra while completing and the habits of success. This set of skills and mindsets advanced online courses in college-level literature are all tightly linked to academic mastery. A strong culture and history, earning dual-enrollment credits. Thus, of learning and inclusivity creates the safety and sense of advancement upon mastery means organizing around purpose for students to take risks. Strong relationships and stage not age. opportunity to discover interests will motivate students to [#6 Learning Sciences; put forward their best effort forward. Students advancing upon demonstrated mastery is the #7 Student Agency & Ownership; and #3 Culture of Learning & ultimate goal of competency-based education. It is a Inclusivity] culmination of all the other design principles. When the other 15 design principles are in place, a robust A balanced system of assessment includes including personalized competency-based system can enable every applied learning opportunities and performance-based student to master knowledge and skills so that they are assessments to ensure students have the opportunity to fully prepared to make the transition to college, careers and demonstrate their learning. Transparency and consistency life. As aspirational as this may seem, districts and schools in determining proficiency are important as they build a are already implementing many of these principles. They shared understanding of what it means to be proficient are seeing positive school cultures blossom, attendance among teachers and students thereby enabling student increasing, discipline issues reducing, and in those ownership of their learning and building trust. No longer districts strengthening their instruction achievement is will students be passed on with lower expectations. improving. Thus, creating a competency-based system in Responsiveness is essential to designing instructional 100 i NACOL

103 y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs sIxTEEn QualIT strategies that meet students where they are and ensuring demonstrated mastery is a core aspect of quality and equity. they receive timely and differentiated supports. Schools [#8 Rigorous are agile in responding to student needs. Higher-Level Skills; #5 Empowering & Distributed Leadership; We need to always know the purpose #9 Responsiveness; #12 Transparency; #11 Consistency & of assessment. It is to help students and the “ Reliability; and #14 Organizational Flexibility] teacher understand what students know Finally, everyone is learning in a competency-based school. and what they don’t know, and to provide Schools and teachers use data on student learning to insights into the steps that are needed to [#8 Rigorous inform professional learning and improvement. learn it. Too often, assessment is used as a Higher-Level Skills; #13 Educators as Learners; and #15 Continuous Improvement] hammer and a gateway. For us, we see it as a process of helping students get from don’t Advancement upon mastery requires transparency of know to knowing.” growth in student learning with districts and schools 139 Doug Penn, District Principal, Chugach School District, AK 2015 monitoring pace closely. Too often, it is misinterpreted as referring to self-paced which understandably brings fear of students being left further and further behind. Policies and Practices to Look For When all the other design principles are in place, however, • Mechanisms or processes within schools and across districts, schools and teachers will be able to fully engage schools ensure consistency in determining proficiency students in mastering the building blocks for learning such such as moderation and calibration. as perseverance and self-regulation, inspire students to apply their best effort to learning and provide targeted • Clear expectations for teachers to address gaps in skills, instructional support as needed. Thus, when districts and working with other staff as needed, so that students are schools have all the design principles in place failure is not advancing with accumulated gaps in knowledge and no longer an option. When a high-quality personalized, skills. competency-based system is in place, failure is only a step • Schools are designed to meet students where they in the journey of learning. Success is the only option. are using multiple instructional strategies to do this depending on where students are in their learning, the Finally, advancing upon mastery is the linchpin in ensuring presence and size of their skills gap, the needs of other that personalization results in equity and not greater students in the class, the domain and the knowledge- inequity. Using the architectural metaphor once again, based and instructional skills of the teacher. Districts advancing students without mastery is the same as building and schools organize resources and schedules for a weak foundation that one knows is not going to hold organizational agility to respond to the needs and the house up. Or if one wants to return to the metaphor progress of students. of the factory with which the traditional system is often • Schools are designed and offer schedules to ensure compared, it is the same as producing a product that you students are able to receive additional support and time 138 has know will be flawed in some way. As Salman Khan as needed to reach proficiency. pointed out, advancing without demonstrating mastery harms even the highest achieving students that may have • Students know where they are in terms of performance received an “A” because of strong memorization skills levels on a learner continua and are able to work on but may not actually know how to apply trigonometry learning objectives below or above grade level. to building their own house. Thus, advancing upon 101 i NACOL

104 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION • Students have access to just-in-time assessments and are, educators would seek to understand what skills have multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency. students have, where they need help and provide target instruction and opportunity to practice until proficiency • Leaders of instruction have up-to-date information and fluency would be reached. This could happen about progressions of students, and regular (at least during the summer or in the beginning of the next weekly) conversations with their teachers (as a group school year. and individually) about optimizing progress, on all Students are not allowed to move forward at a 3 dimensions. faster rate of learning than their classmates. Meeting • Educators support students in learning the building students where they are means helping students at blocks of learning and habits of work, as well as taking lower levels or with gaps to fully build the foundation of into account motivational strategies for students to put and their learning for more advanced courses allowing forward their best effort in pursuit of mastery. students to advance beyond grade level. When districts and schools fail to put the structures in place to allow students to access higher level studies they limit the It was a huge pedagogical shift to only ability to discover their potential. Furthermore, they focus on mastery in a student’s grade and to undermine the shared understanding that students will “ advance based on demonstrated mastery. begin to work intentionally on building their 3 Schools are using standards-based grading but passing work habits. We are seeking better and faster students on without fully meeting all standards. ways to help students develop their work Although most districts will use the term standards- habits because the connection between the based grading, they have actually implemented habits and learning is so strong.” standards-referenced grading which creates transparency using standards as learning targets but Andy Clayman, Assistant Principal, KAPPA International High School, 140 New York City Department of Education, NY 2016 passes students on without additional time and supports when they did not master the standards. This is often the case when students have significant gaps or may be Examples of Red Flags performing at much lower skill levels. Schools are asking 3 Schools retain students that do not complete all students to complete several performance levels within the standards in their grade level. This red flag could a year without providing instructional strategies to meet be highlighting one or more issues. First, there is a them where they are and accelerate their learning. difference between standards-driven and learner- Standards-based grading requires the commitment centered. It is possible for a student to be growing at a to equity and a highly responsive system so that all rate of one performance level per year but still not be students are successfully learning and progressing. proficient at grade level. Second, when students don’t Teachers are complaining about the time it takes for 3 master something it should result in more instruction, re-assessment. District and school leaders should pay practice and learning based on what they specifically close attention to the language and procedures used to need, not retention that may result in repeating what describe what happens when a student doesn’t reach they already know. Why retain a student that needs proficiency at an expected point. Schools use a variety more help in reading but may be showing growth of terms including re-teaching, re-assessment, re-do or is at grade-level proficiency in other domains? and competency recovery, while others see it as a Furthermore, it doesn’t make sense to repeat the continued cycle of instruction that doesn’t end until the same curriculum if it didn’t work the first time. Instead, student reaches proficiency. Some of the differences in using the strategies of meeting students where they terminology are based on whether teachers are giving 102 i NACOL

105 sIxTEEn QualIT y dEsIgn pRInCIplEs scheduled assessments, such as a test to the entire class all at the same time (thus some students may need to continue to work and demonstrate mastery on the learning objectives that they haven’t yet reached), or if the classroom is more personalized with just-in-time assessment when students have shown evidence that they have reached proficiency. We started to understand that there was a strong and often overlooked “ nuance between getting something done compared to mastering concepts and owning the ability to contextualize these skills. We realized that students could never get to mastery solely by using adaptive educational software. You simply can’t do it all online. There are definitely powerful supplemental resources for students, but not the core instructional strategy. We never wanted these programs to supplant great instruction and varied modalities and, more importantly, the application of the skills being developed needed to be the keystone of this process.” James Murray, Principal, Waukesha STEM Academy, Waukesha School 141 District, WI, 2017 103 i NACOL


107 SECTION IV. Conclusion “What is unique here is that we are responding to student needs. Innovation comes from constantly responding to the staff and the students.” 142 Alison Hramiec, Head of School, Boston Day and Evening Academy , MA, 2012 105

108 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION It is up to us, to all of us who believe in the promise of With design principles providing a common language, competency education, to commit ourselves to robust educators can use the different lenses to reflect on how design, deep implementation and rigorous continuous specific practices can be more powerful and better aligned. improvement until we create the systems in which every We need to search out those practices that are proving to student succeeds. To do otherwise risks failing students be effective, understand how they contribute to creating once again. To do otherwise risks competency education a high-quality competency-based system and what is fading away except for a few shining district examples required to implement them with fidelity. Our hope is that and a collection of innovative school models. We cannot additional tools and resources can be developed drawing develop high-quality competency-based systems through from the design principles. The research community will be piecemeal design, poor implementation, turning our needed as partners to co-design initiatives that provide the backs on the practices that we know will provide greater type of feedback we need to ensure that the competency- equity, failing to respond to the needs of students and based culture, structures and pedagogy are producing continuing to rely on outdated policy structures. We need higher achievement and greater equity. to become more skilled at understanding where districts As a field, we also need to explore other ways to invest in and schools are on their journey to competency-based and monitor the quality of competency-based schools. education so that we can differentiate between early stage Perhaps this is through benchmarking by identifying those implementation, weak design and fragile execution. These practices or sets of practices that produce the best results are not challenges for other people to take on—but for and introducing them as standards practices. We should everyone within their roles, organizations and networks consider developing mechanisms for peer-to-peer quality to actively pursue. We need to deepen our understanding, review too, as it helps to transfer knowledge and develop accelerate our knowledge building and develop collective leadership through the very process of monitoring and responses to structural barriers that impair quality. providing feedback on quality. Design principles can help challenge the many customs Finally, it is critical as a field that we expedite the process and habits of the traditional system and push us beyond of knowledge development and transfer so that high- what we can now imagine for how we organize schools. quality approaches can bring a high-quality educational Our hope is that the design principles, many of which are experience to more students. We must bring a sense of also principles that can lead to greater equity, can become urgency to our work to better serve and educate students a framework of common language. As a field, leaders and today and not postpone it until some future date. We practitioners need to move from innovation, which to simply cannot allow students to continue to be passed them, simply means “new,” to jointly holding a commitment on year after year to the next grade without the skills they to continuous improvement. This can become more need to be successful. challenging as it requires us to become critical friends to each other, willing to question, critique, disagree and engage in inquiry together. Thus, it is important for the health of the field of competency-based education that we build common language that can help us push toward high-quality design and implementation. 106 i NACOL

109 SECTION V. Glossary 107

110 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Assessment Literacy should be made based on clear documentation for how Assessment literacy is the collection of knowledge and comparability is determined and that it is defensible. skills associated with appropriate assessment design, implementation, interpretation, and, most importantly, use. Competency-Based Education A critical aspect of assessment literacy is that educators Competency education, also known as mastery-based, and leaders know to create and/or select a variety of proficiency-based, or performance-based, is a school- or assessments to serve different purposes such as improving district-wide structure that replaces the traditional structure learning and teaching, grading, program evaluation, and to create a system that is designed for students to be accountability. However, the most important component of successful (as compared to sorted) and leads to continuous assessment literacy is the degree to which educators and improvement. In 2011, 100 innovators in competency others are able to appropriately interpret the data coming education came together for the first time. At that meeting, from assessments and then take defensible instructional or participants fine-tuned a working definition of high quality other actions. competency education, which includes five elements: • Students advance upon demonstrated mastery. Calibration • Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable Calibration is a process of adjusting results based on learning objectives that empower students. a comparison with a known standard or “calibration • Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning weight” in order to allow defensible comparisons of experience for students. student assessment results; for example, across different entities (e.g., schools, districts, states). In order to define a • Students receive timely, differentiated support based on calibration weight, we need to have something in common, their individual learning needs. either the same students taking different assessments or • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that different students taking the same assessments. The latter include application and creation of knowledge, along is generally more practical, so common performance tasks with the development of important skills and dispositions. have been administered to students in different schools, and district performance assessments serve as a “calibration Continuum or Learning Continuum weight” to evaluate the extent to which teachers in different A continuum refers to the set of standards or learning locales evaluate the quality of student work similarly. targets along a span of education (for example, K-12 or performance levels 9-12). It is the set of expectations for Comparability what students should know and be able to do. However, Comparability is defined as the degree to which the results it does not imply that students need to learn all of the of assessments intended to measure the same learning standards in a linear way or be taught them based on their targets produce the same or similar results. This involves age-based grade level. The student learning trajectory multiple levels of documentation and evaluation starting and research on learning progressions should inform from the consistency with which teachers in the same instruction. schools evaluate student work similarly and consistently, to the degree to which teachers in different schools and Curriculum districts evaluate student performances consistently and There are many definitions of curriculum in education. similarly, and finally the degree to which the results from Internationally, the term curriculum or curriculum students taking one set of assessments can be compared frameworks refers to the high level knowledge and to students taking a different set of assessments (such as skills students are expected to learn and describe (i.e., comparing pilot and non-pilot districts). A determination of “comparable enough” for any type of score linking 108 i NACOL

111 gl y OssaR competencies). The curriculum framework may include • Positive learning identity: growth mindset and active student learning objectives or learning standards. learning build agency and affirm students’ identities as learners (academics, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual In the United States, the term curriculum also refers to the orientation, etc.). resources that teachers use when designing instruction and assessment to support student learning, including: Deeper Learning the course syllabi, units and lessons that teachers teach; The term deeper learning is often used to describe highly the assignments and projects given to students; the the engaging learning experiences in which students apply skills materials (books, videos, presentations, activities) used in and knowledge and build higher order skills. The Hewlett a course, module, or unit; and the assessments used to Foundation defines deeper learning as six competencies: evaluate student learning and check for understanding. master core academic content; think critically and solve Works will use the term learning experiences complex problems; work collaboratively; communicate Competency effectively; learn how to learn; and develop academic to refer to the design of the learning process and the mindsets. Deeper learning intersects with competency- accompanying set of resources to support student learning. based education in multiple ways, including defining the learning outcomes; emphasis on lifelong learning skills Culturally Responsive Teaching such as academic mindset and learning how to learn; First coined by Gloria Ladson-Billings in 1994, culturally and importance of applying skills and knowledge to build responsive teaching is the pedagogical practice of competencies. recognizing, exploring, and responding to students’ cultural contexts, references, and experiences. Cultural responsiveness builds upon eight principles: Educational Equity There are many definitions of equity in education. 1. Communication of High Expectations Competency Works will use the definition from the National 2. Active Teaching Methods Equity Project: 3. Practitioner as Facilitator Education equity means that each child receives what he 4. Inclusion of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students or she needs to develop to his or her full academic and social potential. Working towards equity involves: 5. Cultural Sensitivity 1. Ensuring equally high outcomes for all participants 6. Reshaping the Curriculum or Delivery of Services in our educational system; removing the predictability 7. Student-Controlled Discourse for success or failures that currently correlates with any 8. Small Group Instruction social or cultural factor; The New York City Mastery Collaborative highlights that 2. Interrupting inequitable practices, examining biases, a competency-based approach can promote cultural and creating inclusive multicultural school environments responsiveness in the following ways: for adults and children; and • Transparency: path to success is clear and learning 3. Discovering and cultivating the unique gifts, talents, outcomes are relevant to students’ lives and interests. and interests that every human possesses. Shared criteria reduce opportunity for implicit bias. • Facilitation shifts: refocus the roles of students and teachers to include flexible pacing, inquiry-based, collaborative approach to learning. Students drive their own learning, and teachers coach them. 109 i NACOL

112 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Equality Habits of Work/Habits of Mind Equality is related to the principles of fairness and justice. Habits of work and habits of mind are directly related to the It refers to equal treatment and, in the past, has been used ability of students to take ownership of their learning and to refer to equal inputs. Works uses the term Competency become self-directed learners. There are a variety of Habits equality as an aspirational goal of all students reaching their of Work (specific practices or behaviors) and Habits of Mind full potential. (skills, perspectives, and orientation) that help students succeed in school or the workplace. Schools tend to focus on a few of the habits of work and mind to help students Fixed Mindset (See Growth Mindset) learn the skills they need to take ownership of their Carol Dweck’s research suggests that students who have learning. See Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind. adopted a fixed mindset—the belief that they are either “smart” or “dumb” and there is no way to change this—may learn less than they could or learn at a slower rate, while Higher Order Skills/Deeper Learning Competencies also shying away from challenges (since poor performance Higher order skills refer to skills needed to apply academic might either confirm they can’t learn, if they believe they skills and knowledge to real-world problems. The term can are “dumb,” or indicate that they are less intelligent than refer to the higher levels on Bloom’s or Webb’s taxonomy they think, if they believe they are “smart”). Dweck’s findings or to a set of skills such as creativity, critical thinking, also suggest that when students with fixed mindsets fail problem-solving, working collaboratively, communicating at something, as they inevitably will, they tend to tell effectively, and an academic or growth mindset. themselves they can’t or won’t be able to do it (“I just can’t learn Algebra”), or they make excuses to rationalize the Learning Resources failure (“I would have passed the test if I had had more time The materials explored during a course, module, unit, or to study”). (Adapted from the Glossary of Education Reform activity: videos, images, audio, texts, presentations, etc. edglossary.org.) The traditional system of education was developed based Learning Experiences upon a fixed mindset and resulted in a belief that part of the The term learning experiences is used to convey the K-12 system’s function was to sort students. process and activities that students engage in to learn skills and knowledge. The term refers to the package of outcomes and targets, activities, resources, assessments, Growth Mindset (See Fixed Mindset) and pedagogical strategies that are associated with The concept of a growth mindset was developed by a course, module, or unit. In the United States, this is psychologist Carol Dweck and popularized in her book, generally referred to as curriculum. (See definition of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Students who Curriculum.) embrace growth mindsets—the belief that they can learn more or become smarter if they work hard and persevere— may learn more, learn it more quickly, and view challenges Learning Progression and failures as opportunities to improve their learning and Learning progressions are research-based approaches skills. Dweck’s work has also shown that a “growth mindset” and maps how students learn key concepts and skills can be intentionally taught to students. (Adapted from the as described in Achieve’s briefing The Role of Learning Glossary of Education Reform edglossary.org.) Progressions in Competency-Based Pathways. Competency education is grounded in the idea that all students can succeed with the right supports, including learning how to have a growth mindset. 110 i NACOL

113 y OssaR gl Learning Sciences Research Personalized Approach to Learning or Personalized The learning sciences are concerned with “the Learning interdisciplinary empirical investigation of learning as it iNACOL defines personalized learning as “tailoring learning exists in real-world settings.” Core components of learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests–including sciences research include: enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn–to provide flexibility and supports • Research on thinking: including how the mind works to to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.” process, store, retrieve, and perceive information; Personalized learning takes into account students’ • Research on learning processes: including how people differing zones of proximal development with regards to use “constellations of memories, skills, perceptions, and academic and cognitive skills, as well as within the physical, ideas” to think and solve problems, and the role that emotional, metacognitive, and other domains. different types of literacies play in learning; and Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey explain in the PDI • Research on learning environments: including how Chart that personalized learning is learner-centered, people learn in different contexts other than a direct whereas the related approaches of differentiation and instruction environment with a core principle of creating individualization are teacher-centered. Thus, teachers may learner-centered learning environments. use a personalized and differentiated approach to meet students where they are. Lifelong Learning Skills In the paper Lifelong Learning Skills for College and Social and Emotional Learning Career Readiness: Considerations for Education Policy, According to CASEL, “social and emotional learning (SEL) AIR describes lifelong learning skills as providing “the is the process through which children and adults acquire foundation for learning and working. They broadly support and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills student thinking, self-management, and social interaction, necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and enabling the pursuit of education and career goals.” achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, Competency Works uses the term to capture the skills that establish and maintain positive relationships, and make enable students to be successful in life, navigating new responsible decisions.” They focus on the development environments, and managing their own learning. This of five competencies: self-awareness, self-management, includes a growth mindset, habits of success, social and social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible emotional skills, metacognitive skills, and higher order/ decision-making. deeper learning competencies. Student Agency Moderation Student agency or student ownership of their education Moderation is a process used to evaluate and improve refers to the skills and the level of autonomy that a student comparability. The process involves having teachers (or has to shape their learning experiences. Schools that want others) work to develop a common understanding of to develop student agency will need strategies to coach varying levels of quality of student work. Moderation students in the lifelong learning skills (growth mindset, processes are often used as part of calibration, but meta-cognition, social and emotional learning, and habits moderation is a way to evaluate comparability while of work and learning) and to establish practices that allow calibration is the adjustment based on these findings. students to have choice, voice, opportunity for co-design, and the ability to shape their learning trajectories. 111 i NACOL

114 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION Student Learning Trajectories Competency Works refers to trajectories as the unique personalized path each student travels to achieve learning goals on the way to graduation. Educators apply what is known about learning progressions toward helping students make progress on their trajectory. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) CAST defines Universal Design for Learning as “a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.” UDL guides the design of instructional goals, assessments, methods, and materials that can be customized and adjusted to meet individual needs. Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) A term developed by psychologist Lev Vygotsky to refer to the moment(s) during the learning process that lives between what one can do on one’s own and what one cannot do at all. It is the zone in which guidance and support is needed in order to become independently competent. A personalized approach to learning provides students with access to learning experiences attuned to students’ individual ZPD—which sometimes overlaps with others’, but frequently may not. 112 i NACOL

115 SECTION VI. About the Authors Chris Sturgis is principal of MetisNet, a consulting firm Katherine Casey is founder and principal of Katherine based in Santa Fe, NM, specializing in education, youth Casey Consulting, an independent organization issues and community engagement. Chris’s approach focused on in innovation, personalized and begins with drawing on local knowledge (metis) early competency-based school design, and research and in the design process. Chris is recognized for her development. Katherine was a founding director of leadership in competency-based education as a co- the Imaginarium Innovation Lab in Denver Public founder of Works. She is a prolific writer Competency Schools, supporting a portfolio of almost 30 schools and facilitator on competency-based education based across Denver and spearheading the Lab’s research on knowledge gained through visits to schools and and development activity. Katherine was a founding interviews with leaders in the field. Prior to establishing design team member at the Denver School of Works, Chris worked in philanthropy Competency Innovation and Sustainable Design, Denver’s first for more than a decade at the Mott Foundation, the competency-based high school. Prior to her time in Omidyar Network, and as a consultant to national Denver, Katherine worked in leadership development, and regional foundations. Chris was a co-founder of philanthropy, public affairs and higher education. She the Youth Transition Funders Group, a philanthropic earned a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University network. She has also worked in state government, and a doctorate in education leadership from human service organizations, and political campaigns. Harvard University. Her dissertation, titled “Innovation Chris earned a master’s in public policy from Harvard and Inclusion by Design; Re-imagining Learning, University’s Kennedy School of Government. Remembering Brown,” explored the intersection of school design and integration in Denver. 113


117 SECTION VII. Endnotes 115

118 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION 1 Competency Works. Retrieved from https:// Sturgis, C. (2017). The teacher association perspective on performance-based learning. www.competencyworks.org/case-study/a-conversation-with-heather-obrien-the-teacher-association-perspective-on-performance- based-learning/?x=0&y=0&_sf_s=d51. Patrick, S. & Gentz, S. (2016). Innovation zones: Creating policy flexibility for personalized learning . iNACOL. Retrieved from https:// 2 www.inacol.org/resource/innovation-zones-creating-policy-flexibility-for-personalized-learning/. Conway, E., & Batalden, P. (2015). Like magic? (“Every system is perfectly designed...) . 3 Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Retrieved from http://www.ihi.org/communities/blogs/_layouts/15/ihi/community/blog/itemview.aspx?List=7d1126ec-8f63-4a3b-9926- c44ea3036813&ID=159 . 4 Sturgis, C. (2016). Henry County Schools: Scaling strategies for mid-size districts. Competency Works. Retreived from https://www. competencyworks.org/case-study/henry-county-schools-scaling-strategies-for-mid-size-districts/. 5 Sturgis, C. (2016). KAPPA International: The story of Angelica. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ case-study/kappa-international-the-story-of-angelica/. Sturgis, C. (2016). Windsor Locks: Starting with pedagogy. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ 6 case-study/windsor-locks-starting-with-pedagogy/?x=0&y=0&_sf_s=windsor+locks. 7 Diplomas count 2016 map: Graduation rates by state, student group. (2016) . Education Week . Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ ew/dc/2016/map-graduation-rates-by-state-demographics.html. The high cost of inadequate high schools and high school student achievement Barry, M.N., & Dannenberg, M. (2016). Out of pocket : 8 on college affordability . Washington, DC: Education Reform Now. Retrieved from https://edreformnow.org/wp-content/ uploads/2016/04/EdReformNow-O-O-P-Embargoed-Final.pdf . 9 Haycock, K. (2016). Opinion: 47% percent of high school grads aren’t prepared for college. Market Watch. Retrieved from http://www. marketwatch.com/story/how-high-schools-are-failing-those-who-earn-a-diploma-2016-04-13 . Foa, R., & Mounk, Y. (2015). Across the globe, a growing disillusionment with democracy. . Retrieved from https://www. 10 New York Times nytimes.com/2015/09/15/opinion/across-the-globe-a-growing-disillusionment-with-democracy.html. 11 Wolpert-Gawron, H. (2010). What is the purpose of public education? Huffington Post . Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ heather-wolpertgawron/what-is-the-purpose-of-pu_b_774497.html. Sturgis, C. (2015). 12 Competency Works. Retrieved from Implementing competency education in K-12 systems: Insights from local leaders. https://www.inacol.org/resource/implementing-competency-education-in-k-12-systems-insights-from-local-leaders/. 13 Sturgis, C. (2016). KAPPA International: The story of Angelica. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ case-study/kappa-international-the-story-of-angelica/. 14 See Six Trends at Lindsay Unified School District for an overview of Lindsay Unified’s model and implementation strategy. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/insights-into-implementation/six-trends-at-lindsay-unified-school-district/. Gross-Loh, C. (2016). How praise became a consolation prize. The Atlantic . Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/ 15 archive/2016/12/how-praise-became-a-consolation-prize/510845/. 16 Chen, X. (2016). Remedial coursetaking at U.S. public 2- and 4-year institutions: Scope, experiences, and outcomes (NCES 2016- 405). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2016405 . 17 The nation’s report card. Retrieved from https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/dashboards/report_card.aspx. 18 Sturgis, C. (2016). New Haven Academy: Pedagogy comes first. Competency Works. Retreived from https://www.competencyworks.org/ case-study/new-haven-academy-pedagogy-comes-first/. 19 In 2017, a Technical Advisory Group on Developing a Working Definition of Competency-Based Education gathered to build a shared understanding of competency-based education. Based on the work of the Technical Advisory Group, the distinguishing features of competency-based education were developed. Sturgis, C. (2016). A deeper dive into the EPIC North design (part 2). CompetencyWorks. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks. 20 org/uncategorized/a-deeper-dive-into-the-epic-north-design-part-2/. 116 i NACOL

119 EndnOTEs 21 For more information on the learning sciences, see the following resources: . Understanding the brain: The birth of a learning science. (2007). OECD. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/38811529.pdf . (2008). Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved from http:// Innovating to learn, learning to innovate www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/innovatingtolearnlearningtoinnovate.htm. The nature of problem solving: Using research to inspire 21st century learning. (2017). Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development . Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/edu/the-nature-of-problem-solving-9789264273955-en.htm. Motivation, engagement, and student voice. 22 Toshalis, E. & Nakkula, M.J. (2012). Boston: Students at the Center Hub. https:// studentsatthecenterhub.org/resource/motivation-engagement-and-student-voice/. 23 These insights are derived from the Technical Advisory Group on Developing a Working Definition of Competency-Based Education. 24 Sturgis, C. (2014). Virgel Hammonds’ six insights into leadership. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks. org/understanding-competency-education/virgel-hammonds-six-insights-into-leadership/. Sturgis, C. (2016). Henry County schools: Scaling strategies for mid-size districts. 25 Works. Retrieved from https://www. Competency competencyworks.org/case-study/henry-county-schools-scaling-strategies-for-mid-size-districts/. 26 Designing for equity: Leveraging competency-based education to ensure all students succeed. Sturgis, C. & Casey, K. (2018). Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.inacol.org/resource/designing-equity-leveraging-competency-based-education- ensure-students-succeed/. Casey, K. & Sturgis, C. (2018). Levers and logic models: A framework to guide research and design of high-quality competency-based 27 CompetencyWorks. Retrieved from https://www.inacol.org/resource/levers-and-logic-models-a-framework-to- education system. guide-research-and-design-of-high-quality-competency-based-education-systems/?platform=hootsuite. 28 Sturgis, C. (2015). An interview with principal Jaime Robles, Lindsay High School. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. competencyworks.org/case-study/an-interview-with-principal-jaime-robles-lindsay-high-school/. 29 Sturgis, C. (2016). Windsor Locks: Starting with pedagogy. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ case-study/windsor-locks-starting-with-pedagogy/?x=0&y=0&_sf_s=windsor+locks. 30 Sturgis, C. (2015). Chugach school district’s performance-based infrastructure. Works. Retrieved from https:// Competency www.competencyworks.org/reflections/chugach-school-districts-performance-based-infrastructure/?x=24&y=11&_sf_ s=doug+penn#more-9451. Sturgis, C. (2015). Chugach teachers talk about teaching. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ 31 reflections/chugach-teachers-talk-about-teaching/. The following points are adapted from Sturgis, C. (2015). 32 Implementing competency education in K–12 systems: Insights from local leaders . Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/iNCL_CWIssueBrief_ Implementing_v5_web.pdf . 33 Sturgis, C. (2014). Implementation insights from Pittsfield School District. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. competencyworks.org/uncategorized/implementation-insights-from-pittsfield-school-district/. Sturgis, C. (2017). Building consensus for change at D51. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/case- 34 study/building-consensus-for-change-at-d51/. 35 Turnaround for Children’s Building Blocks for Learning is a framework for the development of skills children need for success in school and beyond. See Stafford-Brizard, K.B. (2015). Building blocks for learning: A framework for comprehensive student development. Retrieved from https://www.turnaroundusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Turnaround-for-Children-Building-Blocks-for- Learningx-2.pdf . See the following papers for a review of the research that informs Building Blocks for Learning: Cantor, P., Osher, D., Berg, J., Steyer, L. & Rose, T. (2018). Malleability, plasticity, and individuality: How children learn and develop in context. Sturgis, C. (2014). EPIC Schools: Putting young men of color in the center of the design. (Part 1). Competency Works. Retrieved from 36 https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/epic-schools-putting-young-men-of-color-in-the-center-of-the-design-part-1/. 37 Ellison, J. (2018). Cultural responsiveness starts in the principal’s office. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competency works.org/equity/cultural-responsiveness-starts-in-the-principals-office/?x=0&y=0&_sf_s=ellison. National Equity Project. Retrieved from http://nationalequityproject.org/about/equity . 38 Why equity? 117 i NACOL

120 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION 39 Levers and logic models: A framework to guide research and design on high-quality competency-based Casey, K., & Sturgis, C. (2018). . Works. Retrieved from https://www.inacol.org/resource/levers-and-logic-models-a-framework-to- education systems Competency guide-research-and-design-of-high-quality-competency-based-education-systems/?platform=hootsuite. 40 Sturgis, C. (2016). Henry County Schools: What all of this means for schools. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. competencyworks.org/case-study/henry-county-schools-what-all-of-this-means-for-schools/. 41 Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. Sturgis, C. (2015). Casco Bay High School: We will shape our school by our learning. competencyworks.org/case-study/casco-bay-high-school-we-will-shape-our-school-by-our-learning/. 42 Sturgis, C. (2014). A deeper dive into the EPIC North design (Part 2). Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks. org/uncategorized/a-deeper-dive-into-the-epic-north-design-part-2/. 43 Dweck, C.S. (2007). Mindset: The new psychology of success . New York: Penguin Random House. 44 Nagaoka et al. (2015). . The University of Chicago Consortium on Foundations for young adult success: A developmental framework Chicago Research. Retrieved from https://consortium.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Foundations%20for%20Young%20 Adult-Jun2015-Consortium.pdf . Sturgis, C. (2016). Henry County Schools: Scaling strategies for mid-size districts. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. 45 competencyworks.org/case-study/henry-county-schools-scaling-strategies-for-mid-size-districts/. 46 ZIma, B. (2013). Lens 4: Culture. Competenc yWorks. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/how-to/lens-4- culture/?x=0&y=0&_sf_s=culture#more-4371. 47 D. Siviski, personal communication, April 17, 2018. 48 Stafford-Brizard Brooke, K.B. (2015). Building blocks for learning: A framework for comprehensive student development . Retrieved from https://www.turnaroundusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Turnaround-for-Children-Building-Blocks-for-Learningx-2.pdf . 49 Works. Retrieved Sturgis, C. (2017). New Emerson: Learning the effective practices of the learner-centered classroom. Competency from https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/new-emerson-learning-the-effective-practices-of-the-learner-centered- classroom/?x=0&y=0&_sf_s=d51#more-15299 . 50 Vedova, T.D. (2015). How to build a growth mindset into school culture. Getting Smart. Retrieved from http://www.gettingsmart. com/2015/10/how-to-build-a-growth-mindset-into-school-culture/. 51 Sturgis, C. (2017). E3agle and PACT: Insights from two new competency-based schools. Works. Retrieved from https:// Competency www.competencyworks.org/case-study/e3agle-and-pact-insights-from-two-new-competency-based-schools/. 52 75 New England institutions of higher education state that proficiency-based diplomas do not disadvantage applicants. Great Schools Partnership. Retrieved from https://www.greatschoolspartnership.org/proficiency-based-learning/college-admissions/. See also Riede, P. (2018). Making the call inside admissions offices. The School Superintendents Association. 53 Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/ Sturgis, C. (2016) High expectations at EPIC North. high-expectations-at-epic-north/. Sturgis, C. (2017). Juarez Community Academy: When big schools become competency-based. Competency Works. Retrieved from 54 https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/juarez-community-academy-when-big-schools-become-competency-based/. 55 Sturgis, C. (2016). Chugach School District: A personalized, performance-based system: Insights from the field . Competency Works. Retrieved from www.inacol.org/resource/chugach-school-district-a-personalized-performance-based-system/. Sturgis, C. (2015). An interview with Principal Jaime Robles, Lindsay High School. Competency Works. https://www.competencyworks. 56 org/case-study/an-interview-with-principal-jaime-robles-lindsay-high-school/. 57 Sturgis, C. (2016). Chugach School District: A personalized, performance-based system: Insights from the field . Competency Works. Retrieved from www.inacol.org/resource/chugach-school-district-a-personalized-performance-based-system/. 58 The underlying beliefs are based on the contributions of the iNACOL/CompetencyWorks Technical Advisory Group on Developing a Definition of Competency-Based Education in 2017 consisting of educators, researchers, state policy leaders and national organizations. Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ 59 Sturgis, C. (2016). Windsor Locks: Starting with pedagogy. Competency case-study/windsor-locks-starting-with-pedagogy/?x=0&y=0&_sf_s=windsor+locks. 118 i NACOL

121 EndnOTEs 60 Harvard Education Press. Retrieved from http:// City, E., Elmore, R., Fiarman, S. & Teitel, L. (2009). Instructional rounds in education. . www.fpsct.org/uploaded/Teacher_Resource_Center/Instructional_Practices/Resources/20091124152005.pdf 61 Building blocks for learning. Turnaround for Children. Retrieved from https://www.turnaroundusa.org/what-we-do/tools/building- blocks/. 62 Sturgis, C. & Casey, K. (2018). Levers and logic models: A framework to guide high-quality competency-based education systems . Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.inacol.org/resource/levers-and-logic-models-a-framework-to-guide-research-and- design-of-high-quality-competency-based-education-systems/. Beliefs and practices of proficiency-based learning from Great Schools Partnership for an example of a set of pedagogical 63 See principles. https://www.greatschoolspartnership.org/proficiency-based-learning/about-pbl-simplified/beliefs-and-practices-of- proficiency-based-learning/. 64 Sturgis, C. (2016). A conversation with the two Mikes from Montpelier. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competency works.org/case-study/a-conversation-with-the-two-mikes-from-montpelier/?x=0&y=0&_sf_s=mcraith. Sturgis, C. (2018). Starting the journey to cbe at Okten Elementary School. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. 65 competencyworks.org/case-study/starting-the-journey-to-cbe-at-otken-elementary-school/. 66 Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks. Sturgis, C. (2017). A journey of discovery at broadway elementary. Competency org/case-study/a-journey-of-discovery-a-conversation-with-scot-bingham-of-broadway-elementary/. 67 Motivation, engagement, and student voice . Students at the Center Hub. Retrieved from https:// Toshalis, E. & Nakkula, J.M. (2012). studentsatthecenterhub.org/resource/motivation-engagement-and-student-voice/. The phrase “cornerstones of the learning sciences” was introduced in Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice published 68 by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The ten cornerstone concepts offered here are adapted from OECD’s report based on the input from the participants in the Technical Advisory Group on Developing a Logic Model for Competency- Based Education. 69 Dumont, H., Istance, D., & Benavides, F. (2010). . Organisation for Economic Nature of learning: Using research to inspire practice Cooperation and Development. Retrieved from https://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/the-nature-of- learning_9789264086487-en#page1. 70 . Deans for Impact. Retrieved from https://deansforimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/The_Science_of_ The science of learning . Learning.pdf Toshalis, E., & Nakkula, M. (2012). Motivation, engagement and student Voice . Students at the Center Hub. Retrieved from https:// 71 studentsatthecenterhub.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Motivation-Engagement-Student-Voice-Students-at-the-Center-1.pdf . Dumont, H., Istance, D., & Benavides, F. (2010). 72 . Organisation for Economic Nature of learning: Using research to inspire practice Cooperation and Development. Retrieved from https://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/the-nature-of- learning_9789264086487-en#page1. 73 Adapted from The science of learning . Deans for Impact. Retrieved from https://deansforimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/ The_Science_of_Learning.pdf . 74 The science of learning . Deans for Impact. Retrieved from https://deansforimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/The_Science_of_ Learning.pdf . 75 Toshalis, E., & Nakkula, M. (2012). Motivation, engagement and student voice . Students at the Center Hub. Retrieved from https:// studentsatthecenterhub.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Motivation-Engagement-Student-Voice-Students-at-the-Center-1.pdf . 76 Zimmerman, B. J. (1990). Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: An overview. Educational Psychologist , 25( 1 ), 3-17. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15326985ep2501_2. 77 Dumont, H., Istance, D. & Benavides, F. (2010). Nature of learning: Using research to inspire practice . Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Retrieved from https://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/the-nature-of- learning_9789264086487-en#page1. . Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. 78 Dumont et al. (2010). Nature of learning: Using research to inspire practice Retrieved from https://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/the-nature-of-learning_9789264086487- en#page1. 119 i NACOL

122 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION 79 . Deans for Impact. Retrieved from https://deansforimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/The_Science_of_ The science of learning . Learning.pdf The role of learning progressions in competency-based pathways. (2015). Achieve. Retrieved from https://www.achieve.org/files/ 80 Achieve-LearningProgressionsinCBP.pdf . A body of evidence by researchers such as Mary Immordino-Yang, Kathryn R. Wentzel and Deborah Watkins has been developed based 81 upon the sociocultural theories of Lev Vygotsky. Chita-Tegmark, M., Gravel, J.W., Serpa, M. , Domings, Y., & Rose, D. H. (2012). Using the universal design for learning framework to 82 support culturally diverse learners. Journal of Education 192 (1): 17-22. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/our-work/publications/2012/ culture-diversity-universal-design-learning-udl-gravel.html#.W3gfCdhKjWZ. 83 The science of learning . Deans for Impact. Retrieved from https://deansforimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/The_Science_of_ Learning.pdf . 84 The science of learning . Deans for Impact. Retrieved from https://deansforimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/The_Science_of_ . Learning.pdf 85 Nature of learning: Using research to inspire practice . Organisation for Economic Dumont, H., Istance, D. & Benavides, F. (2010). Cooperation and Development. Retrieved from https://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/the-nature-of- learning_9789264086487-en#page1. 86 The science of learning . Deans for Impact. Retrieved from https://deansforimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/The_Science_of_ Learning.pdf . 87 Toshalis, E,. & Nakkula, M. (2012). Motivation, engagement and student voice . Students at the Center Hub. Retrieved from https:// studentsatthecenterhub.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Motivation-Engagement-Student-Voice-Students-at-the-Center-1.pdf . See Rose speak on this topic at https:// 88 Rose, T. The end of average: Unlocking our potential by embracing what makes us different. www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eBmyttcfU4 . Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competency Sturgis, C. (2016). The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria. 89 works.org/case-study/the-young-womens-leadership-school-of-astoria/. 90 Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/case- Sturgis, C. (2017). Building consensus for change at D51. study/building-consensus-for-change-at-d51/. Sturgis, C. (2016). High expectations at Epic North. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/ 91 high-expectations-at-epic-north/. 92 Ferguson et al. (2015). The influence of teaching beyond standardized test scores: Engagement, mindsets, and agency. Achievement Gap Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.agi.harvard.edu/projects/TeachingandAgency.pdf . 93 Sturgis, C. (2014). Igniting learning at the Making Community Connections Charter School. Competency Works. Retrieved from https:// www.competencyworks.org/resources/igniting-learning-at-the-making-community-connections-charter-school-2/. Please note that the term “rigor” is used in different ways. As described here, rigor is the development of higher-order skills. The term 94 has also been used to describe being at grade level. However, based on the learning sciences, personalized competency-based systems assume that students will be operating within a zone of proximal development as defined by student readiness, level of support, and teacher’s instructional knowledge that may be above or below age-based grade level. 95 Sturgis, C. (2016). Henry County Schools: What all this means for schools. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. competencyworks.org/case-study/henry-county-schools-what-all-of-this-means-for-schools/. 96 Sturgis, C. (2016). High expectations at Epic North. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/ high-expectations-at-epic-north/. 97 Deeper learning is defined by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as six competencies: master core academic content, think critically and solve complex problems, communicate effectively, work collaboratively, learn how to learn and develop academic mindsets. https://www.hewlett.org/library/deeper-learning-defined/. Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks. 98 Sturgis, C. (2016). A conversation with two Mikes from Montpelier. Competency org/case-study/a-conversation-with-the-two-mikes-from-montpelier/. 120 i NACOL

123 EndnOTEs 99 Works. Retrieved from Strugis, C. (2016). RSU2: Entering a new stage in building a high quality proficiency-based district. Competency https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/rsu2-entering-a-new-stage-in-building-a-high-quality-proficiency-based-district/. Sturgis, C. (2017). We have a proficiency-based diploma. Now What? Competency 100 Works. Retrieved from https://www. . competencyworks.org/resources/we-have-a-proficiency-based-diploma-now-what/?x=0&y=0&_sf_s=flexibility 101 Meeting students where they are . CompetencyWorks. Retrieved from https:// Rudenstine, A., Schaef, S., Bacallao, D., & Hakani, S. (2018) www.inacol.org/resource/meeting-students-where-they-are-2/ Competency Sturgis, C. (2016). Breaking out of the boxes at Building 21. 102 Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ /. case-study/school-models/breaking-out-of-the-boxes-at-building-21 103 Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ Sturgis. (2016). KAPPA International: The story of Angelica. case-study/kappa-international-the-story-of-angelica/. Strugis, C. (2016). Naugatuck Public Schools: Making meaning for teachers with mastery-based learning. Competency Works. Retrieved 104 from https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/naugatuck-public-schools-making-meaning-for-teachers-with-mastery-based- learning/. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ Sturgis, C. (2016). New Haven Academy: Pedagogy comes first. 105 case-study/new-haven-academy-pedagogy-comes-first/. 106 Alignment in complex education systems: Achieving balance and coherence. Organisation for Economic Cooperative Looney, J. (2011). Development. Retrieved from https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/5kg3vg5lx8r8-en.pdf?expires=1524792196&id=id&accname= guest&checksum=59412D7F7F80F9DE8804E80779BAA2FA. 107 Looney, J. (2011). Alignment in complex education systems: Achieving balance and coherence. Organisation for Economic Cooperative Development. Retrieved from https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/5kg3vg5lx8r8-en.pdf?expires=1524792196&id=id&accname= guest&checksum=59412D7F7F80F9DE8804E80779BAA2FA. Sturgis, C. (2017). Servant to two masters: Balancing skills and content at Lindblom. Competency 108 Works. Retrieved from https://www. competencyworks.org/case-study/servant-to-two-masters-balancing-skills-and-content-at-lindblom/. 109 Levers and logic models: A framework to guide research and design of high-quality competency-based Casey, K. & Sturgis, C. (2018). CompetencyWorks. Retrieved from https://www.inacol.org/resource/levers-and-logic-models-a-framework-to- education system. guide-research-and-design-of-high-quality-competency-based-education-systems/?platform=hootsuite. 110 Sturgis, C. (2014). Carroll Gardens School for Innovation (MS 442): Intentional school design. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/carroll-gardens-school-for-innovation-ms-442-intentional-school-design/. Sturgis, C. (2014). Carroll Gardens School for Innovation (MS 442): Intentional school design. 111 Works. Retrieved from Competency https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/carroll-gardens-school-for-innovation-ms-442-intentional-school-design/. 112 Sturgis, C. (2014). Carroll Gardens School for Innovation (MS 442): Intentional school design. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/carroll-gardens-school-for-innovation-ms-442-intentional-school-design/. 113 Sturgis, C. (2016). The Young Women’s Leadership School in Astoria. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. competencyworks.org/case-study/the-young-womens-leadership-school-of-astoria/. 114 Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ Sturgis, C. (2016). Windsor Locks: Starting with pedagogy. case-study/windsor-locks-starting-with-pedagogy/?x=0&y=0&_sf_s=windsor+locks. The role of learning progressions in competency-based pathways. (2015). Achieve. Retrieved from https://www.achieve.org/files/ 115 Achieve-LearningProgressionsinCBP.pdf . 116 Sturgis, C. (2016). Flushing International’s three learning outcomes: Habits, language and academic skills. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/flushing-internationals-three-learning-outcomes-habits-language-and- academic-skills/. 117 Sturgis, C. (2015). Designing the infrastructure for learning . Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/wp- content/uploads/2015/06/iNCL_CWIssueBrief_Implementing_Designing_v2_web.pdf . Competency 118 Sturgis, C. (2016). Talking equity with John Duval. Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/ talking-equity-with-john-duval/. 121 i NACOL

124 QUALITY PRINCIPLES FOR COMPETENCYffBASED EDUCATION 119 The New England Secondary School Consortium reached out to institutions of higher education throughout the region to ask how non-traditional grading systems and transcripts might affect the admissions process. They found that “admissions offices receive a huge variety of transcripts, including transcripts from international schools, home-schooled students, and a wide variety of alternative educational institutions and programs that do not have traditional academic programs, grading practices, or transcripts.” Furthermore, institutions of higher education declared that “students with non-traditional transcripts—including “proficiency-based” or “competency- based” transcripts—will not be disadvantaged in any way during the admissions process. Colleges and universities simply do not discriminate against students based on the academic program and policies of the sending school, as long as those program and policies are accurately presented and clearly described. For more information please go to www.greatschoolspartnership.org/proficiency-based-learning/college-admissions/ or the New How Selective Colleges and Universities Evaluate England Board of Higher Education, http://www.nebhe.org/, which published http://www.nebhe.org/info/pdf/policy/Policy_Spotlight_ Proficiency-Based High School Transcripts:Insights for Students and Schools, How_Colleges_Evaluate_PB_HS_Transcripts_April_2016.pdf , in the New England Journal of Higher Education summarizing insights from a conversation on the topic with admissions leaders from highly selective colleges and universities in the region. 120 Sturgis, C. (2016). Flushing International’s three learning outcomes: Habits, language and academic skills. Competency Works. Retrieved from (https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/flushing-internationals-three-learning-outcomes-habits-language-and- academic-skills/. Sturgis, C. (2016). RSU2: Entering a new stage in building a high quality proficiency-based district: Competency Works. Retrieved from 121 https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/rsu2-entering-a-new-stage-in-building-a-high-quality-proficiency-based-district/. Sturgis, C. (2015). An interview with Brett Grimm: How Lindsay Unified serves ell students. Competency Works. Retrieved from https:// 122 www.competencyworks.org/insights-into-implementation/an-interview-with-brett-grimm-how-lindsay-unified-serves-ell-students/. 123 The Mastery Transcript Consortium (http://mastery.org) is seeking to develop a transcript that does not use letter grades or numerical equivalencies. Instead credits will be based on mastery of knowledge and skills. Sturgis, C. (2015). Chugach teachers talk about teaching. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ 124 reflections/chugach-teachers-talk-about-teaching/?x=15&y=22&_sf_s=jed+palmer . 125 Sturgis, C. (2015). Implementing competency education in k-12 systems: Insights from local leaders. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/iNCL_CWIssueBrief_Implementing_v5_web.pdf . 126 Sturgis, C. (2015). Implementing competency education in k-12 systems: Insights from local leaders. Competency Works. Retrieved from . https://www.competencyworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/iNCL_CWIssueBrief_Implementing_v5_web.pdf 127 Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/ Sturgis, C. (2016). Talking equity with John Duval. talking-equity-with-john-duval/. Sturgis, C. (2017). Creating a learner-driven system in Waukesha (Part 1). Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. 128 competencyworks.org/case-study/creating-a-learner-driven-system-in-waukesha-part-1/. 129 Sturgis, C. (2018). Reflections on learning without boundaries at Kettle Moraine. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. competencyworks.org/case-study/reflections-on-learning-without-boundaries-at-kettle-moraine/. Competency Sturgis, C. (2017). Juarez Community Academy: When big schools become competency-based. Works. Retrieved 130 from https://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/juarez-community-academy-when-big-schools-become-competency- based/?x=0&y=0&_sf_s=juan+carlos. Patrick, S., Worthen, M., Truong, N., & Frost. D. (2018). Fit for purpose: Taking the long view on systems change and policy to support 131 competency-based education Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ . CWSummit-FitForPurpose.pdf . 132 Sturgis, C. (2016). Henry County Schools: Ensuring success for each student. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. competencyworks.org/case-study/henry-county-schools-ensuring-success-for-each-student/. 133 Sturgis, C. (2014). Bronx Arena: Innovating until 100% of students graduate (part 2). Competency Works. Retrieved from https:// www.competencyworks.org/case-study/bronx-arena-innovating-until-100-of-students-graduate-part-2/?x=0&y=0&_sf_ s=arena#more-9072. Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks. 134 Sturgis, C. (2014). Virgel Hammonds’ six insights into leadership. Competency org/understanding-competency-education/virgel-hammonds-six-insights-into-leadership/. 122 i NACOL

125 EndnOTEs Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competency Sturgis, C. (2014). The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria. 135 works.org/case-study/the-young-womens-leadership-school-of-astoria/. Sturgis, C. (2017). E3agle and PACT: Insights from two new competency-based schools. Competency Works. Retrieved from https:// 136 www.competencyworks.org/case-study/e3agle-and-pact-insights-from-two-new-competency-based-schools/. 137 Sturgis, C. (2014). The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competency works.org/case-study/the-young-womens-leadership-school-of-astoria/. The one world schoolhouse: Education reimagined Khan, S. (2012). . London: Twelve. Retrieved from https://www.twelvebooks.com/ 138 titles/salman-khan/the-one-world-schoolhouse/9781455508372/. Sturgis, C. (2016). Chugach School District: A personalized, performance-based system . CompetencyWorks. Retrieved from https:// 139 www.inacol.org/resource/chugach-school-district-a-personalized-performance-based-system/. 140 Sturgis, C. (2016). KAPPA International: The story of Angelica. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/ case-study/kappa-international-the-story-of-angelica/. 141 Sturgis, C. (2017). Creating a learner-driven system in Waukesha (Part 1). Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www. competencyworks.org/case-study/creating-a-learner-driven-system-in-waukesha-part-1/. Competency 142 Sturgis, C. (2012). Boston Evening Academy: A learning academy. Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks. org/how-to/boston-day-and-evening-academy-a-learning-organization/. 123 i NACOL



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