Skip to content
Aurora Institute

Competency-Based Education at the iNACOL Symposium

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Dr. Eliot Levine

Announcement of 2019 iNACOL SymposiumThere will be so many great sessions at next week’s iNACOL Symposium that we’ll all be making hard choices about what to attend. Even if you won’t be there this year, reviewing the offerings can help you learn about important issues in the field, people who are doing what you want to do, and new online resources and publications.

This post lists the sessions in the competency-based education strand so you can start thinking about what to attend. Other strands such as diversity, leadership, personalized learning, school redesign, and systems transformation also have strong content relevant to competency-based education. You can review the sessions across all strands here.

Tue 10:00 am – Building Understanding of Competency Education and Changing Grading Practices. Are competencies and standards the same? How do you assess competencies? Why do we create rubrics and convert them to points? Should measurement of learning be punitive? In this session, we will dive deep into these questions by providing an alternative approach to traditional grading. Through a series of activities, participants will engage with the Learning What Matters competency model and leave the session with a fresh perspective on how six schools in the Building 21 network assess students. (Presenters: Thomas Gaffey, Sandra Moumoutjis)

Tue 11:15 am – Pitfalls, Successes, and Lessons Learned from a District’s 7-Year Journey to Implement Competency-Based Education. Kenowa Hills Schools will share the district’s 7-year journey in implementing a modified Marzano High Reliability Schools Framework focusing on: (1) School culture and climate, (2) Guaranteed and viable curriculum and essential standards, (3) Gradual Release of Responsibility instructional framework, (4) Standards-Based Grading and Learning Management Systems, and (5) Personalized systems and processes. The district will share practical implementation pitfalls, successes, and lessons learned during their journey. (Presenter: Mike Burde)

Tue 2:15 pm – The Future Now is Kettle Moraine: Learning Competencies Not Learning Standards. Hear about the journey of Kettle Moraine School District as they moved from curriculum-based instruction to standards-based instruction and are now utilizing competency-based learning. Leaders from elementary through high school will share the lessons learned, paradigm shifts needed and resources used to foster the shift to competency-based learning. Resources shared will help participants determine readiness to make a shift and plan for their journey to a competency-based learning system. (Presenters: Laura Dahm, Kevin Erickson, Theresa Ewald, David Tong, Eric Moore, Katherine Bihr)

Tue 4:00 pm – Competency-Based High School Redesign: Common Pitfalls and How To Plan For Them. Using the experience of Kankakee High School, which undertook a transformational school redesign effort in the Fall of 2018, we will analyze five especially problematic implementation challenges, their responses, and the resulting lessons learned. There will be an emphasis on applying these lessons in the planning stages of a CBE implementation. Participants will leave with an understanding of how they are likely to be challenged in these five domains and practical ways to address them head-on. (Presenters: Brent Johnston, Chip Linehan, Felice Hybert, Sandra Moumoutjis)

Tue 4:00 pm – Moving Beyond GPA: How Competency-Based Schools Are Using the Mastery Transcript to Drive Equity and Engagement. The Mastery Transcript Consortium is a growing collective of hundreds of high schools working together to design and implement a model of crediting and transcript generation that includes Mastery Credits and attached evidence of learning (instead of grades) for both content areas and skills critical to success in college, career, and life. This participatory session will engage attendees in an interactive, hands-on, co-design session of the Mastery Transcript. (Presenters: Stacy Caldwell, Mike Flanagan, Patricia Russell)

Wed 10:00 am – 2nd Generation State and District Competency Sets: Reimagining Competency Sets as Guideposts to Prepare Learners for a Rapidly Shifting, Complex Future. Are the competency frameworks in your district or state pointing the way towards a future that requires interdisciplinary problem-solving, creativity, adaptability, and leadership? CBL pioneers were pushed against the limitations of the industrial education model: annualized courses, age-based cohorts, seat-time, etc. Their efforts created opportunities for us to begin designing 2nd generation competency frameworks, that transcend the limitations of content-standards. (Presenters: Sydney Schaef, Antonia Rudenstine)

Palm Springs Convention Center
Palm Springs Convention Center

Wed 10:00 am – Competency-Based Scheduling: A Vertical Path to Success for Secondary Schools. Westminster Public Schools has been implementing a competency-based system for over 10 years and has learned what works and what does not. Having an aligned and flexible master schedule is vital for meeting the individual learning needs of all students while still ensuring that all school operations run smoothly. Our team would like to share their successes, lessons learned and challenges yet to be solved. Come experience their journey and learn to create an agile master schedule while avoiding the pitfalls. (Presenters: Camile Carlson, Kiffany Kiewiet, Mike Carlson, Oliver Grenham, Pete Rainey, Shannon Willy)

Wed 10:00 am – Constructing a Portrait of a Graduate and Using Personalized Learning Plans to Get There. Have you ever asked students what they believe is essential to be successful in college, careers, and life? We did as part of our statewide development of a Vermont Portrait of a Graduate (PoG). In this interactive session, you will engage with the processes and resources we used with students, educators, and community members. We will show how the PoG can be used to inform proficiency-based graduation requirements and personalized learning plans, which are both being implemented statewide in Vermont. (Presenters: Pat Fitzsimmons, Sigrid Olson)

Wed 10:00 am – Depth of Knowledge, Competencies, and Rubrics…Oh My! Learn Our Step by Step Process of Design and Implementation. Personalized Competency Based Learning (PCBL) allows teachers to focus on student learning and learning experiences. We begin training teachers in Depth of Knowledge (DOK) giving them a base to understand how to think about the complexity of thinking rather than the “difficulty.” We will guide you through our step by step process working with teachers to write competencies based on state standards, design rubrics to measure competency and provide solutions to roadblocks we have encountered. (Presenters: Jason Berg, Kerry Beton, Lisa Edwards, Peter Fleenor, Rick Yonker)

Wed 10:00 am – Implementing Transdisciplinary, Competency Frameworks: Equity in Design, Equity in Learning. Explore how two different transformational high school models created and use transdisciplinary competency frameworks uniquely designed to explicitly foster equity. Unpack the ways that competencies can drive the design of a culturally responsive and relevant academic program, explicitly honoring the cultures, histories, and strengths of marginalized students. Hear about the inclusive, iterative design process that led to a competency set embraced by the stakeholders of the full school community. (Presenters: Antonia Rudenstine, Beth Anderson, Dixie Bacallao, Deion Jordan)

Wed 10:00 am – The Building Blocks of a Competency-Based Model. There are more schools, resources, and experts in the field of CBE than ever before. As veteran CBE designers, we invite you to consider how transitioning to CBE is about more than just changing your grading system. It is about laying the groundwork for changes necessary to make school more equitable for all students. Before you start writing competencies and planning for implementation, check your ideas in a small group coaching session with invited experts in the field. (Presenters: Christy Kingham, Sandra Moumoutjis)

Wed 10:00 am – You Can Do Standards-Based Grading (SBG) Without Competency-Based Education (CBE), But You Can’t Do CBE Without SBG. In competency-based learning (CBL) systems, grades are about what students learn, not what they earn. The philosophy and structures of standards-based grading (SBG) provide guidance for schools looking to develop a comprehensive CBL model in their school. In this session, participants will hear from two leaders in the field who have worked with educators in a variety of settings to develop and support CBL “friendly” grading systems in their schools. Participants will leave this session with concrete information and develop realistic next steps. (Presenters: Brian Stack, Ken O’Connor)

Wed 2:15 pm – Student Agency and Proficiency-Based Education: Applying 40+ Years of Research With Bob Marzano. How can schools take research from neuroscience and cognitive science, turn it into evidence-based best practices, and apply it to build a personalized, competency-based school where all learners develop the skills needed to be successful? Come hear how Dr. Bob Marzano, Founder of Marzano Academies, has used 40+ years of research to create a path schools can implement to support all students in the development of agency. It will be an interactive session guided by participants’ questions. (Presenters: Bill Zima, Robert Marzano)

Wed 2:15 pm – Illuminating the Power of Our Students and Teachers Using Standards Mastery Framework. Fulton County’s Standards Mastery Framework is our guaranteed and viable curriculum designed to provide equity across the district and deepen the personalization of learning for all Fulton County students. Experience the journey of developing a framework of Prioritized Standards and Proficiency Scales for a 96,000 student district, learn about our grows and glows, and help shine a light by providing guidance as we share our problem of practice. (Presenters: Becca Goddard, Brooke Humphrey)

Wed 2:15 pm – School Culture and Continuous Improvement in a Competency-Based System. Creating a competency based learning culture that is sustainable is no easy task. Participants will hear from three schools. The journey including the peaks and valleys the schools have gone through will be shared. We will discuss and share different methods that we used to build a strong competency based culture where educators and learners strive with the mindset of continuous improvement. Participants will leave with ideas and possible action steps toward a competency based system. (Presenters: Bil Pfaffendorf, Scot Bingham, Terry Schmalz)

Wed 4:00 pm – Deepening Your Work in Competency-Based Education. Creating a competency-based school or district involves many fundamental changes over time that deeply change the experience of school for students, teachers, and administrators. The session will start with discussing some of these key shifts in pedagogy, structures, and culture that can help schools reach the next level, and then transition to a group conversation focused on your questions, concerns, and insights about deepening our work in competency-based education. (Presenters: Eliot Levine, Rose Colby)

Wed 4:00 pm – From Pockets to a System of Excellence: Develop and Sustain Educators for Competency-Based Education. Competency-based education (CBE) pedagogical demands require a shift in the learning environment, curriculum and instruction, student agency, and thus our professional development (PD) framework. Come dig into the research-based essential knowledge required for reliable CBE implementation based on “Dr. Marzano’s 10 CBE Teacher Performance Indicators.” We will explore technology solutions to accelerate capacity, eliminate administrative burden, and data harvesting to drive individualized, need-based professional development and goal setting for CBE success. (Presenters: Bill Zima, John Caesar, Robert Marzano, Ph.D., Scott Bacon)

Thu 8:30 am – From Theory to Practice: How to Design for Competency-Based Learning. In order to understand and implement competency-based learning (CBL), we must experience it. Participants in this hands-on workshop will prepare and design for three key elements of CBL: empathy for the student experience, clear learning targets, and visionary strategy. In a series of high-energy, collaborative design sprints, participants will make progress toward CBL by practicing CBL: articulating purpose, setting goals, and choosing relevant experiences to learn from. (Presenters: Susan Bell, Emily McCarren, Eric Hudson, Sally Mingarelli)

Thu 8:30 am – Scheduling Within Personalized, Competency-Based Education: Organizing Students to Create the Best Learning Environment. The foundational premise of personalized, competency-based education (PCBE) is to teach students what they don’t know in comparison to learning continuums. The problem is we really don’t know what our students don’t know. Traditional data (averaging) is not accurate enough for teachers to effectively group and differentiate instruction. This session will focus on clarifying what student data is needed, how to obtain it and present strategies for organizing and instructing students within a PCBE system. (Presenters: Doug Finn, Michelle Finn)

Learn More

Eliot Levine is the Aurora Institute’s Research Director and leads CompetencyWorks.

Follow @eliot_levine