This was originally published on the College & Career Readiness & Success blog.
On June 24th, the American Youth Policy Forum and the College and Career Readiness and Success Center at the American Institutes for Research co-hosted a webinar on “State Implications for Competency-based Education Systems.” Presenters included Kate Nielson, Policy Analyst, National Governors Association; Diane Smith, Director, Teaching and Learning Initiative, Oregon Business Education Compact; Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills, Iowa Department of Education; Carissa Miller, Deputy Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Following the webinar, we collected a series of lingering questions from participants on a range of topics. Their responses to the last of three important questions are below:
There is growing consensus that schools should recognize not only academic content mastery, but the additional knowledge and skills (e.g. critical thinking, communication, social and emotional, self regulation, self advocacy, etc.) required to become college and career ready. What role can a competency-based system play in helping students develop these skills? Additionally, how have states/districts begun to develop competency-based assessments and what do they look like?
Jennifer Davis, Director, Innovation Lab Network, CCSSO (responding in place of Carissa Miller) – Some states, such as Maine, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin have defined the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they require of students to include these cross-curricular skills, and have embedded them into their state-defined competencies and/or diploma criteria. Many states are exploring how both formative and summative assessments in a competency-based system can play a role in ensuring students develop these skills. Various models exist, ranging from stand-alone assessments (for example, EPIC’s CampusReady and ThinkReady, MSLQ, QISA MyVoice, ETS Personal Potential Index, ACT ENGAGE, the Grit Scale, INCLASS, and so on) to integrated assessments (for example, PISA for schools), to performance-based assessments. States in CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network are beginning work intended to better understand the learning progressions that describe students’ progress through these skills and dispositions, and to design performance-based assessments that capture them. The Center for Collaborative Education is taking on similar work as well.Diane Smith – The beauty of teaching, modeling, encouraging, and measuring these other skills, whether they are called Personal Management, Career-Related, or CCR, within the learning culture of a competency-based model, is that the necessary components of competency that support all students being successful in whatever areas are agreed-upon and identified. For example, consider a school that wants to hold students accountable for turning work in on time, for showing up on time to class, etc. These are factors that can be grouped under the Personal Management umbrella. In a competency-based environment, students know the target, know what it looks like to be successful, and are given opportunities, supports and encouragement to get there. So, looking through the lens of competency, a student deserves to know what it means to demonstrate Personal Management, how it will be measured, and be involved in structured opportunities to demonstrate whether he is proficient in these skills, as well as the support and encouragement to make changes to get there, if necessary. This means we need to define, model, and teach these other skills too. Some, as we know from one state to another, can effectively be measured through assessments; others do not easily fit into an assessment box. In Oregon districts are required to report whether a student is proficient in grade-level standards and whether the student is making progress in reaching a proficient or higher level in those standards. Furthermore, the districts must separate academic achievement from non-academic factors, with only the academic elements being used to calculate GPA. This new law takes effect July 1, 2013. We will watch how this new law changes the assessment landscape across the state.
Andrew Valent is a Program Associate at the American Youth Policy Forum. He works on a variety of issues, including afterschool/expanded learning, college and career readiness, and career and technical education and is excited to add competency-based education to the list.