Competency-based learning, which allows students to progress at their own pace after they’ve shown mastery of a subject, rather than by their age, is quickly gaining momentum. Already, a few states like New Hampshire, Maine, and Oregon are moving towards implementing competency-based learning models throughout the entire state. What’s more, 40 states have at least district experimenting with the model. But despite this growth, its proponents say federal policies for accountability and assessment are holding the movement back.
KnowledgeWorks, an organization that supports three education-focused initiatives — New Tech Network, EDWorks and Strive — recently released a report highlighting the pain points between federal policy and a competency-based system. The report, Competency Education Series: Policy Brief One [PDF], points out that, although the federal government has supported some aspects of competency-based learning, implementing the new model can be difficult because of federal restrictions.
“The greatest conflict stems from disconnect with the work on the ground and federal accountability and assessment systems,” the report states. “Implementers faced with this disconnect have no choice but to juggle two systems: one required by federal law and one developed by the educators, students, parents, and community leaders committed to successful implementation of competency education.”
CLASHES OVER TIME
Time is the biggest point of contention between the two systems. The federal government measures school accountability as well as student achievement through time-based modules. Seat time and annual test results are the primary ways that the government keeps schools accountable, Continue reading
By Matt Levinson
Kids operate in a blizzard of communication — texts, social media, music, photography, games, and videos. They’re eager to share any and all new media they discover. In fact, their default action is to share and distribute as they’re living the moment.
For the most part, adults take on a more contained, traditional approach to communication, and are more accustomed to face-to-face interaction or talking on the phone than kids.
Schools, meanwhile, serve as the point of intersection for kids and adults, who are often trapped in the cross hairs of different modes and patterns of communication. Frustration invariably surfaces as kids and adults struggle to figure out how to co-exist in schools where technology is being introduced and integrated, especially through the very devices they use for social interaction.
Kids think of mobile devices holistically, in that the device encompasses everything – email, video, photos, games, music, social media – all existing as one system. Their online world is one world.
For teachers, mobile devices in schools are used specifically as tools to enhance learning. In the Continue reading
How to praise kids: It’s a hot topic for many parents and educators. A lot of the conversation around it has stemmed from studies by Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford who has been researching this specific topic for many years.
“My research shows that praise for intelligence or ability backfires,” said Dweck, who co-authored a seminal research paper on the effects of praise on motivation and performance. “What we’ve shown is that when you praise someone, say, ‘You’re smart at this,’ the next time they struggle, they think they’re not. It’s really about praising the process they engage in, not how smart they are or how good they are at it, but taking on difficulty, trying many different strategies, sticking to it and achieving over time.”
But what some might not know is that this paradox is strongest for girls.
Dweck’s research, which focuses on what makes people seek challenging tasks, persist through difficulty and do well over time, has shown that many girls believe their abilities are fixed, that individuals are born with gifts and can’t change. Her research finds that when girls think this way, they often give up, rather than persisting through difficulties. They don’t think they possess the ability to improve, and nowhere is the phenomenon stronger than in math. Continue reading
Jeremy Rusnock/Courtesy Imagination Stage
Let’s start with a question from a standardized test: “How would the world be different if we all had a third eye in the back of our heads?”
It’s not a typical standardized question, but as part of the Next Generation Creativity Survey, it’s used to help measure creativity a bit like an IQ test measures intelligence. And it’s not the only creativity test out there.
So why bother measuring creativity? James Catterall, a psychologist and director of the Centers for Research on Creativity in Los Angeles, says the simple answer is that if society, business and education demands it, then we need to know when it’s happening; otherwise, we’re just guessing when it’s there.
He says, “Measuring is an important aspect of knowing where our investments pay off.”
Troublemaker Or Misunderstood Creative Genius?
In the late 1950s, a man named E. Paul Torrance was similarly interested in children’s creativity. Torrance was a Georgia farm boy-turned-psychologist, and one of his first jobs was working with boys at a military academy. It was there that he began to see creativity as something that was Continue reading
In this era of global competition, test scores are used as the primary benchmark to call out which countries will produce “successful” students. Knowing that American students are competing against a global pool of the best and brightest has led education leaders to focus more on how they score on international tests compared to students from other countries.
But high test scores don’t provide a complete picture of students’ success, according to Yong Zhao, world-renown author, scholar, and professor of education at University of Oregon.
“Countries that score highly, have students with lower confidence,” Zhao said in his keynote address to educators gathered online for the 2013 Leadership Summit.
That seems counter-intuitive, and Zhao isn’t claiming a causal connection — he questions whether focusing on test scores might inadvertently lower confidence. Zhao has analyzed data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and discovered a negative correlation between high math scores and confidence.
“Countries that score highly, have students with lower confidence.”
Similarly, in his analysis of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test that analyzes how countries score in reading, math and science, Zhao found a negative correlation between attitude and attainment. In other words, the countries with lower scores had students who reported higher interest in the subjects. Zhao analyzed media stories from high scoring countries like Korea and Japan, where students don’t show enough confidence or enthusiasm for subjects in which they excel.
He found the same results when he looked at students’ belief in their entrepreneurial capacity, their ability to start businesses or be self-starters. “Everybody is trying to perfect this system and make Continue reading
Lizzie Chen /NPR
Over the years, there have been a lot of claims about the benefits of the arts on the mind: Listening to Mozart makes you smarter; playing an instrument makes you better at math. One program — funded in part by the federal government — is putting these theories to the test. The Turnaround Arts Initiative, spearheaded by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, is using an intensive arts curriculum to try and improve eight low-performing schools.
They’re located in Denver; New Orleans; Des Moines, Iowa; and on a reservation in Montana, among other places, and they all serve students from poor families. Some were considered to be the lowest-performing schools in their states.
“They were schools where kids seemed defeated and resigned,” says the committee’s executive director, Rachel Goslins. “There wasn’t a lot of motion or purpose or energy in the halls. They were schools that had failed for a long time.”
Third-grader Jionni Anderson remembers what it was like. She’s a student at Savoy Elementary School in Washington, D.C., one of the schools selected for the program.
“In first and second grade we had white walls,” Anderson says. “And it didn’t look right in our school. So that’s when our art teacher, Miss Hayes, and the art club, they painted different colors on the walls.”
Bold colors — greens, oranges and reds. Initially, the school had an art teacher but it didn’t have money for supplies or an art club. That all changed when Savoy became part of the Turnaround Arts Initiative. Continue reading