Educating for ‘competence’

“Competency-based” education is hot, but what does it really mean? The Christian Science Monitor looks at New Hampshire, a leader in the competency movement.

At Sanborn Regional High in Kingston, N.H, students must be proficient in four “competencies” — concepts and skills — to pass each class. They show their competence through quizzes and tests, projects, portfolios of their work and class performances.

If they fall behind, they’re expected to keep working during flex-periods, where teachers reteach key concepts. Students reflect on and revise their work until they meet expectations. “They take ownership of it,” says Aaron Wiles, an English teacher.

In a freshman Global Studies classes, competencies include understanding the role of conflict and cooperation among individuals and governments and applying knowledge of geography.

For the unit on World War I, teachers divide students into teams representing six fictional Balkan countries. Students create flags and anthems for their countries — and seek alliances covering nonaggression, right of passage, mutual defense, or mutual support.

. . . “I didn’t really know what caused wars,” Brianna (DeRosier) says. “I knew it was conflict, but I didn’t really understand why – I was like, why can’t everybody just get along? But now I understand that there are other parts to it, with the allies, and sneaking around each other’s back.”

The simulation takes several class periods and drives home lessons on nationalism, geography, economics, military strategy, and culture, so when the teachers incorporate the facts of World War I, students can take away more than just a string of events.

Playing Risk in school sounds like fun. Is it worth the time? And how does the teacher judge whether Brianna has achieved competency in understanding conflict and cooperation?

New Hampshire tries credits for competence

New Hampshire schools have moved away from “seat time” to “competency-based learning,” advancing students when they have mastered course content. Strengthening High School Teaching and Learning in New Hampshire’s Competency-Based System, a report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, looks at how this is working at two high schools.

“When people are buying a new car, they don’t ask how long it took to build,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Instead, they ask how well it performs.”

Sanborn Regional High School and Spaulding High School have replaced A-F grades with ratings that include “not yet competent” and “insufficient work submitted.” Students who haven’t achieved mastery can use online tools, one-on-one tutoring and student collaboration to improve.

NH overrides school choice veto

New Hampshire parents will get help paying for private school or homeschooling. The Legislature voted to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a new parental choice tax credit.

Businesses will receive an 85 percent tax credit for donations to scholarship organizations, which would distribute the scholarships for students to attend private or religious schools. The money could also be used to defray the cost of a home-school education.

The scholarships could only go to families earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level – about $70,000 for a family of four.

The program would be limited to $4 million in scholarships in the first year, then $6 million the next year and $8 million the third year.

 

States may un-adopt Common Core

New Hampshire, Minnesota and South Carolina legislators are considering bills that would block or reverse the adoption of Common Core Standards, reports Curriculum Matters.

Teacher of Year nominee laid off

Nominated for New Hampshire’s Teacher of the Year, Hampton Academy teacher Christina Hamilton received a layoff notice — by cell phone — the same week.  Kevin Fleming, grievance chairman of the teachers union, tells the Portsmouth Herald, “Even though she is recognized as a candidate for Teacher of the Year, they have to go on seniority.” Hampton has taught eighth-grade social studies.

Via EIA Online.