Study: Teachers need more time, support on personalized learning | Education Dive

A recent RAND study of 40 schools also found educators felt that students worked much slower when allowed to go at their own pace, presenting yet another hurdle.

This article has lots of things to discuss, but for now let’s focus on the notion of personalized learning, often referred to as proficiency-based learning or competency-based learning. It seems to me that you can’t have it both ways: Either teachers stick to their time-based schedules and push students along regardless of whether they are learning key concepts and skills, or they create an environment that truly supports students in their learning. Naturally, students will learn and progress at different levels and at difference paces–this is just the nature of being human. I can tell you that I certainly cannot learn to play guitar scales as quickly or as easily as my husband can, but I can learn them and I can adapt them in ways that perhaps he wouldn’t consider. One is not better than the other–it’s just an example of how we are different and it’s important not just to accept those differences, but to embrace them.

The assembly line model of education just simply doesn’t work–despite our best efforts over the past several decades. We must adjust our educational structure in order to help students prepare for the challenges of their future careers. We must keep asking, “What do our students need to know and be able to do?” and then we must create learning environments to facilitate their success.



Source: Study: Teachers need more time, support on personalized learning | Education Dive

Governors call for greater partnership around workforce development | Education Dive

There is a huge disconnect between what is being taught in two- and four-year colleges and what the business and industry needs are. We hear all the time about workforce development and the need for higher educational institutions to partner with representatives from business, industry, and manufacturing sectors, and yet the chasm seems to be getting wider.

Those of you who follow my writings know that I strongly support a competency-based educational model. In this context, curriculum is standards-based and based on competencies aligned to those standards. From there, instructional activities facilitate learning while assessments measure learner proficiency. The question becomes: Where do the competencies come from?

I think they should come directly from the workforce–from representatives of the various sectors of employment that graduates will seek upon program completion. Educational institutions should create advisory councils for this purpose–not just as “window dressing” or to meet accreditation requirements–but as true partners in the educational process. So, standards could align to authentic, workforce-driven competencies that are needed for employment, and apprenticeships could be set up to support authentic student learning in a clinical or field setting.

It seems like such a win-win to me–so why aren’t we doing it? That’s another topic for another blog post…



Source: Governors call for greater partnership around workforce development | Education Dive

Michigan administrators detail district’s evidence-based approach to improvement | Education Dive

Our school makes data-driven decisions, and we are committed to continuous program improvement. We see these claims frequently made in accreditation self-studies and in marketing pieces, and yet reality is often very different.

In many cases, decisions are made out of emotion or “gut feeling” or personal preference. Data are often never examined much less analyzed. If school districts are fortunate enough to have on staff a data or assessment expert, teachers and school leaders often feel as though their responsibility is dissolved and simply expect that assessment staffer to review and analyze data for annual reports to the state or federal government. Many school personnel fail to grasp the value and the necessity of actively using data to make curricular and instructional decisions.

In this Age of Accountability through standardized high-stakes testing, it is imperative for educators and administrators to not only accept, but to embrace, the role of data in daily classroom decision making as well as in planning for an entire school year–in other words, on both micro and macro levels.


Source: Michigan administrators detail district’s evidence-based approach to improvement | Education Dive

Research: Principals don’t give teachers the truth about performance | Education Dive

This piece is worth a look–it focuses on how many principals are reluctant to provide specific, honest feedback to teachers regarding their performance. Why is this? Do principals think they are doing the teachers a favor by being less than honest and by sugar-coating evaluations? What about the impact this lack of honesty is having on student learning?

Moreover, we complain about grade inflation of students–where teachers close one eye and “go easy” on a student who’s struggling. Sometimes the reasons for this include things like: she’s having a difficult time at home; or perhaps he/she is “sweet but slow”; or even “he needs to keep up his GPA in order to play sports”. I’ve heard all these excuses and more over the years–and none of them actually end up helping the student in the long run. The same is true for building principals being less than honest about teacher performance: How can you improve if you don’t know what you need to work on?

I think principals who practice this dishonest method of evaluating teacher performance are demonstrating a huge lack of professionalism–and they are helping no one–not teachers, and certainly not students.


Source: Research: Principals don’t give teachers the truth about performance | Education Dive

Deepening teacher shortages highlighted in California state superintendent race | Education Dive

“Finding high-quality teachers to fill classroom slots is becoming a greater challenge everywhere.”

This is not just occurring in California–we are quickly becoming a nation that shares the challenge of staffing our classrooms with qualified, caring, and competent teachers. Some states have suffered more than others, and particularly within urban and rural school districts. One major cause of this problem as I see it is that teachers are not viewed as professionals–they are often viewed as babysitters or childcare providers–and despite how caring and compassionate they are this will wear thin after a while, especially when students and parents are disrespectful and when activist groups and governmental agencies demand that teachers demonstrate their value through standardized test scores. This lack of respect extends to salaries, with teachers in many states scraping by on a paycheck that’s often just above poverty level.

Another issue is that most state departments of education continue to rely on the same regulations that have been in place forever–and they see no reason to topple their apple carts and update their expectations for preparing teachers in today’s classrooms. Licensure requirements are so onerous in some states that many individuals opt to go into the private sector.

I have developed an innovative residency-based educator preparation program that would alleviate much of the teacher shortage in high-demand areas such as mathematics, science, special education, and English Language Learning. However, until government officials understand and accept the gravity of teacher shortages, they will not be willing to partner with those who have come up with positive solutions.

Source: Deepening teacher shortages highlighted in California state superintendent race | Education Dive

International models highlight flaws in American workforce pipeline | Education Dive

“International models for apprenticeship programs showcase some of the downsides in our own, as well as some methods by which we can improve”.

I support the notion of creating a two-track system in our public high schools: one for those who know they are college-bound, and one for those who know they aren’t. One is not better than the other–they should just be viewed as different tracks to better meet the needs and interests of students. I believe this will lead to increased retention and graduation rates in college, but also less turnover and greater productivity in our nation’s business and industry sector.

I would like to see the first two years of high school focus on general education requirements with an emphasis on mathematics, reading, critical thinking, writing, and the like. It could also include exploratory educational opportunities where members of the higher education and business/industry sectors introduce learners to multiple possibilities. Then, in the final two years of high school I support the notion of continuing their basic academic skill development but adding a layer of post-high school opportunities, through a combination of volunteer (third year) and paid (fourth year) apprenticeships.

Other countries are having good success in preparing individuals for the workforce, both those who choose to attend a university after finishing high school and those who don’t. Why can’t the United States explore a model like this?

Source: International models highlight flaws in American workforce pipeline | Education Dive

Governors call for greater partnership around workforce development | Education Dive

There’s an opportunity for four-year and two-year colleges to work more closely with industry to ensure the degree and certification programs being offered are meeting workforce needs.

I think we will see more emphasis on workforce-driven education in the next few years, and it’s long overdue. For too long, there has been a significant disconnect between how P-12 students are taught, how they are prepared in college, and what the workforce really needs. In fact, I support the notion of having business and industry representatives serving on Advisory Councils in every P-12 school district, and in every institution of higher education. Those Councils should have considerable influence in curriculum, instruction, and programming.

As an extension of their involvement, workforce representatives should partner with local school districts and higher ed institutions in local communities to support paid apprenticeships and internships for students to explore career opportunities.

Source: Governors call for greater partnership around workforce development | Education Dive

Empowering Students to Take Ownership of their Learning

 “A student who understands what it means to own their learning has an internal drive to get things done.” This comes from the principal (and superintendent) of a rural school in Idaho who has unlocked the key to powerful learning. It’s often referred to by many different names:

  • personalized learning
  • proficiency learning
  • mastery learning
  • demonstration learning
  • individualized instruction
  • competency-based education

All these different names can be confusing but the bottom line is this:

Students are empowered to take control of their own learning. They achieve success not because someone is forcing them to move at a certain pace, or memorize a set of dates for a test the next day–they learn because they want to. And, teachers are empowered to provide richer, more meaningful feedback to their students because they can customize learning experiences as needed. School leaders are empowered to make more thoughtful decisions about schools and school systems. And parents/caregivers are empowered because they see their children enjoying school in a way they never did before.

All students deserve the opportunity to learn under this model, rather than just put in their seat time as required by state departments of education whose regulations haven’t been updated in decades. Contact hours mean far less than learning time–big difference! Just because someone may be sitting in a seat for 50 minutes does not mean they are engaged, motivated, and focused on the problems appearing on a worksheet.

I am currently working with P-12 administrators in Missouri to see if we can in turn work with lawmakers to create a legislative space for competency-based education. We have no desire to throw the baby out with the bathwater–districts should always be able to choose the model that’s right for their local areas–but there should be a provision that allows districts to see if this type of personalized instruction would positively impact their students.

If anyone is currently implementing this model I would love to hear from you. Or–if you want to talk about ways in which your school or district could slowly begin to build such a model feel free to reach out to me by clicking the “About the Author” page.




Implications for Programs Considering CBE

I just had a commentary published in the Journal of Competency-Based Education entitled, Implications for Educator Preparation Programs Considering Competency-Based Education and wanted to share it with my readers.

There are some essential thoughts to consider for programs thinking about adopting the competency-based education (CBE) model. Tips shared can be applied across majors, at both the collegiate and the P-12 levels.

Competency-based education (CBE) is quickly becoming accepted as an effective way to facilitate powerful, authentic learning at all levels. Learners must demonstrate what they know and are able to do, rather than just put in “seat time” and complete a prescribed set of courses. However, designing a solid CBE program requires a great deal of thought, understanding, and know-how; this commentary highlights some important tenets of CBE to consider.

I’ve worked in institutions using traditional learning models and spent 10 years working in one that employs the CBE model effectively. I’ve really come to appreciate the level of learning that takes place in a CBE model, and I’ve seen over the years how effective it is in supporting students’ learning. I’ve celebrated with students and their families who reached their goals and achieved their dreams because they were in an environment that enabled them to show what they knew and then move on at their own pace. CBE, when structured properly, helps educators to personalize learning experiences. I predict the CBE model will be a major player in the educational arena over the next two decades at the P-12 level as well as at the collegiate level.

Want to talk more about how to adopt the CBE model in your own program? Please reach out to me through the Contact the Author link; I’d be happy to help.


Institutional vs. Programmatic Accreditation

For those of you who don’t know, there are many types of accreditation–you may likely hear terms such as regional accreditation, national accreditation, functional or programmatic accreditation, and sometimes even state accreditation. Each plays an important role in quality assurance for specific programs or an entire institution. I could put you to sleep with a lengthy blog with all sorts of details, but here is the bottom line:

Don’t ever take a single course from an institution that is not accredited. Ever. Ever.

While no guarantee of perfection, accredited institutions have provided certain levels of assurance to respected bodies within academia that students will be taken care of. Non-accredited institutions have had no one looking over their shoulder, digging deep and looking in various academic or financial nooks and crannies; they can accept your money with absolutely no guarantee that the course or degree that you completed will be worth anything at all.

I came across an entertaining yet informative video that clears up some of the confusion:

ASPA 2016 Explainer

If you have additional questions about accreditation feel free to reach out to me through the Contact the Author page.