It’s INACOL Time…Maybe for the Last Time?

by Chris Sturgis

Word is that iNACOL is finally going to announce a new name at next week’s Symposium in Palm Springs. Thank goodness. It’s been challenging for the field to have one of the biggest gatherings to happen under an umbrella of online learning. It’s made it much more difficult for us to talk about technology as a tool not a solution when one of the leading organizations in competency education emphasizes online delivery modes. So next year we will be hopefully be gathering under a new umbrella!

I did a quick skim of the agenda for competency-based sessions.Here are a few that caught my attention.

District 51

  • 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)
Note from Chris: This is the team from District 51. They have been working towards a performance-based system for several years and have a lot to offer. Bil is particularly knowledgeable having also worked at Lindsay. Shouldn’t be missed.

Building 21

  • 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 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)
Note: Building 21  is one of the most innovative models in the CBE world.  Their model balances growth and achievement.  It it will push your thinking and may even give you new ideas that you can take home. The session Competency-Based High School Redesign: Common Pitfalls and How To Plan For Them will provide lessons learned from using the Building 21 model applied to a comprehensive high school transformation. Should be really interesting.
Kettle Moraine
  • 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)
Note: Kettle Moraine has developed a highly personalized, competency-based model. They’ve done a nice job creating career themed micro-high schools and collaborative teaching with several teachers and 90 students. Lots to learn from these folks. 
Interested in Grading: Don’t Miss Ken O’Connor

  • 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)
Note: Ken O’Connor is one of the standards-based grading gurus. Brian Stack is a principal from Sanborn, NH. But remember, grading is a later step in the process. Never, ever start with grading changes until you have the necessary pieces in place.

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