Competency-based Learning:The New Hampshire Story

Competency-based Learning:
The New Hampshire Story
Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner
NH Department of Education
3rd Annual Colorado Summit on Blended Learning
May 17, 2012
NH Competency-based Learning
Will address:
• Why did NH do this?
• What is NH trying to accomplish?
• What policies and procedures did NH use to develop
competency based learning and to bring it to scale?
• What are competencies, how are they assessed,
graded, and what does competency-based learning
look like in NH?
• Where are we going next in our journey to studentcentered, personalized, competency education?
• What are the learnings, what are the cautions?
Why did New Hampshire move to
competency-based education?
“The Burning Platform”
A Focus on Input from Stakeholders ~
• a series of stakeholder focus groups were held
to see what issues were considered most
important in revitalizing NH’s high schools
• Focus groups included Students, teachers,
counselors, administrators, superintendents,
career & technical education personnel, techprep (STW), higher education, special
education, parents, community agencies,
businesses and employers of students, policymakers, State Board and local board members,
and others
Some Overall Messages Heard ~
NH secondary schools have many things that are working and
working well, but there needs to be a way for disseminating
promising practices to all schools.
Teachers and students both want relevance and relationships in
teaching in learning
All stakeholders wish to work together, but many don’t know how to
bridge the gap between the school environment and
work/community/higher education for dialogue and shared
Stakeholders see the state DOE as having a role in framing the
vision, providing research and (statewide and local) technical
assistance, and searching for resources while the stakeholders see
their role as implementation and advocacy for sustained
Resources are needed to help reform NH HS and sustain excellence
Specific approaches identified as “working”
for NH High Schools ~
– Dual Enrollment Programs
– Internships, work-based learning, community
service, CTE, apprenticeships, career academies
– After-school co-curricular activities
– Performance- and Project-based learning
Findings ~ What’s not Working?
• “Old style” teaching methods
• Size of schools
• Obstacles to CTE programs (transportation, openings, scheduling, lack of
good 9th and 10th grade CTE programs
• Teacher-focused teaching instead of student-focused learning
• Daily schedule and early start not optimal for learning
• Teacher-student ratios too high
• Breadth of curriculum over depth
• Curriculum in math, science, and social studies does not keep pace with
the world
• Students graduate high school without basic math, reading, writing skills
• Political environment in educational decision making
• Variable public school funding; money issues
• Standards for special ed teachers makes finding highly qualified teachers
hard; too few
• Variable public school funding; money issues
What New Approaches are Needed?
• Restructure teacher training (especially in
learning styles) Incorporate learning styles
(interdisciplinary, experiential, competencybased, real-world)
• Interdisciplinary, experiential, competencybased and real world learning
• Resolve adequacy and equitable funding
• Collaborative, multi-system thinking in P-16
We Need A New Goal-Line For Public
Education in the U.S.
A Conceptual Playing Field of Preparation for College, Career and Life
A new learning field integrating two
understandable dimensions
Skills in
Along the “Know” axis lies most
current practice and student
experience, driven by current
goal-lines and metrics
Along the “Know-How” axis lie
the 21st century skills:
developed through
learning, and assessed through
Four Keys To College And Career
Key Content
+ Key terms and
+ Factual information
+ Linking ideas
+ Organizing concepts
+ Common Core State
Standards (in
English/ literacy and
mathematics only)
+ Standards for
Success in Science,
Social Sciences,
Second Languages,
the Arts
© 2011 David T Conley
Key Cognitive
Key Learning
Skills &
+ Time management
+ Study skills
+ Goal setting
+ Self-awareness
+ Persistence
+ Collaborative learning
+ Student ownership of
+ Technology proficiency
+ Retention of factual
Key Transition
Knowledge &
+ Admissions
+ College types and
+ Career pathways
+ Affording college
+ College culture
+ Relations with
+ Social/identity issues
in transitioning
A Developing Definition of
College and Career Readiness
College- and career-readiness requires mastery of rigorous content knowledge and the
ability to effectively integrate and apply knowledge in diverse environments within and
across disciplines. Knowledge and skills are not attained in a vacuum, but are aided by the
development of dispositions.
• Knowledge refers to content mastery achieved by college- and career-ready
learners. Learners will achieve mastery of foundational content in the Common Core
State Standards: reading, writing, speaking, listening, language, and mathematics; and
other subjects as defined by a state to include science, social studies, the arts, and
world languages
• Skills refer to the actions and abilities developed by college- and career-ready
learners. These higher-order skills include, but are not limited to, the ability to think
critically and solve complex problems (hypothesize, research, analyze, organize and
construct solutions), work collaboratively, communicate effectively, learn how to learn,
utilize technology and digital media, create and innovate, and be globally competent.
• Dispositions refer to the behavioral qualities fostered by college- and career-ready
learners. Students will understand themselves as life-long learners, will take
responsibility for managing their own lives, and will be able to successfully operate
within a greater social context. Dispositions include but are not limited to goal setting
and persistence, time and resource management, self-awareness, using initiative, civic
mindedness, and social and emotional competence.
....World-class Knowledge and
Skills require achievement goals…
……. Determine a continuum of competencies through
which students demonstrate mastery.
……. Mastery requires that a student apply content
and skills in performance based scenarios.
……. Grades must represent the mastery level of
……. Learning time is determined by mastery and not
grade level.
How Did New Hampshire Go
About Changing Education?
NH Policy Context: A Perfect Storm!
NH School Approval Standards
Flexible use of time and place - Established
Mastery of course competencies, rather than
seat time, to attain HS credit.
Effective July 1, 2005
NH Senate Bill 18
Raised Compulsory School
Attendance Age from 16 to 18
Effective July 1, 2009
Definition of Extended Learning Opportunities
Monadnock Community Connections, MC2
Nellie Mae 3 Plus Year Pilot
Nellie Mae Feasibility Study
Supporting Student Success (S3) Funding
NH Rule Making and Policy
Competency Assessment History
What Policies Support
Competencies and Competencybased Learning in New Hampshire?
The New Hampshire Minimum Standards for
School Approval
• Govern the state approval of New Hampshire
Public Schools
• Cite all of the requirements and expectations
for K-12 education
• Latest Version Passed by the State Board of
Education June, 2005
• “The design of these rules give School Boards
and Educators permission to be flexible and
creative in the way schools award credits to
students in a variety of settings.”
What is Mastery and Who Determines It?
• In NH’s system (up until now) Mastery equates
with proficiency – it really represents a degree of
proficiency that allows a student to draw upon
previous learning and apply it in new settings and
in new ways over time.
• Determination of the weight of each course
competency on which credit is based, as well as
the degree of mastery on which credit will be
granted, shall be a local decision, based on
explicit learning progressions.
Local School District Responsibilities and
• In emphasizing the need for flexibility and autonomy for
local school districts in implementing competency
assessment, the state has left local districts the
responsibility for developing policies relative to the state
approval standards. It is the purview of the local school
district to:
– identify or develop high school course competencies,
– decide on appropriate competency assessment methods, and
– define sufficiency (identifying necessary and sufficient evidence
for students to demonstrate mastery).
What is NH’s Rule?
By the 2008-2009 school year, the local school
board shall require that a high school credit can
be earned by demonstrating mastery of required
competencies for the course, as approved by
certified school personnel….. By the 2008-2009
school year, the local school board shall require
that a high school have in place competency
assessments for all courses offered through the
high school.
Competency Definitions in the TA Advisory ~
• The Committee recommended three definitions for
consistency purposes. The intent is to be less prescriptive
at the state level and to encourage districts to use
resources available nationally via the internet and
through professional associations.
– Course Level Competencies – The expected content, concepts,
and skills to be mastered in a course.
– Competency Assessment – The process by which a student
demonstrates sufficient evidence of learning.
– Mastery – This term indicates that a student has presented
sufficient evidence of attainment of the required competencies.
Note ~ If we were to re-do this, we would reference “proficiency,” rather than “Mastery”
“Move on When Ready” Using Competencies
• While sufficiency of evidence and appropriate
assessment methods are local responsibilities, the
Department and the Committee encourage school
districts to think of these as extending beyond a single
test to multiple forms of assessment, for the following
– it is consistent with national research-based best practice;
– multiple forms of assessment allow for the use of formative
assessment, encouraging students to learn and reach beyond
current understanding and performance, and,
– multiple forms of assessment minimize the use of single tests to
be used solely as a means to test out of courses perhaps
inappropriately. At the same time, when a student
demonstrates deep knowledge and application of learning, then
the only right action is to push beyond current expectations of
grade and credit!
Why did the State Board Decide to Require
Competencies for all HS Courses?
Extended Learning Opportunity (E.L.O.)
Primary acquisition of knowledge and
skills through instruction or study outside
of the traditional classroom methodology
• Independent study
• Private instruction
• Performing groups
• Internships
• Community service
• Apprenticeships
• Online courses
Extended Learning Opportunity
Requirements, When Offered in NH ~
• Consist of activities designed to:
– Provide credit or supplement regular academic courses
– Promote the school and individual student educational goals and objectives
• Be governed by a policy adopted by the local school board that:
– Provides for the administration and supervision of the program
– Encourages that certified school personnel oversee an individual student’s
– Requires that each extended learning proposal meet rigorous measurable
standards, and be approved by the school prior to its beginning
– Specifies whether or not credit can be granted for extended learning activities,
including, but not limited to, independent study, private instruction, team sports,
performing groups, internships, community service, and work study; and
– Requires that credit for an extended learning activity can only be approved by
certified educators
Additional NH Requirements for Extended
Learning Opportunities ~
• Incorporate student participation in selecting,
organizing, and carrying out extended learning
• Provide opportunities for students to acquire
knowledge and skill development comparable to
knowledge and skill development in courses offered at
the high school
• Be available to all students.
Monadnock Community Connections, MC2
Learning Opportunities
There are four main types of learning
opportunities at MC2. As students take more
ownership of their learning and become more
self-directed, they are encouraged to design
learning opportunities for themselves and for
others, in collaboration with a faculty member.
Internships - one on one relationships with adult
mentors doing meaningful work outside the
school building.
Treks - Field experiences provide students
opportunities to develop skills and apply
learning in meaningful settings.
Classes - Students integrate their knowledge and
understanding through a variety of activities that
promote critical thinking, collaboration, and self
Personal Learning - Students are encouraged to
identify learning experiences outside the school
day that provide further opportunity to develop
their essential knowledge and Habits.
Engage Networks
To begin Scaling
A Next Generation
System Framework
ID Entry or
Proof Points
Evaluate and
Share Outcomes
Use Rapid
Prototyping to
Document Proof
Ready for Innovation
Engage Key
Id Resources
Towards an Authentic
Competency Based
Assessment System
Five Years in the Making
 2005/2006 – NHDOE Releases Standards Based State
Curriculum Frameworks
 2007 – TRHS Begins to Write Curriculum Unit Outlines for All
Courses Based on the State Frameworks Standards
 2008 – State Mandates All High Schools Must Become
Competency Based
 2008 – Timberlane Regional School Board Adopts a Policy
That Supports Competency Based Education at the High
 2008-2010 – TRHS Creates Competencies for Core
 2010-2011 – Competency Based Testing Implemented
Authentic Assessment ~ Timberlane H.S.
◦ Involves students in tasks that are worthwhile,
significant, and meaningful
◦ Can look and feel like learning activities, not
traditional tests
◦ Involve higher-order thinking skills and the
coordination of a broad range of knowledge
◦ communicates to students what it means to do their
work well
◦ makes clear the standards by which that work will be
A Modern World History Competency and
Performance Indicators
Competency 2: Students will understand that
conflict and change impact World History.
2a. Student will recognize and conclude that
when there is societal conflict, variable
consequences will result.
2b. Student will assess how societies resolve
conflicts through legal procedures, force, and/or
Spaulding High School Competency
Instructional System
Timberlane High School, Sanborn NH
Timberlane juniors Maree
Magliochetti and Luke
Botting made a documentary
film about two Plaistow
World War II veterans. Tom
Cullen, seated, is one of the
veterans. Their film won the
2008 Ken Burns War Stories
documentary award, and
was a jury finalist at the New
Hampshire High School Short
Film Festival.
Going Deeper Into Competency Education
• Develop Competencies
System Specifications:
– Competency Definition (UbD – Wiggins & McTighe)
– Definition of “Sufficiency”
• Aligned Assessments
• New System of Grading
• Teaching and Learning in a Competency
Environment ~ Shared ownership of learning!
What are competencies and what is
competency based learning?
NH’s Approach to develop Competencies
• NH Competency Based System Pilot
• Local Decision ~ Competency Definition
(remember, pre-digital system!)
• Reference to Grade Level and Grade Span
Equivalencies ~ New England Common Assessment
• CACES charged with competency development,
training, and quality assurance ~ Rose Colby, et. al.
• Adoption of Understanding by Design as model
ELO Project ~ Skunk Works Team
Building Out the Model
• Liz Bowen-Clewley, NZ and Jobs for the Future
~ 1995-99
• State Team, 2005~
– Partners: Competencies, Performance
Assessment, Out of School, School Leadership
• District/Local Teams, 2006 ~
– Coordinator, leadership, teachers
Vision of NH ELO Initiative
Expand traditional high school classroom
Create rigorous, relevant and personalized
learning experiences – Real World for all
Grant credit based on demonstration of
mastery of course competencies
ELO Team
Initial Conferencing
Gathers ELO
ELO Plan
ELO Experience
Develops ELO Plan
Monitors ELO
of mastery of
of Student
HS Course ‘X’
Stage 1:
Essential Questions
Stage 2:
Stage 3:
Just in Time
Formal Lessons
Understanding by Design by Wiggins and
McTighe: A Summary
In "Understanding by Design," Wiggins and McTighe (1998) lay out
a conceptual framework for instructional designers. Unlike
many instructional design models that come from a training
background, the Wiggins and McTighe model is well suited for
the academic community and to competencies. Among their
recommendations are:
• The "backwards design" instructional design model
• The “enduring understandings” and “essential questions”
• Leading to “Benchmarks” or “competencies,” assessed via
• “Performance tasks” and “criterion referenced assessments”
and “self-assessments”
Developing the Authentic Assessment
Performance Task
Ford Motor Co. has offered a cash prize for
a vehicle design project. Your group of 3
or 4 students has decided to enter the
The vehicle must be able to accommodate
a family of 4 and its primary use is
private transportation. The vehicle
design must be based on Newton’s 3rd
Law for its propulsion system.
Using household items, create a scale
model of your vehicle. This must be a
working model that demonstrates your
propulsion system. In addition to the
model, a technical report must be
completed. This would include technical
drawings, an explanation of the concept
design, and all appropriate
mathematical calculations for
predicting performance.
The Student will understand that an
object’s motion is determined by the
net forces applied to it.
• Skills/Activities
Apply Newton’s Law’s of Motion to
authentic situations.
Key Components
1. Authentic Scenario means assigning a
role anchored in a realistic situation
2. Expectations and Guidelines must be
clearly stated for how students will be
3. Final Product must be clearly stated.
Most Important! The assessment must
reflect the goal of the Benchmark and
Cardiac Surgery ELO
ELO FOCUS: Causes and treatment of congestive heart failure
HQT: Biology teacher
1. cite implications of biotechnology of the medical fields
2. connect basic anatomy of related physical systems for cardiac
3. explore career path, including financial needs, aptitudes and
education requirements
½ biology credit and deepened passion to pursue medical career in
cardiac surgery
Comparison of Dropout Rates Between ELO Initiative
Schools and the State of NH
Dropout Rate
Although the trend line
indicates a 0% dropout rate
in 2013, the R squared value
would indicate that a later
R² = 0.903
R² = 0.8399
Combined Schools Dropout Rate WITH ELO Initiative
Trend WITH Initiative
State Trend
Sustainability and Next Steps
Require Extended Learning Opportunities Local Policy
Competency Validation Process
Performance Assessment Rubrics, Process, Moderation
Training and Technical Assistance
Advance Next Generation Attributes and systems change
What Have We Learned?
Wholly different approach requires modeling,
extensive professional development and expertise
New ways of looking at curriculum, instruction,
assessment, and program design
Beyond the edges of ESEA and USED Initiatives
Strong visionary leadership and structural redesign
to support personalization and instructional
Cautions From NH’s Experience
Implementing a Competency-based
Learning Model at Scale
• Decision Point ~ State or Locally developed
• Implementation ~ Do not underestimate the
magnitude of this Second Order Change!
• Put the system together first from a public
education perspective ~
Defining “sufficiency”
student transfers
College transcripts
Cautions (cont.)
College Readiness
◦ “I do not support the assertion made by some parents or school boards that
the chances for admission or future success in college will be put in jeopardy
by any shift away from ‘traditional’ testing or grading structures. As it is now,
most HS students have never been exposed to the high stakes grading systems
that many college classes utilize (fewer tests, all worth more), yet most
students are successful in their transition to college (at least at UNH). It is
important for parents to understand that admissions offices are not evaluating
a student’s test taking ability; we are looking at their academic skill
development (of which test taking is certainly a part of). Students with strong
academic skills (critical reading, writing, speaking, mathematics, learning
skills, note taking skills, etc.) developed during the HS years, once they adjust
to the demands of a college classroom, tend to do well in college regardless of
the ‘style’ or ‘structure’ of their HS communities. Bright, prepared, motivated
and capable students will do well in college regardless of their HS structures
or controls. ”
In a Sept 2010 letter to Scott Strainge from
Robert McGann
Assistant Vice President for Student and Academic Services
and Director of Admissions
University of New Hampshire
Cautions (cont.)
 “The critics are RIGHT – we SHOULD prepare students for the rigors of
college. But just because the critics might have endured terrible college
teaching techniques – lecture halls filled with the sonorous tones of a
professor who would compete with Ambien – doesn’t mean that it is the
model for 21st Century learning. Don’t ask what the worst college
experiences of 30 years ago were. Ask what the best college experiences
of today are. That includes, by the way, not just universities, but
community colleges and technical schools that are providing more job
opportunities and real-world skills than any lecture hall. What you will
find are great professors who emphasize collaboration, project
completion, personal responsibility, complex reasoning, and
communication – all without the benefit of a multiple-choice final exam. ”
In a September 2010 letter to Scott Strainge from
Douglas B. Reeves, Ph.D.
Author and Director of The Leadership and Learning Center
Going to Scale ~ What matters
Political Will
Expand on
What Works
NH Accountability System
New Wave of Writings by Educational
Leaders ~
Global Trends vs. “The Finnish Way”
Global educational reform
movement (germ)
Teaching core subjects
Test-based accountability
Market-based management
Data and control
Finnish policies
• Broad & creative learning
• Personalization
• Professional responsibility
• Educational leadership
• Collaboration and Trust
Pasi Sahlberg, BCSTA, April, 2011
A New Theory of Action
If we believe that all
students must be:
Mastery of
Content, Skills &
Which requires a
comprehensive System of
Educator & School
Then our system must advance
students as they
System of Accountability
A New Theory of Action ~
NCLB ~ Waiver*: If schools/educators
are held accountable to state
standards, schools will improve ~
• All students must reach
proficiency by 2014
• States will provide summative
assessments for all students
annually (3-8, 11)
• States will designate schools
adequate yearly progress and
need for improvement
• Sanctions and supports will be
provided to districts/schools
based on designation
• Effectiveness of educators will (on
large part) be based on Student
NH System: If CCR is essential for all
students, schools and educators must be
supported (and held accountable) to
bring all students to mastery ~
All graduating students will demonstrate college and/or
career readiness based on an expanded definition of
rigorous content, adaptive skills, and critical
dispositions by 2017
NH will adopt a balanced system of assessment
(formative, interim, and summative) to assess student
mastery along learning progressions.
School/educator accountability will be based on
individual student growth models that support studentcentered, competency-based learning, including
performance-based systems of assessments.
NH will support the creation of an educator
effectiveness system, including preparation, selection,
induction, mentoring, and evaluation connected to
student performance in order to build on the strengths
of the system, rather than emphasize the deficits.
Schools and educators will be engaged in continuous
improvement networks of support driven by research
based system objectives
All graduating students will demonstrate
college and/or career readiness by 2017
College and career readiness requires:
• Knowledge – mastery of rigorous content and the
facile application or transfer of what has been
learned to novel situations.
• Skills – the capacities and strategies that enable
students to learn and engage in higher-order
thinking, meaningful interaction with the world
around them, and planning for the future
• Dispositions – Socio-emotional skills or behaviors
(sometimes referred to as habits of mind) that
associate with success in both college
and career
CCSSO, March 2012
All graduating students will demonstrate
college and/or career readiness by 2017
A new definition of college and career readiness
• Conversations with Higher Education ~
NH has engaged this conversation through the
implementation of the Common Core State
Standards across the NH IHEs
• Conversations with Business and Industry ~
NH has created a new Business Education
Roundtable to advance this discussion as the
system is constructed.
“What gets measured, gets done.”
Where do the ways we assess student progress today fall inside this
learning field?
Jr. Achievement
Science Fair
Term Paper
Mastery of
English • Math • Science • Social Studies • Arts & Languages
The ability to understand and integrate
Resources Technology Information Systems Interpersonal
To meet personal, civic, and workplace objectives
Transition to Balanced Assessment
System ~
NH will adopt a balanced system of assessment (formative,
interim, and summative) to assess student mastery along
learning progressions.
Linda Darling-Hammond
NH System of
NH Model for Educator Evaluation
Levels of Student Data in Educator
Evaluation ~
• Large Scale State Assessment (NECAP/SBAC) ~
(Shared Attribution)
• Local Valid and Reliable Assessments ~ (AIMSWeb; DIBLES, etc.)
• Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) (Locally
negotiated at the classroom level ~ tied to
class-specific information and improvement
science research)
Improvement Science ~
• Each network seeks to design and test effective
interventions while generating learning about how
these work, for whom, and under what organizational
• A coherent and explicit chain of reasoning guides
intervention design
• Specific, measurable outcomes create shared targets
for the community
• Problem solving occurs simultaneously in a diverse
network of sites with practical inquiry occurring in each
locale as to whether the changes introduced are
actually an improvement
Anthony Bryk, 2011
Improvement Science, Innovation and
Accountability ~
• Problem solving occurs simultaneously in a diverse
network of sites with practical inquiry occurring in each
locale as to whether the changes introduced are
actually an improvement
• Evidence is accumulated network-wide through the use
of common frameworks for defining problems and
hypothesizing solutions along with common measures
for examining outcomes
• The breadth of information generated across contexts
and participants enhances the possibilities for
innovation and expands insights beyond those arising
in any one place.
Anthony Bryk, 2011
“A learner-centered accountability system embraces the
notion of personalized, student-centered learning;
assumes and verifies good intent and support from
educators, students, and parents; and places actionable
data into the hands of educators and the public to
provide both pressure and support to change the
current educational system.”
White Paper: “Rethinking
NH State Accountability:
Building Capacity to
Change Student
David Ruff, GSP
“This new theory of change may be more
challenging to contemplate and equally
difficult to implement, but as it identifies
areas of need, builds capacity for
implementing ongoing growth, and meets
the learning needs of NH students, it
remains the necessary next step in the
strong educational history of New
White Paper: “Rethinking
Hampshire.” NH State Accountability:
Building Capacity to
Change Student
David Ruff, GSP
Final Admonitions!
• Admonition # 1 – This change is not only about
online or blended learning. Blended Learning
allows for personalized mass customization of
content delivery, but it does not eliminate the
need for teacher quality and other adult
• Admonition # 2 - Similarly, can have all the
systems in the world in place, we will still need to
know who will champion this 2nd Order Change?
“On reflecting on this
life I have been struck
as much by ‘the
silences’ hovering
around the talk of
education as by the
noise of its familiar
Ted Sizer, The Red Pencil
#1 “Silence”
“The first rests in the difference between teaching and
learning. Teaching implies a place where educators
provide a service for a child within the walls of a school
building. Learning reflects what that child is ingesting
from all sources, not just those arising from teacherly
Another ‘Silence’ ~
“I cannot teach a child well,
whom I do not know well. How
can I teach that child well, if I
do not know her enthusiasms or
why she makes mistakes or
what seems to be out of sorts for
her at a given moment, or what
is behind her at home. And no
two of our children are alike.”
Unpacking The “Silences”
Contact Information
Paul Leather
Deputy Commissioner
New Hampshire
Department of Education
(603) 271-3801
[email protected]

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