Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why Competency in Henry

Why Competencies?!?
Henry County Schools Rationale

Through the dedicated work of content coordinators and teachers around the district, we have developed Competency Documents, complete with performance indicators and scoring criteria. These competencies represent the next step in our work toward a competency-based educational model in Henry County Schools. Leaning heavily on the work done in New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Oregon, and Alaska, we have derived competency statements from the Georgia Standards of Excellence and laid out key understandings and essential learnings that are necessary in each content area.

These competencies represent the most essential learning needed for students to be academically successful throughout their K-12 experience. They also provide blueprints for logical academic progression through grade bands.  Additionally, we know that if students are held to high levels of mastery in these competencies they will be prepared for college and career.  

It is our intent in moving to and developing a competency-based learning model that our local curriculum can stand the test of time and winds of change to serve as the foundation of learning for all students for years to come.  Borrowing heavily from the success that Gwinnett County has had with their Academic Knowledge Standards, developed in the late 1990s and tweaked over the years to ensure alignment on state assessments, we believe that these competencies will allow our students to know what is expected of them to learn and master, as well as, allow our teachers to have the peace of mind that we can stay with one curriculum set for years to come.  Beyond academic competencies, you will also see Cross-Curricular Graduation Standards.  These standards specifically address the 4 C’s of 21st century skills and signal that we believe graduates of Henry County Schools need more than a predetermined number of credits to be college, career and life ready. 

Additionally, a competency-based learning model is built on the belief that students must demonstrate mastery at the competency level before moving on, but equally provided opportunities and support to move on when they have demonstrated mastery, regardless of seat time or specific time in the year.  This shift requires us to think differently about the way we ‘do’ school.  This work will involve examining teaching, assessment, and grade reporting processes and procedures, as well as, determining the best ways to assess and report mastery of competencies.  To that end, we will explore possible adjustments to the current standards based report card, to MS and HS reporting tools, and district-wide grading practices.  This is an exciting and daunting task that will require all stakeholders to engage and participate in order to create the best methods of communicating learning and mastery to students, parents, the workforce, community stakeholders, and colleges/universities.

Over the course of the next two academic years, we will be providing professional development, training, and feedback opportunities as we transition across the district to a competency-based model.  Currently, schools in Cohort 15 are using the competencies as the foundation of their instructional practices and Cohort 16 schools are beta testing the competencies to help us refine them and ensure they are on track.  The content coordinators are poised and ready to support these schools today and other schools in the district over the course of the next three years to make the transition to competency-based learning successful throughout the district.   Their work moving forward is solely dedicated to helping you, as building leaders, plan for, train, and develop understanding and capacity for your faculty and staff to educate students in a competency-based educational model.   The content coordinators and their TOSAs will be providing differentiating levels of support to schools making the transition to competencies based on a number of factors including, whether they are a launch school, expressed interest and need, and the determination of the principal and Executive Officer.   In the same manner we expect teachers to provide personalized instruction and support to students as they demonstrate mastery, we will provide personalized training and support to schools and faculties. 

With the shift to competencies comes many adjustments and we are poised to support our teachers, administrators, and students in these changes.  It is our intent to facilitate feedback sessions along with opportunities for community involvement and input in the determination of policies and procedures to be implemented in order to fully realize competency-based learning at its best in Henry County.   There are many decisions to be made about what is needed to make this happen for your students and teachers and we welcome and need your input, feedback, dialogue, pushback, and support. 

Thank you for your continued diligence in leading this shift.  It is your willingness to learn, to engage in meaningful dialogue, and to participate in the process that will make the end results ensure success for each student in Henry County Schools.

-Aaryn Schmuhl

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