1 Scanning the Policy Landscape State Strategies for Rewarding Credit to Support Student Learning May 2012
2 Introduction With the support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the National Governors Association launched an initiative, State Strategies for Rewarding Credit to Support Student Learning. Upon reviewing state policies, the NGA found that 36 states currently have policies that provide school districts and schools with some flexibility for awarding credit to students based on mastery of content and skills as opposed to seat time. This growing reform, described as competency education in this scan, is an effort to re-vitalize the education system around learning. In competency education when a student is awarded a credit it means that they have truly learned what was expected. The promise of competency education is that the ceiling is removed so that students can accelerate their learning. At the same time, we must shore up the floor so that students get timely support and interventions if they are struggling to stay on pace. We must keep our most vulnerable students at the core of the work or risk even greater achievement gaps. As part of this initiative, three states were awarded grants to support planning to advance greater credit flexibility to improve student achievement. Each of the states, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, are at different stages and using different strategies for creating competency-based pathways in which students progress based upon mastery of skills. To support their work and the work of other states, the NGA has designed the following tool for scanning the policy environment and designing strategies for moving forward. It is designed to promote long-term strategy development and short-term action steps.
3 The Design of the Scan The use of time to define parameters of our education system and the assumption that some students will be successful while others will fall behind and out of school is woven throughout our K-12 system. Furthermore states are approaching credit flexibility and competency education through different entry points and using different strategies. The traditional policy planning tool with a list of policies to guide conversation will miss too many opportunities for leveraging greater flexibility. This tool has been designed to guide discussion, keeping the focus on quality, elevate a culture of innovation rather than compliance, and to support decision-making. In the spirit of creating an education system designed around learning, this tool has been designed to support building and applying knowledge as a critical step in policy development. This scanning tool is for you and you should adapt it and modify it in ways that work for you and your state leadership. The tool is divided into the following sections: Competency Education 4 Policy Scan 8 Appendix: Prompts for Policy Scan 25
4 COMPETENCY EDUCATION 1
5 Re-Visiting Credits Upon opening up innovation space in how students credits are awarded to students, we enter a broad discussion about what a credit means in terms of student learning: assessing and measuring it; where and when it happens; what happens if a student isn t learning; and what happens once they have demonstrated that they have learned the targeted skills. Where and When Expanded Learning Opportunities Progress Upon Mastery Flexible course entry and exit How Much Just in Time Support Competencies How Do We Know? Assessment Systems
6 Competency Education? What set of criteria or definition will you use to guide policy decisions? Below is a working definition to help you get started. Application of Academic and Lifelong Learning Skills Progress Upon Mastery Competency Meaningful Assessments 1. Students advance upon mastery. 2. Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students. 3. Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students. 4. Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs. Just-In-Time Support Empowering Learning Objectives 5. Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions
7 Keeping Quality at the Core Credit flexibility and competency education are not a silver bullet to improving student achievement. We still need to make sure that we keep quality core to our work. The value proposition in competency education is that students get appropriate supports and opportunities in order to continue progressing in their learning as they master skills and content. Quality is the right mix of services and opportunities so that students, even our most vulnerable are achieving at a pace that they can become college and career ready. Thus, there are three important elements of quality in competency education. 1) Keeping Expectations High: The challenge in competency education, as it is in the traditional system, is to maintain consistency of high expectations for challenging coursework. The question of how do we know that the students is demonstrating mastery of skills and content will be a question that everyone in schools and districts will need to be engaged in order to challenge the achievement gaps. 1) Just in Time Supports: All students struggle at some point with academic content and/or challenges in their lives, no matter their economic background,. If the competency education system you design isn t effective for students when they struggle, it will not add significant value. 2) Customization: The education system has to have much greater flexibility so that services and opportunities can have greater customization for students, responding to their interests, learning needs, responsibilities
8 POLICY SCAN 2
9 Proposed Scanning Process to be Revised to Meet Your Needs Proposed Scanning Process A. Introduction to Scanning the Landscape 9 B. Setting Your Direction 10 C. Scanning the Policy Landscape: An Example with CTE 12 D. Sifting Through the Options 15 E. Designing Your Strategy 18 Appendix
10 A. Introduction to Scanning the Landscape In order to offer strategic leadership, it is important that state leadership have a sense of where the major changes in the education system will have to occur to transition to a competency education system. You can select the areas that you want to work in deeply, diving into the details of policy, regulation, and practices. Therefore it is helpful to look at the system as a whole, to scan for opportunities and constraints. A scan can be useful in adjusting your position, becoming more attuned to how time is used as a defining parameter of our system and gaining a fresh understanding of the education system. As you think through your strategy for moving forward a scan can also be helpful in engaging allies as well as those organizations that may challenge the direction towards competency education. You can design a scan to elicit input from broad perspectives helping you to better understand the current system as well as the implications for implementing a competency education system. You can use the scanning process to build important relationships. As you prepare your scan, think about sharing it publicly. The more people understand about the structural problems with the current system and how a competency education can benefit all students, the easier it will be to engage them in support. Remember: Policy can take many forms. Think about PRePP to drive your analysis. Policy Programs Regulations Programs Practices
11 B. Setting Your Direction You will need to define a scope to your work. Once you select a starting point, set a vision with very specific results-based goals (write it with #, % and %). If you are really new to competency education you may want to do this step later on in the process after you have scanned the opportunities in your state. 1.Select a Starting Point It could be an elements of a competency-based system (progress upon mastery, expanded learning opportunities), an approach (empowering districts, incentives for new schools), or a target (high schools, career and technical education, credit recovery). 2.What Problem Are You Solving? What is your long-term vision? What are your goals for student achievement Describe it in results language using $, % or # s?
12 C. Scanning the Policy Landscape: Career and Technical Education Once you select you direction or lens, identify those areas that you think are going to be most important and engage people who know the most about those areas. In the Appendix you will find a series of prompts to help you think through the important issues. Flexible school calendar Dual enrollment Alignment with Common Core and technical skills Progress Upon Mastery Competencies and Assessments Just in Time Supports Expanded Learning Opportunities Instructional specialists Multiple opportunities for extra help Work-based learning Online learning
13 Use Your Vision to Drive the Analysis Progress Upon Mastery What is your vision for providing more flexibility for when students enter and complete courses? What are the federal and state policies that are currently shaping how long students have to master the competencies in a course and how they can advance upon mastery? Competencies and Assessment What is your vision for what competencies and assessment look like and how they are designed? What are the federal, national and state policies that are currently shaping the standards, curriculum and assessments? Student Learning Just In Time Supports What is your vision for the availability and effective delivery of support services? What are the federal and state policies that are currently shaping access to and delivery of support services? Expanded Learning Opportunities What is your vision for expanding learning opportunities? What are the federal and state policies that are currently shaping the availability and delivery of expanded learning opportunities?
14 Assessing And Exploring the PREPP Environment As you scan your PRePP, indicate what is the type of policy, the level of flexibility for quality and customization, and what are your ideas for revising it? Type Systemic Enabling Question How is our aspiration reflected in the current general or systemic policies that impact all students? How might we refine or revise the highest level systemic policies to better reflect our vision? Are there elements of the current systemic policies that are barriers to competency education? What is in place to enable innovators to expand credit flexibility and/or competency education? What is needed so that is more policy enables them? Programmatic How is this program supporting competency education? What can you do to expand the number of students that benefit from this program? Is there a way to transform it in to a systemic capacity? Complications What are the most important changes or new capacities needed to reduce the challenges? Barriers What barriers need to be eliminated? Supports & Incentives In what way is competency education currently encouraged? How could we provide supports, networks, resources, incentives, and recognition to encourage districts and schools?
15 D. Sifting Through the Options This is a process that requires a strong sense of vision, rigorous analysis, and a large dose of creativity. There is no easy way to sift through the options and develop a highly strategic plan. It will require discussion and dialogue. Your theory of change will influence your decisions. Are you seeking strategic empowerment so that other parts of the education system are engaged in designing and making decisions related to competency education? Are you using a compliance or mandated approach? Creating enabling policy? Creating innovation space and supports? Using RFP s to support innovators? The Relations Diagram process may be very helpful in determining which of the ideas are the most important and which are more dependent elements. As you narrow, prepare short summaries of your primary components of your work so that others may share your insights and add to them. Remember, what may be strategic for one state may not be feasible in another state.
16 Sifting Through the Options: Criteria For Value and Viability Develop a set of criteria to drive your discussion on policy options. Effectiveness How meaningful is it to driving towards your student achievement goals? Especially for struggling students? Ease How easily can the change or new capacity be made and implemented? Will What are the stakeholders that will be supportive? Will be against the change? How much effort is it going to be to gather the public will to make the change? Strategic value How important is this change or new capacity? Are other changes dependent on it? Other?
17 Template Sifting Through the Options PREPP Type Proposed Change/Learn From Effectiveness (Struggling Students) Ease Will Value Online Schools P Current: 1) if an online charter school, need to have flexibility through charter laws and regulatory requirements and 2) online schools require a seattime waiver to provide competency-based education. Medium High Low Medium Proposed policy change: All online schools have authority to be competency based with strengthened accountability to ensure all students succeed. Best practices: Learn from Florida Virtual School. "
18 E. Designing Your Strategy Once you have analyzed your options for moving forward, you will want to design a strategy. Using your theory of change, think about which policy tools will be most appropriate. Outline the elements of your strategy explaining the rationale so that others can share in your learning. Do a double-check to see if you can strengthen the strategy or if anything is missing. Think through how you will manage your constituencies so that adequate resources and timelines are established to ensure effective engagement Design a workplan that you can use as a team to advance your work. You will want to have a general workplan that you share with others as well as a very detailed workplan for the staff members who are driving the work.
19 What Is in Your Policy Toolkit? Policy objectives (fixed targets) Design standards Monitoring and data collection Bans and limitations Specifications Funding levels Regulations Competitive grants Technical assistance Professional development Creating innovation space Convening Resources and tools Other?
20 Template Strategic Policy Reforms Theme Recommendation Rationale
21 Do a Double-Check After you have identified the major elements of your strategy for changes in PRePP, do a doublecheck your work. Here are a few questions to help you reflect on your work. Quality: What is in place to ensure quality (high expectations, customization, and adequate supports)? Cohesiveness: Do the elements of the strategy build on each other or complement each other? If not, are you running a multi-pronged strategy that will need to managed separately? Colleagues and Challengers: Who is going to see this in their interest and help you advance this package of ideas? Who isn t? Constraints: What are the largest issues that are going to constrain your success? Is there any thing else you need to consider to overcome these constraints? Costs: What are the costs of the change process? Is there any way to re-organize your strategy to be more cost-effective? Communication: Can you easily communicate these ideas? What is your elevator speech?
22 Strategic Management of Stakeholders High Keep Satisfied Manage Closely POWER Low Monitor (little effort) Keep Informed Low INTEREST High
23 Workplan Template Activity Timeline Responsible Parties Measure Progress
24 Advanced Policy Reforms There are a number of issues that you will eventually have to address no matter what your starting point and approach. These are challenging systemic and structural issues of redesign that will arise in conversations as you move farther along. Management Information Systems (School, District and State Information Systems) Integrated systems providing information about: formative assessments; teacher assessments on students (standards-based) level of proficiency; eportfolio for performance-based assessments; summative assessments that are modular for moderating formative and performance-based assessments : and the ability to roll data up and evaluate productivity. Course and State Assessments Type and Schedules Aligned assessment system including: development of subject learning progressions using standards and competencies; digital content repositories aligned to competencies; and, development of modular, moderating summative exams. Aligning Roles and Professional Development for Administrators and Educators With greater flexibility in roles of educators revise: definition of teacher, evaluation systems, professional development and teacher training, orientation and supports.
25 APPENDIX 3 PROMPTS FOR POLICY SCAN
26 Overview The following slides are a set of prompts to help you get started in exploring your policy environment. They are not all-inclusive of every type of policy, regulation, program and practice that a state is currently operating upon. Each prompt has a set of questions followed by a list of examples of where to start scanning your policies. Based on your starting point and overall theory of change, you can begin to shape your own questions to guide your scanning process. The slides contain prompts for the following topics: Time as a Measure of Quality Expectations for Student Achievement Standards and Assessment Course and Curriculum Planning Educators Special Populations Student Services Expanded Learning Policies and Services for Districts and Schools Higher Education Monitoring, Reporting and Accountability
27 Time as a Measure of Quality Key Questions What are the objectives of these policies? How might you achieve the same objectives while providing flexibility regarding the time-based policies? What is needed to ensure that there are meaningful quality controls in place? Key PRePPs Hours of instruction for classes and credits (seat-time) Hours in a school day Minimum number of days in a school year Average daily attendance Other?
28 Expectations for Student Achievement Key Questions What are the objectives of these policies? Are there differentiated expectations for different students? Are there opportunities to re-organize these expectations into competencies? Key PRePPs Definition of college and career readiness Number and types of credits required for graduation Differentiated graduation requirements Standards Policies and regulations that allow students to progress to more advanced courses
29 Standards and Assessments Key Questions How will states integrate lifelong learning competencies into its overall set of expectations? Will there be some specialized competencies that are not required for all students such as technical education? How will K-12 competencies be aligned with admissions to college (community college and four year?) How might states restructure assessment systems to reflect elements of competency education? Given that policies have been developed to provide accommodations for assessments, can we also increase flexibility so that students can be assessed after demonstrating proficiency? Key PRePPs Standards across disciplines including ELA, mathematics, science, foreign language, CTE State assessment policies Current policies regarding accommodations Higher education policies
30 Key Questions Course and Curriculum Programming Which courses will be able to be competency-based? (any, all, some) Do you have initiatives in subject areas such as STEM that will need to be revised? Who is designing competencies and determining what mastery looks like? Is it going to vary across districts? Schools? Established at the state level? How will you engage vendors? How might ELL policies and programming be revised to be competency-based? Key PrePPS Math STEM Adolescent literacy English as a second language World languages
31 Key Questions Educators How do staffing roles change (or new ones needed) in competency education? What are the implications for PRePPS related to teaching staff including certification, professional development, and evaluations? What school and community capacities need to be in place to ensure that teachers have a range of resources, tools and learning opportunities to support struggling students? If the focus is on students mastering the learning objectives, who can provide instruction? Who can determine if the learning objectives have been mastered? Are there ways that special education services might be modified to better serve students? Key PRePPs Certification requirements Teacher education Continuing education Professional education plan and guidelines Coaching programs Teacher evaluations Teacher education
32 Special Populations Key Questions What are the different groups of students that have specialized needs that challenge the current system? How might competency education provide greater flexibility and educational continuity? How can you ensure that special populations are accessing adequate educational opportunities and support services? Key PRePPs Over-age, undercredited students/alternative education/adult education English language learners Students with disabilities Disciplinary education (ESEA Title I, Part D Prevention & Intervention for Children & Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent or At-Risk)) Migrant students Homeless Foster care and students in juvenile justice systems
33 Key Questions Student Services How can the state ensure that students are getting help in a timely manner so that their pace of learning is fully supported? How can you ensure that schools are building the support capacity to provide extra help to students? Key PRePPS Supplemental education services Early warning systems Expanded learning opportunities Summer schools Blended learning supports Credit recovery Student services including health care, counseling, and mental health services Individual learning plans and Individual education plans
34 Expanded Learning Opportunities Key Questions Can the expanded learning opportunities be a source of building proficiency for specific academic learning objectives? For lifelong learning objectives? Who can determine that an academic skill or learning objective has been mastered? A lifelong learning competency? What is the role of the state, LEA, schools and teachers in developing and using expanded learning opportunities? Key PRePPs Online Learning Run by a state or LEA Other available online learning After School, Extended Day and Community Schools 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding priorities Real-World Learning (Service learning and Work-Based Learning /Internships) Recuperation (Summer school, Credit recovery, Alternative Education and Adult basic education and literacy) College transition programs (AP, Early college, Concurrent and dual enrollment) Non-District Programs (Youth Programs, Arts Programs, Workforce Investment Act/Summer Jobs)
35 Policies and Support Services for Schools and Districts Key Questions What will be the requirements, if any, for districts to offer competency-based credits? How will district roles change in a competency education system? How will districts be confident that competencies in one school are consistently assessed in other schools? What will district roles be for those students with highest mobility? Key PRePPS for LEA planning tools and technical assistance Policies and training for school boards School-based decision-making Vendors Facility specifications Technology specifications
36 Key Questions Higher Education What are the options for expanding capacity for students to take more college level courses and gain credits while in high school? How might developmental education be considered differently as it is an indicator that students did not master academic skills while in high school? Is there an expectation that higher education will support students that enter with a certain level of gaps in their skills? How might students find out their progress towards college and career readiness early enough in their high school education so that they can accelerate their pace of learning? Key PRePPs Admissions policies Placement practices for developmental education Credit transferability Advanced Placement Early assessment programming Transcripts
37 Key Questions Monitoring, Reporting, Accountability How will the state know that students are learning and learning at a pace that keeps them on a track towards college readiness? How will reporting/accountability functions put into context that students are very far behind but may be on a strong pace of learning? How can you shift the compliance culture to one of continuing improvement? How will data collection requirements change? How can you begin to provide actionable data to improve student achievement as well as longitudinal data that allows you to see how you have been doing? How is the state able to ensure that students with high mobility are able to build on their competencies as they transfer schools? Key PRePPs Information systems Policies regarding information systems Reporting requirements Accountability policies