The Alliance for Excellent Education suggests that New Hampshire’s shift from “seat time” measures of student proficiency to “competency-based learning” measures is one that other states would do well to follow.
As this blog wrote about previously, the Carnegie Unit, or credit hour, has long been the measure by which students were judged before they were deemed ready to advance to the next grade. The Carnegie Unit was originally created in 1906 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a means by which professors could argue for pensions, but it quickly became the standard by which student levels of educational attainment were measured across the board.
Strengthening High School Teaching and Learning in New Hampshire’s Competency-Based System, a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education, “profiles how two high schools in New Hampshire made a shift to competency-based learning and examines the necessary changes at both the school and in state policy. Competency-based advancement is an important part of New Hampshire’s strategy for implementing the Common Core State Standards and meeting the state department of education’s goal that every student ‘deserves a course of study that allows him or her to learn in a deep, meaningful, and practical way.’ ”
Bob Wise, the President of All4Ed and former governor of West Virginia commented about New Hampshire’s content-mastery model implementation:
“When people are buying a new car, they don’t ask how long it took to build. Instead, they ask how well it performs. For too long, the nation’s education system has promoted students based on how long they spent sitting in a classroom rather than what they have learned. New Hampshire’s experience, although still evolving, holds tremendous promise as an approach for improving student learning outcomes in a system that encourages advancement by demonstrating competency instead of completing seat time.”
Based on the experience of the two schools which so far have implemented the system, Sanborn Regional High School and Spaulding High School, new leadership models and new models of grading and assessment stand out as particularly important aspects of change. Principals and teachers need more time to become the active designers of curriculum and assessments that fit the new model because “both schools have eliminated the A–F and numbered grading system and replaced it with ratings that include not yet competent and insufficient work submitted.” “Students deemed not yet competent are offered additional interventions until they reach mastery, including online tools, one-on-one teacher time, and student collaboration. Additionally, both schools have adopted unique and innovative learning approaches, such as digital learning, that create a more flexible learning schedule that extends beyond the school day.”
A January 22 webinar, archived on the All4Ed website, featuring New Hampshire Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Paul Leather and two educators from New Hampshire, Brian Stack, principal of Sanborn Regional High, and Erica Stofanak, curriculum, instruction, and assessment coach for the Rochester School District provided a unique opportunity for teachers from other districts and states to learn about what is taking place in those two high schools.
For the link to the webinar and the link to the full report, please see below: