The Missouri State Board of Education met Monday, March 11. From a policy standpoint, the highlights of their agenda were:
- A report on education-related bills under consideration during the 2013 session of the Missouri General Assembly;
- An update on development of the budget for the 2014 fiscal year; and
- A study of proficiency-based learning (also referred to as competency-based or personalized learning). According to the agenda:
As Missouri strives to reach the Top 10 performing states by 2020, there is need to look at the most promising practices to support the work of our schools. This may
involve re-thinking how we structure schools, how we organize programs, and how we schedule and give credit for courses. …
Commissioner of Education, Chris Nicastro, initiated a task force in November of 2012 for the purpose of identifying barriers and developing recommendations for removing barriersto the implementation of proficiency-based learning by interested school districts. This report is presented to the Missouri State Board of Education to make clear the existing options that districts have, to provide guidance for initial implementation, and to recommend statutory and policy changes necessary to further support proficiency-based learning implementation.
Proficiency-Based Learning (PBL) can be defined as: “Establishing the level of student learning through demonstration of knowledge and or skill without regard for the time taken in the learning process or the structure of delivery.” Important characteristics of Proficiency-Based Learning include:
• Ideally, all students advance upon demonstrated mastery of content
• Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.
• Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students.
• Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.
• Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions. …
Some latitude already exists for districts to implement Proficiency-Based Learning. However, the degree to which schools can address the learning needs of students without being constrained by time is limited. Guidance and recommendations which would support further learner centered practices can be seen in two tiers or phases. These tiers can be generally conceptualized as changes made within the current time structure of schools (Tier I) and changes made in which both student and school schedules are much more flexible (Tier II).
Specifically speaking, schools can provide greater flexibility for students’ learning needs without altering when students arrive or depart from school under a Tier I implementation. In Tier II, start and stop times might vary considerably. In addition, student schedules might be quite variable and might include times of “non-attendance” during the school day. With those understandings, the following guidance and recommendations are organized both by Tier and by hierarchy of change (practice, policy, statute). In both of these contexts, Tier I and Tier II, as with any other successful change implementation, the importance of local decision making and professional collaboration with all stakeholders, cannot be underestimated. The charge of the committee and consequent scope of recommendations concerns those barriers to implementation that exist at the state level.
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