Nothing like a bunch of acronyms in a title of an educational post, right? Confusing to understand? So, too, is the idea that in this day and age, those who are transforming their schools and districts into a competency-based learning system cannot find a single learning management system (LMS) or student information system (SIS) that will work to support competency-based education (CBE). I have spent years as a member of the Iowa legislative task force on competency-based education and as a member of the state competency-based education collaborative looking for a program that will support the learning – and report the learning – in a CBE system.
It is disheartening to see Iowa’s three major SIS – Infinite Campus, PowerSchool, and JMC – unable to meet the needs of this growing interest – an interest that is growing both statewide and nationally. From a service perspective, it would be nice to see more effort in this area. From a business perspective, it is maddening to see a market not being addressed.
Currently, we are looking at hodge lodge systems – how to couple two or more systems together to meet our needs. This is inefficient and not fully effective. We need a system designed for CBE – now. Even now, many LMS and SIS are stifling the work of teachers and district trying to implement standards-based grading and reporting. I am well aware of the Herculean task it will be to develop a system that allows personalized learning and reporting, necessary in a CBE system.
I hope there is a system out there for K-12 districts. I have expanded my focus to higher education, too, in the hopes that a solution exists. If not, some company needs to get coding, because the need – and the market – is there.
If anyone knows of companies that will support competency education/learning, please let me know in the comments!
As I continue to think about competency-based education and the structural changes that go along with fully supporting it, I am concerned about its impact on the current special educational system. For students to receive special education services, they must have a disability – medical or learning. If a student is to be designated as having a learning disability, then the student must demonstrate discrepancy from his/her peers. As we work through the suspected disability process, the team must look at exclusionary factors, such as lack of instruction.
I am concerned that in a competency-based system (“anytime, anyplace, any how, any pace”) where each student could be involved in different learning experiences, there will no longer be any peer comparisons. If students no longer are accessing the same academic content at the same time, I do not think that special education can make any peer academic comparisons.
And if there cannot be any peer comparisons, what happens to special education? Do those students who do have at least some difficulty in understanding the material no longer have access to support services? Do those support services take on a different focus and expectation? And for district leaders, what happens to the weighted funding that supports those services?
Competency-based education provides a new paradigm for student learning, teacher effectiveness, and district leadership; as such, many current systems, such as special education, will clearly be changed by its implementation. I believe we need to strongly consider the system structures we currently have in place and how competency-based education may change them, so we can be mindful of the implications.
(Thanks to Josh Griffith, Collins-Maxwell 6-12 Principal, and Jen Sigrist, Van Meter Director of Teaching and Learning, for the conversation that inspired these thoughts.)