Strategies for School Transformation

By Jennifer Grams

A new report presents effective strategies for school districts to use when transitioning from traditional education models to student-driven, competency-based education. The report, “Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders,” was released by CompetencyWorks and is available here.

The detailed report identifies and describes four stages of implementation:

  1. Ramping Up for Transformation

This is the critical first step for any cultural or systemic change. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked or shortchanged in an effort to “jump start” the process. As the report suggests, in order to truly affect change, there needs to be an investment in shared leadership, a shared journey of inquiry, and the creation of shared vision and ownership among all stakeholders.

  1. Designing the Infrastructure for Learning

The next stage begins with assessing the current environment and developing a plan for transition. The report provides a thorough framework for the design, including the following steps: (a) Investing in student agency, (b) Clarifying the overall pedagogical approach, (c) Configuring the instruction and assessment model, and (D) Forging policies and operating procedures for personalization, and (e) Empowering teachers.

  1. Transitioning to a Competency-Based System

This phase can sometimes be the most uncomfortable as educators are being asked to develop a new system while simultaneously utilizing the old system. The report highlights the importance of strong leadership with an emphasis on collective learning, preparation, and collaboration.

  1. Embracing Continuous Improvement and Innovation

The final stage is establishing a system to collect data, along with a methodology to evaluate and use data to continually improve the system. Continuous improvement should be an ingrained process rather than an after-thought.

While the strategies highlighted in the report are focused on establishing a competency-based learning model with the flexibility to customize the pace of learning to each student, this report is a worthy read for districts in any phase of transformation.