Make no mistake, this work is hard.
We set out to design a model that completely replaces the traditional factory model and we think it does. However, the time-based structures of the factory model have roots that run deep. These roots create all kinds of barriers for innovative school models which require clever work-arounds and waivers. While there are certainly barriers to overcome related to instruction and mindsets, the deep roots of time-based structures are often found in: grading and assessment, crediting and promotion, state reporting systems, and learning and information systems. What follows is a brief list of essential conditions that would allow for the full implementation of our model:
Report credits when they are earned as opposed to reporting at the end of a traditional school year.
Decouple credits that are earned from the courses/experiences that are in a student’s schedule. In other words, credit is not earned by completing a specific experience or course, it is earned through a variety of tasks and projects that are aligned to competencies and offered across experiences and courses.
In a CBE model where you don’t track traditional grades and credits until they are earned, there needs to be a way to communicate “on track” for graduation.
The competency tracking system (i.e., gradebook) should be designed to track student mastery, regardless of course, experience, or teacher of record.
Every student should have a Personalized Learning Profile/Plan that gives them a real-time summary of their progress (i.e., competencies and credits) towards graduation and allows them to set and track goals.
Since 2013, we have worked with several schools and, for each, we customized our model to meet their needs. Many of these needs were directly related to the conditions defined above. To illustrate how our model can be configured differently, we created four implementation profiles that describe how students progress through the model and accumulate required credits for graduation. This includes different ways to translate progress from our system to a traditional system.
Profile #1 describes a school that could completely replace all time-based structures with our full model. In this configuration, students would need to complete the requirements of two portfolios: Foundations and Graduation. How progress is tracked and communicated is heavily personalized in their PLP. A competency-based transcript like the MTC Mastery Transcript could be utilized for post-secondary applications.
Profile #2 describes a school that needs to work within traditional systems. Using a 4-portfolio model, the example shows how portfolios can be converted into traditional grades and credits. It’s important to note that, in this model, credits are earned upon portfolio completion rather than at the end of an academic year or semester.