Building a Proficiency-Based Learning System

This work is really hard.  Really, really hard.  It requires skill, focus, drive, grit, tenacity, empathy, knowledge, and above all else, patience.  If this were the private sector, we could just shut down for a few months; retool; and then reopen.  But this is education.  Public education.  And we don’t have that luxury.

Here’s what we have (and why it’s more challenging than you may think):
Summer months!
“Just do the work then!  You’ve got all that time to build the system without the kids… do it then.”  True.  We have that time.  And by we, I mean the administrators, because during those months we are also without the most important change agents in our system: the teachers.  Can’t change teaching without the teachers.  Systems changes happen with collaboration, and a hierarchical “Just Do It” approach works for short-term compliance, but not for deep systemic changes in practice.

Professional Development time!
“With all the inservice, early release/late start, and other release time for professional development, just get it done then.  And teachers: well, they have common planning time, right?  USE IT!”
Sure.  This time is available.  So, how might we use this chunk of time to address the following:

  • Changing grading practices
  • Restorative justice
  • Effective instruction
  • Educator Evaluation
  • Kids knocking at the door for extra support
  • Calls to parents/guardians
  • Collaboratively reviewing student work to identify needs, strengths, etc.
  • Reflection on practice
  • 505, IEP, SAT meetings
  • Testing analysis
  • Curriculum review
  • And a boatload of other tasks I have left out

Each of those bullets is hugely time consuming.  Each of those bullets are necessary and important.  Each of those bullets, and several I’ve left off, reflect a day in the life of a teacher.  Time and prioritization of time are huge issues in schools, making this work all the more difficult.

I feel very lucky to be a part of a district that is thinking about these many challenges in creative and innovative ways.  I am thankful that I get to lead, design, build, and implement some systemic changes in our professional learning opportunities and explicitly simplifying and connecting the tasks at hand.  The result:

There’s a lot to this Padlet, but it represents a lot of the innovative and forward thinking work we (AOS #94) are exploring and implementing in terms of improving and changing our education systems.  If you are engaging in this work too: kudos to you.  You have an empathetic ear in me, and I hope you connect so we can share, gripe, yell, laugh, and solve problems.  Together.

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