This is a portion of a blog post by Chris Sturgis, co-author of the recently published “When Failure is Not an Option.” The entire post can be found here.

—Start—

I started funding DiplomaPlus when I was at Mott because I thought the competency-based model held vast potential for better serving vulnerable youth.  But there was just very little movement overall in competency-based approaches until recently.  Four things have changed that are bringing it to the forefront of educational reforms:

1) The Common Core of Standards means that we have something that can anchor competency-based learning to academics;
2) The understanding of college and career ready that is now promoted includes a range of essential skills (critical thinking, ability to navigate new institutions, able to monitor and adapt one’s approach to learning) that broadens the role of schools beyond preparing students for an exit test or college entrance exam. Test taking is not adequate. Students need to be able to demonstrate proficiency.
3) Technology is now available to manage the enormous data that is generated in competency-based approaches about student progression; and,
4) Budget deficits are forcing policymakers to look beyond the time-based system and the inequities it produces.

Imagine if young people who are perceived as trouble-makers (please note the word “perceived” — there is way, way, way too much racial bias in school disciplinary and juvenile justice policies to consider any level of objectivity) could be working on specific learning objectives as they transition in and out of disciplinary schools, detention, alternatives to detention,  into alternative schools or back to their home school. Imagine if they had their learning plan that they carried with them showing their progress, getting “credit” for their learning through the multiple transfers between facilities and schools, able to “go to school” at a youth program that offered respect, support, and caring when districts did not offer adequate high quality alternative schooling.  Imagine what is possible if we focus on learning rather than having students “doing time” in school.

I’m seeking examples of schools that are using competency-based approaches to serve our vulnerable youth. I’d prefer if you would just comment so that we can share our learning…but feel free to email me at [email protected]….and I’ll put the info together and post in a couple of weeks.

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