JFF Reports on Competency-Based & Blended Learning

Job’s For The Future is a Boston-based intermediary and policy design shop.  Since Hilary Pennington opened the place two decades ago they’ve been advancing the sector with great papers and direct support to partners.  The Students at the Center series (with support from Nellie Mae Education Foundation and others) is an important example of recent contributions.  Following is a quick recap of recent papers:
Using Educational Technology to Help Students Get Back on Track, by Clare Bertrand, with Lili Allen and Adria Steinberg.  JFF’s new brief draws lessons from schools around the country piloting blended approaches incorporating educational technology. The schools profiled help students not only to recover credits and graduate from high school, but to develop the 21st-century skills necessary for success in college. The brief points to what the experiences of these pioneering schools reveal about the process of transitioning to a more intentional and strategic integration of technology into educational designs. Similar technologies are explored in Curricular Opportunities in the Digital Age.
Competency Based Education Draws Rave Reviews in Iowa House Hearing, by Jason Noble.   Iowa House Education Committee heard from students and teachers from a competency-based pilot program at Muscatine High School in Iowa, and the feedback was “uniformly positive.” A task force has been created to study competency-based education, and will soon submit recommendations that could drive legislation for next year. To learn more about influencing the implementation of student-centered practices in your own district, see Changing School District Practices.
“You’re Constantly Revising Yourself”: The Dispositions of a Student-Centered Teacher, by Barbara Cervone and Kathleen Cushman, authors of Teachers at Work—Six Exemplars of Everyday Practice.  “What qualities should a school seek when hiring teachers to teach in a student-centered setting? What dispositions help teachers thrive in the demanding environment of a student-centered school?” Cervone and Cushman polled teachers and students around the country and have compiled the top seven answers to these questions. Presented alongside these key qualities are videos of students describing the role and importance of their teachers. 
Jobs for the Future partnered with Scholastic and Dr. Alfred Tatum, professor at University of Illinois at Chicago and author of Literacy Practices for African-American Male Adolescents, on the ID Adolescent Literacy Leadership Institute in Chicago, February 11th-12th. District and school leaders participated in interactive, innovative workshops on building and nurturing literacy communities that support reading, writing, and intellectual development for youth.
Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart? by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. This New York Times article explores the pressure students feel to perform on high-stakes tests. While some students feel “on trial” during testing, others thrive in a competitive, stressful atmosphere. The response to this pressure derives from upbringing, genes, skills and experiences, and even hormones felt in the womb. Understanding their propensity to become stressed and how to deal with it can help children compete. The Students at the Center project explores importance of genetics and emotions in education in Mind Brain and Education and Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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