The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Special Board Meeting on Personalized and Competency-Based Learning

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
March 16, 2018

At the March 26, 2018 Special Board Meeting, the Board will hear a panel presentation and engage in a dialogue with panel members and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) staff about personalized and competency-based learning. One goal of the meeting is to better understand personalized learning, competency-based learning, and their relevance to helping to close achievement, employability, and equity gaps in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Personalized Learning Edtech Consortium (MAPLE) a public-private partnership between the Department and the nonprofit LearnLaunch Institute, was formed to facilitate broader access to personalized learning models for interested districts. MAPLE defines personalized learning as follows:

Personalized learning seeks to accelerate student learning by tailoring the instructional environment — what, when, how and where students learn — to address the individual needs, skills and interests of each student. Within a framework of established curriculum standards and high expectations, personalized learning motivates students to reach their goals. Students take ownership of their own learning and develop deep, personal connections with each other, their teachers and other adults. Technology is necessary to implement personalized learning effectively, affordably, and at significant scale. Teachers leverage technology to gain detailed and timely knowledge of their students that guides instruction. Effective use of technology allows teachers and students to focus more on creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.

The New England Consortium of Secondary Schools (NESSC), which Massachusetts recently joined due to high demand from districts to engage in networking and support in personalized learning models, defines competency-based learning as follows:

Competency-based learning refers to systems of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education. The general goal of competency-based learning is to ensure that students are acquiring the knowledge and skills that are deemed to be essential to success in school, higher education, careers, and adult life. If students fail to meet expected learning standards, they typically receive additional instruction, practice time, and academic support to help them meet the expected standards.

Members of the panel will include:

Michael Horn: A Massachusetts resident and member of the Board's Digital Learning Advisory Council (DLAC), Mr. Horn is a nationally recognized expert on next-generation learning models and is the author of several books, including Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools and Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.

Lourenco Garcia: Dr. Garcia is the principal of Revere High School. The school has been attracting attention for its work in personalizing student learning since it was honored for excellence by the National Center for Urban School Transformation at San Diego State University in 2014.

Amy Rex: Ms. Rex is the principal of Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, MA. Prior to her current role, Ms. Rex was a principal in Vermont, where a 2013 state law charged secondary school educators to create personalized learning environments that offer flexible pathways to graduation and a planning process by which students and educators can reflect on and document student learning over time.

Other members of the panel (to be named) will include a Massachusetts teacher, a current student at Boston Day and Evening Academy, and a recent graduate of Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School. Each will speak to their experiences as an educator or as a student in schools that emphasize personalized and competency-based learning. In addition, the Board will have the opportunity to discuss these topics with David O'Connor, Executive Director of MAPLE, and David Ruff, Executive Director of NESSC, and hear brief overviews of their respective work in Massachusetts.

Cliff Chuang, Senior Associate Commissioner for Educational Options, and Ken Klau, Director of Digital Learning, will join us for this discussion.



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December 14, 2016 press release announcing the launch of the MAPLE Consortium
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December 13, 2017 press release welcoming Massachusetts to NESSC