Competency-Based Learning in Fraser Public Schools
Fraser Public Schools is changing the traditional view of school to a new personalized, engaging and customized learning environment for each student. Our transition to a competency-based learning (CBL) environment began many years ago through a combined effort of staff, parents and our Board of Education. Students are given both voice and choice in their learning, which results in increased student ownership of their learning.
In Fraser, CBL 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. Each competency is supported by learning objectives or ‘I can’ statements.
In a CBL model, students must show proficiency in the competencies. Teachers set clear, achievable goals and learning objectives, and students have a clear path on how to meet the competency as well as choice in showing their mastery. Teachers are facilitators of learning, and students work both collaboratively and independently to achieve their goals.
CBL Makes Sense
Increased engagement. Better relationships. Personalized learning. These things and much more is why competency-based learning makes sense in Fraser Public Schools.
“In the past, 80 percent did not inform parents or teachers of what the student did or did not know,” said Kim Keith, a district instructional consultant. “When assessing students now, teachers score individual learning objectives, making it easier to identify learning gaps and to focus each student’s learning experience on exactly what the student needs.”
Students are also aware of their learning strengths and weaknesses, and know when they master a competency and when they need more support.
“CBL is definitely more focused on learning than just taking a test, getting a grade, and moving on to the next topic,” said Senior Julia Wallace. “CBL allows students to reach their full potential.
“I love that CBL gives me the chance to go back and reassess and reevaluate things I don't quite understand yet. If I do well on a competency that I feel strongly about but not so well on another one, I have time to go back and work with my teacher on the things that I need more help on, and eventually go back and retest to show that I now comprehend the content.”
Ms. Keith is part of the team who helped build the CBL framework in our learning management systems, which is key to helping teachers, students and parents know where everyone is in their learning.
“In some cases, students are receiving enrichment opportunities, while in other cases students are receiving remediation,” she said. “Because students learn at different paces, in all cases what students receive is flexible and can change from day to day. As a result of students being met where needed, we are also finding students are far more engaged in their individualized learning activities.”
The opportunity for remediation is also available to students who do not master the competencies the first time.
“I really like how if I miss a day, and we take a test in that class, it give me time to make it up,” senior Julian Gantt said. “I think it does make more sense because it gives students the opportunity to actually learn the material if they were having trouble the first time around.”
Classmate Jackson Dettloff agrees that CBL helps him achieve a deeper level of learning.
“We go to school to learn, and CBL does just that,” said Dettloff. “It ensures that we fundamentally understand what we’re being taught. For example, my elementary school wasn’t CBL. I never fully understood how to divide, nor did I understand fractions. As an effect, I still don't like working with fractions or division because I’m not entirely positive that I know what I’m doing.”
But it is important to stress that CBL is not just about the technology devices each student receives.
“One concern about CBL is the concept of giving a kid a computer and wishing them well with no direction,” said Richards Middle School Science Teacher Andy Brodi. “That is the farthest thing from the truth. CBL actually enhances that face time with kids and builds better relationships with them.”
Now that we are several years into our CBL transformation, students of all ages are taking ownership of their learning.
“It’s kind of the everyday life in school now; CBL is not unusual,” said Salk Elementary Principal Dr. Donna Anderson. “The philosophy students are in is ‘I’m the learner. This is what I do well, this is where I’m at and this is what I still need help on.’”