Welcome to the Growth Over Grades Podcast where we talk about education ideas and topics that matter most to our Spaces Educator Community. Episode 6 involves a conversation with fellow Alaskan educator and leader Allison Curry. Curry is currently a sixth grade middle school ELA teacher. I’ve been following Allison for a few years now on Twitter as we met through the #AkEdChat. I finally was able to meet her face to face at this last ISTE in NOLA. I’ve always respected Allison as an educator because she does what is best for students, teachers, and families. She leads by a true example even if or when her opinion is unpopular. In this episode, she shares her expertise in competency-based education (CBE) and how it can help students in middle school or junior high. By the end, you will also have actionable steps to get started if CBE aligns to your goal as an educator. Don’t forget to add Allison to your professional learning network.
Why Competency-Based Education?
Allison Curry makes an incredible case for CBE. Her journey began when she realized that traditional grades on the 100-point scale was more about failing than success. She speaks about feeling discouraged how this scale made it so hard for her students to come back after one bad grade. When she started to look for a better system, her go-tos included Twitter and ISTE classes. Turns out there are so many other educators excelling in CBE and it’s a great place to start learning more.
Competency-Based Education works because students are going for mastery. Grades are finite, you pass or fail and you stop. CBE is about feedback and students taking a path that continues until they truly “get it.” Where our education system often has us pushing on before our students are all ready to move on, CBE meets students where they are to set the foundation for what comes next.
Competency-Based Education is NOT Easy
Competency-Based Education is not a quick and easy solution for anyone or anything. Somet of the hurdles Allison Curry mentions is being an island where others are still using traditional grades. Communication is priority. Students need to know what they are trying to master and parents need to know that you are not grading traditionally. You have to be willing to make mistakes along the way, learn from others, and start small.
However, the rewards are worth it all. Curry shares that one professional reward is that she knows her content so much better. She understands what her students need to have as prerequisites and where they are going next, even after mastery. She shared that her students might finally “get it” when they are in her class. Parents have told her that it’s less hassle for them to keep up with their children’s work/papers.
Ready to Give CBE a Chance?
If you have been thinking about implementing competency-based education, Curry provides some books to start reading (see show notes). She also says to start small. Maybe tackle one competency at a time. You don’t have to overhaul your entire system before you have the necessary skills. You’re also invited to join our Spaces EDU community on Facebook. Come find the support you need!
Thank you to community member, Allison Curry, for coming on to our podcast. As parting wisdom, she says to Middle School teachers, “Keep it weird!”
All the Good Stuff/Show Notes:
Competency-Based Education: A New Architecture for K-12 Schooling by Rose L. Colby
The Successful Middle School: This We Believe by Penny Bishop and Lisa Harrison
EduProtocols by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo
"Invitation to Brave Space" - Daily Affirmation to Begin Class
adapted from works by Beth Strano and Mickey Scottbey Jones