School logo from Sanborn Regional High School and Noble High School

The Key to Differentiation in Competency Based Education: A Flexible Block Schedule

Thursday, March 10, 2016

If you’re in the education sphere, you've likely heard of competency based education. It’s been growing in popularity across the country, and rapidly becoming the focus of not only higher educational curriculum, but secondary schools as well.

Competency based education focuses, not simply on grades, but outcomes based on actual knowledge.  In addition, differentiation, or recognizing that all students are different and that their education should reflect that, ensures that all students get the help they need.

What makes competency based education work? And how can personalized learning be incorporated into this model? Let’s examine some of the practices of two schools who have made competency based education a success.  Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, NH and Noble High School in North Berwick ME both use a competency based model, and they place importance on differentiated instruction.  While competencies are focused on results, personalized time and instruction impacts students in the learning process, and is essential to make competency ed work.

Both schools have found a way to provide differentiated instruction within the school day by means of a flexible period.

At Sanborn Regional High School, their flexible ‘Focused Learning Period’ runs every day for forty minutes. This period is used for interventions, extensions of work not able to be completed in class, or enrichments.  Interventions allow students to work with teacher in small groups to receive extra help, or additional instruction. Enrichment opportunities allow students to pursue learning that extends beyond their classes, something that interests them. This allows students not only to stay caught up academically, but it adds a richer purpose to their education. Another key to the success of their program are their Professional Learning Community (PLC) teams. These groups of teachers share students by grade level, and much emphasis is put on collaboration. This results in a smoothly running program with its primary focus on each studentl

Similarly Noble High School’s flexible block, Knight Time, functions as an advisory and intervention block. Its focus is to put students more in control of their learning. Students can schedule themselves to see teachers for extra help in support in specific classes. If students don’t need help, or are all caught on up their assignments, use this time for enriching pursuits. This could involve extended learning opportunities, arts or community projects, clubs and more.  Noble offers a variety of supports for its students, from a math lab to school counselors and social workers who can schedule students to see them. This flexible time period makes sure that students are getting a deeper connection to their learning, one that they have a say in. 

Competency based education works, and by using a flexible block model, schools can be sure that not only are students meeting standards, but their entire school experience is being enriched as well as they go above and beyond these standards.

Learn more:

Sanborn Regional High School: http://www.competencyworks.org/how-to/flexible-learning-time-provides-system-approach-to-differentiation-in-a-competency-education-school/

Noble High School: http://www.competencyworks.org/case-study/noble-high-school-creating-timely-differentiated-supports/

Competency-Ed Resources: http://www.enrichingstudents.com/competency/resources