Competency Based Education Specialist


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These are some blogs I have published on and Getting Smart.

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What is the Story that You Will Tell of Your Journey?

Posted on November 7, 2014 at 8:10 PM

November 7, 2014 by Rose Colby

Business man showing superhero suit“Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound……”


….Superman? No, not really. Looking back over the past several years in competency education, perhaps SuperPioneer is a more apt superhero symbol. In the early days of competency education, the road ahead of us was somewhat unchartered, with unknown hazards and delays along the way. The early pioneers were a bit lonely without the familiar guideposts and waypoints that normally give direction. GPS? No such thing. But one thing could be counted on—with each rising of the sun, we were that much closer to journey’s end.


What is the story that you will tell of your journey down the road to competency education? What legacy will you leave to those who follow in your district after you step off the path? These may seem like silly questions, but I do believe they are important ones. You see, we are at a unique time in the history of education. In leaving behind what some people are already calling the “dark era in education,” we find ourselves at that fork in the road where we can either forge new experiences unleashed from the past, or we can choose the path that guarantees the journey ahead will repeat the last hundred miles.


In choosing the path that takes us to new adventures, we may have to lighten our load and find new resources. Now, is this starting to sound and feel familiar, SuperPioneer? The lesson in all this is really about being of brave heart, about being courageous and optimistic that our journey’s end will be close at hand, and knowing that we survived the bad weather, floods, droughts, and dangers along the way.


So fellow pioneers, take heart. Others have heard the stories of your journey and are beginning to gather their resources to join you. Share your wisdom, your trials and tribulations, and your stories. They will enlighten, inspire, and urge others to take the bold first leg of the journey in a new era for teaching and learning.

(published in, November 7, 2014)

Competency Education: The Solution to Retention

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 9:35 PM

Competency Education: The Solution to Retention

December 30, 2013 by Rose Colby

ColbyRecently a group of teachers was working on performance tasks and assessments. They were aligning their units of study to competencies based on the Common Core State Standards. An interesting conversation erupted in the group. It was clear that the performance indicators they were designing within their performance tasks represented a more rigorous approach than in the past. One teacher wondered what will happen to students who, by the end of the school year, do not demonstrate mastery of the literacy competencies. When I asked what happened in the past when students failed at the end of the school year, the teacher answered: “ Well, we retain them.”


As a former middle school principal, I know that decisions about retention are difficult. In spite of knowing the adverse effects of retention on future success, educators and parents generally spend many hours considering interventions and social emotional issues before arriving at the decision to retain a child.


As we turn the corner in designing new learning systems, the notion of considering retention can now be safely set aside. In a competency based learning system, no child is retained. It is as simple as that. Why? Because with the design of learning progressions, mastery is also progressive. Our students will move through our learning systems with forward progress at all times. Some students will need more support, customization, and time to do so. Educational leaders will have the ability to use resources within their organizations very differently.


At the recent iNACOL Virtual Symposium, Susan Patrick, iNACOL’s Chief Executive Officer, commented on the hold that seat time has in our educational systems in spite of policy which allows us to design learning systems differently. I propose that when decisions about student learning and instructional supports and resources are made based on customized learning with identified learning progressions that are not grade level based, we will break through the hold that seat time has on moving competency education forward.


Learning progressions and mapping of competencies and performance indicators are new constructs in instructional design. Coupled with systemic designs for relearning and reassessment in a formative fashion along the learning path, students will move through our schools never having to suffer the stigma and negative consequences of retention.


What better place to start that breakthrough than in those conversations we have about students who are struggling to learn.

Audacious Thinking

Posted on June 23, 2014 at 4:20 PM

I was recently reading about Google X. We often think of the Google work place as the workplace of millennials that is like a toddler’s sandbox. It is filled with spaces for work and play and sets the pace for workspace design that challenges the thinking of educators who are working in spaces that are far different. Google X is the Google work environment on steroids. It is the think tank of Google where the only expectation of the employees is audacious thinking. This has really jarred my thinking. As we look at this new entity called competency education, we could really use a good dose of audacious thinking.

The No Child Left Behind era, which I hope is firmly ensconced in our rear view mirror, has trapped our thinking and caused a great deal of reactionary behavior in our ranks. Have you heard the following: “Our kids haven’t done well on the state test for the past few years, we must need a new literacy program.” “We don’t have enough supports in Math, we’ll just have to build an RTI system for that also.” What is really missing in this thinking is not our heartfelt effort and need to do better, but the real audacious thinking space we need to rethink not what we use in education but how to create a new design for learning.

What if instead of herding our educators together for a one or two day retreat to fix things, we create spaces for audacious thinking by some bright divergent thinking educators, parents, and community members. Let’s give them time--6 months to a year-- and an open space to gather together and research, think, and design prototypes for a real solution.. I like to use the ‘Dream, Design, Deliver’ concept. Google pretty much works under wraps. Where did those Google glasses come from anyhow? Who knew they were doing that? Secrecy in audacious thinking by a bright group of individuals who are passionate about kids would have to be guaranteed. Have you ever seen some really good ideas tank in your district because too many people jumped to an assumption that it could never work? Think about it… audacious thinking by good people in a space dedicated to redesigning local education…..