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January 3, 2021/
This article was originally published June 12, 2020 on the website Students at the Center Hub. Author Dr. Felicia Sullivan is Associate Director of Research at Jobs For the Future […]
This article was originally published June 12, 2020 on the website Students at the Center Hub. Author Dr. Felicia Sullivan is Associate Director of Research at Jobs For the Future
Since 2014, New Hampshire educators can meet academic accountability requirements through a statewide Performance Assessment for Competency-based Education (PACE) system. Aimed at capturing a more authentic assessment of content knowledge, educators have developed and scored performance tasks with levels of reliability and validity comparable to state level standardized tests. As part of a William and Flora Hewlett Foundation funded research-practice partnership (RPP), Jobs for the Future (JFF) has been collecting data and insights on the scaling of state-mandated Work-Study Practices (WSPs) in New Hampshire. The extent of the diffusion of these approaches across the state has been striking. Some examples:
From the start, the state’s PACE system was a key driver, providing a critical backbone for assessing competency-based efforts that sought to change how teachers taught and assessed content mastery. Throughout these scaling efforts the New Hampshire Learning Initiative (NHLI), a nonprofit intermediary whose mission is to catalyze education innovation in the state, has been instrumental in developing the relationships and building the infrastructure necessary to achieve this level of uptake. As the research partner in this endeavor, JFF has documented and observed several key mechanisms employed by NHLI that have amplified their ability to affect statewide, student-centered practice change.
NHLI articulates a clear vision for where students and teachers in the state need to go to advance student-centered and personalized competency-based education. This vision is built from decades of experience in classrooms and schools, deep understanding of practice, and constant conversation with education leaders in the state and across the nation. In particular, NHLI:
These two approaches work in tandem to create a system that leverages both individual motivation and interest while creating an interconnected system that helps scale those interests broadly.
As Dees and Anderson noted in Scaling Social Impact, an important pre-scaling element is readiness. If individuals in systems are not ready to take up practice innovation, it will stall. In working to bring districts into the WSP effort, NHLI demonstrated an acute awareness of realities on the ground and whether a district might be ready for focusing on professional learning in this area. For example:
JFF has observed that part of being an expert assessor of readiness is deep empathy for the lived realities of leaders and classroom educators. This is coupled with an awareness of contextual constraints and political forces at play. It also allows the staff to know when the right time is to move, position an ask or push change.
Unlike the state’s Department of Education, NHLI has no legislated authority to compel districts to make instructional changes. Yet, the organization appears able to bring change along. From our field observations, this soft power appears to be built on the following:
If you’d like to find out more about the work on scaling deeper learning in New Hampshire, visit our project Building Essential Skills Today (BEST) for the Future on the web at http://www.best-future.org.
This is the second blog of a series on scaling for impact; the first one can be found here.
Felicia M. Sullivan, Ph.D. is an Associate Research Director at JFF (Jobs for the Future). Her research interests include human development and organizational learning towards system change as well as the effective translation of research and evidence through cross-sector collaboration. She is currently researching deeper learning outcomes for high school students and the diffusion of innovation and scaled impact. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @feliciasullivan.