New Designs for School
New Designs for School

We’ve all had the experience of truly purposeful, authentic learning and know how valuable it is. Educators are taking the best of what we know about learning, student support, effective instruction, and interpersonal skill-building to completely reimagine schools so that students experience that kind of purposeful learning all day, every day.

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Practitioner's Guide to Next Gen Learning

Find out how “Passion + Agency = Impact” within Building 21’s competency-based learning framework.

Passion + Agency = Impact

Our NGLC site visit to Philadelphia in early June explored three of the city’s innovative schools: the Workshop School and Building 21 (NGLC grantees) as well as Science Leadership Academy.

One of our site visit participants expressed:

“These schools exhibit a set of core values that allow all members of their respective communities to have a stake in creating an environment where people can learn.”

Join us to find how Passion + Agency = Impact at Building 21. Specifically, we’ll focus here on their competency design and dashboard. My last post covered presentations of learning from student portfolios at the Workshop School. I’ll wrap up with a future post about the presentations of learning from capstone projects at Science Leadership Academy.

Building 21

Building 21 is a non-selective district high school serving students in grades 9–12. The school is driven by a compelling theory of action: PASSION + AGENCY = IMPACT. Building 21’s competency and project-based model personalizes learning for students through learning pathways. Each student follows a student-driven customized learning pathway to graduation that includes six components:

  • Blended, self-paced modules
  • Internships, experiential learning, and dual enrollment opportunities
  • Studios for deeper, applied learning
  • 5-person peer teams for peer support
  • 15-student advisories
  • 30-student anchor learning communities to support assessment and progress-tracking and to deliver personal mastery (social-emotional learning) and learning design strand content

Through intentional deconstruction of the prohibitive structures that are pervasive in traditional school models, learning at Building 21 occurs in different contexts not tied to year-long courses, course-based credit, or seat time. The end goal: Provide students with real work and engage students in authentic ownership of how they learn and track their progression.

A Focus on Competencies

To realize this goal, educators at Building 21 and the School District of Philadelphia combined and ripped apart standards to develop competency statements. They created continua for every statement so that student mastery can be tracked and measured along a continuum of levels supporting students to enter learning at their point of readiness.

B21 Competency Continuum

Writing arguments competency with performance level descriptors

The competency dashboard allows students to view their progress on any competency. With a color coding system, students can view their level of performance mapped to a grade level (thanks to B21’s conversion chart).

B21 Slate Competency-Based Learning (CBL) Demo

We were impressed with the deeply thoughtful approach Building 21 has taken to personalize learning for their students. And we were equally impressed with what these students shared with us during roundtable discussions. One thing is for certain, students report feeling motivated to learn: “We can see where we are with the colors [on the dashboard] and our advisors push us to be successful.”

Learn More about B21

  • Building 21 Grantee Page - The school design and related resources
  • Breaking out of the Boxes, CompetencyWorks - Thoroughly explains B21’s competency-based structure, partnerships, and thinking beyond what we know as schools and schooling.
  • Building 21’s Competency Dashboard, CompetencyWorks - The design of the student-centric information system to support their personalized, competency-based process.
  • Problem of Practice - B21 prepared this to seek input from NGLC site visit participants on how to help students, families, and teachers shift their mindset about growth, progress, and pathways.

Competency-Based Education Resources from B21

Stef Blouin headshot

Stefanie Blouin (she/her/hers)

Former Senior Program Officer, NGLC

As the former senior program officer for NGLC, Stefanie Blouin was responsible for developing and implementing internal and external strategies to ensure smooth operations and maximize team effectiveness and contributions to the next gen learning space.