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

NGLC grantee USC Hybrid High has committed its competency-based education model to a larger goal: positive multigenerational change.

In this second post on schools’ approaches to competency-based education (here's the first post), I’m highlighting one NGLC grantee that has committed its model to a larger goal: positive multigenerational change. Read on to learn more about how LA’s USC Hybrid High School is preparing its high school students for success in higher education and beyond.

USC Hybrid High Logo

Model: USC Hybrid High School - A charter school serving 9-12 grade students in Los Angeles, CA. The goal of USC Hybrid High is to develop self-motivated and disciplined learners who are prepared to thrive at and graduate from top four-year universities, who will go on to use their college degrees to effect positive multigenerational change. Therefore, the school emphasizes a deep sense of purpose, mastery-based personalization, and developing the mindsets to thrive in college.

At USC Hybrid High, students are engaged in a personalized learning model that embeds technology across the curriculum. Additionally, students participate in a mastery-based personalized college prep program that includes core instruction delivered through online modules developed by teachers in Canvas, the school’s online LMS. Students control their pace as they advance through lessons and teachers guide students to work independently or in strategic groupings. The blended coursework and ongoing flow of data enables teachers to facilitate just-in-time learning by employing a variety of instructional strategies: on the spot interventions, one-on-one instruction, small-group pullouts, reteaching/remediation using another modality, or peer-to-peer support.

At USC Hybrid High, a variety of assessment practices are utilized to enable students to demonstrate mastery including:

Use of real-time data to evaluate progress - In a screencast, 10th grade English teacher Sara Batizy explains how she uses data to flexibly group students and provide intervention to ensure all students are moving toward mastery of essential standards.

Teachers at USC Hybrid High regularly assess students using Canvas and Illuminate to track progress and provide individual feedback.

At regular intervals prior to and during class time, teachers enact Assess-Analyze-Act, a three-part evaluation system that prompts teachers to:

  1. assess student work,
  2. analyze the data for particular patterns or trends, and
  3. develop an action plan to group students for small-group workshop lessons, one-on-one instruction, trained peer tutoring, or referrals for additional online or teacher-created resources.

Many teachers design a calendar with workshop dates so they can intentionally create opportunities for student support. Students who have not been assigned to attend the workshop can also opt in to participate.

Assignment feedback is also an integral part of USC Hybrid High’s assessment system. Teachers evaluate student work in Canvas and offer feedback that students can use to edit and resubmit assignments until they reach mastery.

Quarterly performance tasks are designed to extend and authenticate core academic activities. For a performance task, students tap into entrepreneurship, research, project management, and public speaking. They form their own groups, research a need, design a product to meet the need, and pitch the product. Using the Understanding by Design framework developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, teachers plan and develop reality-based assessments that align with the classroom content area.

For example, as part of a grade-level wide project, the 11th grade team challenged our students to start their own "Shark Tank" business venture aimed at meeting a crucial need in their community. Between history, English, drama, and science classes, students are researching and writing a formal business plan, analyzing cost/benefit alternatives and metrics, and putting together a Shark Tank Pitch to deliver to a group of angel investors. USC’s students are thinking critically about problems in their community and exploring tangible solutions to issues that they face—along with their peers and families.

Assessment of real-world projects - Currently, teachers are piloting a critical thinking rubric for school-wide use in fall 2015. Teachers will assess performance tasks on five components (significance, perspective, evidence, connection, and supposition) in addition to the grade-level themes such as Know Yourself, Know Your Community, Know Your Nation, Know Your World. It is the school’s intent to create an evaluation system on Illuminate whereby each teacher can assess the progress of students in each category.

In addition to grade-level specific report cards, students will also receive an average score for each area of the rubric. The goal: to provide students feedback on not only their progress toward grade level skills, but also on critical thinking metrics that often go unrecognized in current grading systems.

Read more about USC Hybrid High in Lighting the Path to Personalized Learning.

Looking for more?

Stay in-the-know about the expansion of competency-based education in the K-12 world. Here’s how:

Twitter: #CompetencyEd - View conversations or add your voice and join in via Twitter.

Blogs: The End of the Big Test: Moving to Competency-Based Policy - This post by Tom Vander Ark suggests the use of assessment pilots and innovation zones where groups of schools apply and become authorized to operate alternative assessment systems. Also, check out my first post in this series, which featured Building21’s competency-based education model in Philadelphia.

Website: CompetencyWorks - More than a blog, this website includes articles, webinars and a wealth of CBE resources. CompetencyWorks is a dynamic website designed to support the development of a community of people knowledgeable about competency education. Access the database of competency-based models to learn more about district and school-level implementation.

You’re invited: Join in the collaboration and send CBE materials my way! Have resources to share? Drop me a note at

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.