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High School Diplomas for Over-aged Youth: A Competency-Based Program with Multiple Entry Points

Teacher: Elizabeth Butler/Brooke Machado
School: Adult Education

The Challenge:
In 2018-19, BPS began to enforce that students must exit K-12 on their 22nd birthday, leading to an increase of 22-year-olds enrolling in Adult Education (AE) which is the only public option for this group of marginalized students. BPS AE had to overcome the following challenges:

  1. moving from a semester-based schedule to shorter, 8-week modules, as over-aged students would benefit from rolling admissions into AE,
  2. designing a competency-based curriculum with assessments, and
  3. creating guidelines for counting over-aged students’ existing credits within AE’s competency-based system.

What did your team do about it?:
Throughout the summer of 2019, we designed 40 instructional modules to better serve over-aged students across the content areas of College and Career Readiness, English Language Arts, Financial Literacy, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. These documents outlined coursework for both high school- and remediation-level classes. The curriculum included a scope and sequence which identified assessment products and core standards assessed. Later in the summer, we produced a crosswalk document with course descriptions that clearly outlined high school course equivalencies to share with our partners who counsel aging-out students.

Impact on Students:
Modules of instruction were created that clearly broke down work over an 8-week period. Because we had already outlined the modules, we had more time to devote to student feedback. Students who participated in multiple modules showed significant growth in their writing over the course of the year and were able to successfully complete multiple products that were approved by the external assessor. Student impact was most noticeable during COVID closures. We easily moved to online teaching because we had clear plans to work from, and students who enrolled in these classes were able to continue learning new content and skills virtually.

Teacher Leadership and School Community:
The work in which we engaged as a cohort contributed to our school’s professional culture because as teachers, we took on the roles of problem-solvers outside of our classrooms to shape how our school functions. Moreover, we were empowered to exercise leadership and steer programmatic improvements which directly affected our students. This experience has impacted the professional culture of our workplace as we are currently engaging as a collective in the planning and implementation of serving AE students in the new remote-learning setting.

What’s Next?
After developing and piloting the modules during the 2019-2020 school year, we realized that assessment exemplars could help us to better serve adults and over-aged youth so that all parties (students, teachers, and assessors) can have a common understanding of what constitutes quality work. During the year, teachers attempted to create some exemplars, but more are needed to serve as a concrete, visual understanding of what work meets the standard in our competency-based program. This is the work we hope is approved in a TLF extension grant.

Helping Others:
The key to success is finding other programs that share the same challenges. These instructional resources have been shared with teachers across our program and our partner program. As other adult ed programs across the state adapt competency-based programs, we are sharing and building resources. Receiving input and feedback from these partners has been helpful in making meaningful changes to these modules. This process of feedback and revision has been a key to improvement. As we use these modules, we are gathering curriculum materials, useful videos and websites, and relevant readings that can be shared.