Competency Based Education: An Update

NOTE: In a previous post I wrote about Competency Based Education or Competency Based Learning entitled “A Preview of Competency Based Learning“. In this post, I fleshed out the background of what the CBE model would look like in contrast to the current model (the Carnegie Model) that most districts, including ours, employ. While you do not necessarily need that background to gain something from this post, you may nonetheless find it helpful to review it. It can be found here.


On December 3, 2015, the Superintendent and School Committee held a public information session where Ms. Taymore further elaborated on her vision of CBE within Melrose Public Schools. The powerpoint presentation she gave can be found here. I encourage you to open and review it as you read through my thoughts from her presentation.

The first thought that jumped out at me is how passionate Ms. Taymore is for Universal Design for Learning or UDL. For those not well versed in UDL, and I will admit I was not, the National Center on Universal Design for Learning defines UDL as

“…a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.

UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone–not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.”

The National Center on UDL points us to the website where a more indepth explanation, including the research behind UDL, is presented for mass consumption. I encourage all who are interested to review this information as I found it relevant to our own children.

Superintendent Taymore went on to outline how MPS already individualizes student learning within the classroom through Individual Support Teams or ISTs, content based acceleration and grade acceleration. A limitation currently in MPS is how these are all very staff intensive, and while tailored to each individual student, the protocols are still being adapted.

CBE, should we as a district adopt it, would present a more systemic, standardized way to accommodate all students wherever they are in their current level of mastery of a topic. Furthermore, there would exist the ability to condense subject matter based on previous knowledge for students enabling them to move more quickly to new content for mastery. Under this system, one can envision students moving through subjects at their pace, providing schedule flexibility and ultimately, more opportunities for students.

For CBL to move forward within Melrose Public Schools, everyone, from parent and guardian to City Hall would need to support this change. Indeed, CBL is a complete philosophical change- we would exiting the long standing classroom cohort model to move to a system where individual families and particularly their students are able to take charge of their education. All students would be able to move to more challenging subject matter as they are able, rather than when the classroom moves to said subject matter. At the secondary level, students may have the opportunity to not only complete their Mass Core requirements for graduation, but pursue non-traditional subject matter suited to their individual interests.

There are challenges in addition to seeking public approval, however. Where there are individual schools who have made this transition, no district within the Commonwealth has switched to the CBL model. And while we do have other New England states to guide us as we go forward, namely Maine and New Hampshire, we would be in the unique position of being a trailblazer here in Massachusetts.

There are legal questions as well which might require action from Beacon Hill to rectify. Legally, students are required to have a set amount of ‘structured learningeach year (MGL 27.03 and 27.04). How does DESE define ‘structured learning’ and would CBL qualify? Furthermore, how do we reconcile a student who has completed their coursework requirements for graduation under CBL by the end of their 11th grade year?

Challenges within the district would exist as well. New policies and procedures would need to be established, tested and revised. Mastery standards for each level of content and subject matter would need to be determined. Expectations of outcomes from each segment of CBL must be consistent and known, meaning that from parent to student to teacher to administrator, everyone must be on the same page regarding what we expect a student to learn and master at each level. This begs the question of how the district would define ‘mastery’ and whether or not proficiency is mastery.

We have a lot to learn, plan and process as we go forward. The School Committee gave permission to the Superintendent to form a CBE Taskforce, with the intention of planning next steps. I am honored to announce that along with School Committee member Jessica Dugan, I will be on this task force.

For more information on Competency Based Learning, I encourage all who are interested to reach out to the Superintendent directly.


Melrose Municipal Inauguration – 2016


It is official. I have been sworn in.

Thank you all for your support. I pledge to work hard for you and on your behalf, with our children first and foremost in thoughts and actions.

My first School Committee meeting as an official member. In case you missed it, I have been assigned to the Finance and Facilities subcommittee. We have a full agenda ahead with respect to finances- a growing student population; aging buildings; non-existent federal aid funds and reduced state aid; a teacher contract up for negotiation and a current school budget with tights constraints.

During my campaign, I oft repeated that I am willing to talk with anyone. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Thank you again for your support. I am honored to have the privilege to serve you for the next 4 years. -L

Good News!

Per Superintendent Taymore:

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has reviewed the Horace Mann’s accountability data and has revised their status, moving the school from Level 3 to Level 2. This has been done in recognition of the significant progress made in both the all students and high needs categories.

According to DESE rules for defining a district, each district is categorized at the level of its lowest performing school. Thus, Melrose Public Schools’ status changes to Level 2.

We have five level one schools and two level two schools (HM and MVMMS).

This is well deserved by the Horace Mann community and reflects the corrective measures, team work, and commitment by all on behalf of students.

Congratulations to Principal Cobbs and all at Horace Mann and within the district who worked very hard to see this through! I look forward to the continued upward progress!

Happy 2016!

Today is my first day back at work. With the holidays behind us, I felt it time to do a bit of a news dump. Please forgive the conversational style of this post, as this will be more of an information dump than a more formal review or write-up.

Back-to-School! Welcome back to school, MPS students. All students return today and as such, normal school activities resume. I will endeavor to list an agenda of dates of interest around the district on a monthly basis. The current calendar is at the end of this post. If there are corrections or missing items, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Inauguration and State of the City Address in Jan. 11th at 7:00 PM at Memorial Hall. Among other things, I will be sworn in there, and officially become a member of the Melrose School Committee. Just in time for…

My first official School Committee meeting will be on Jan. 12th at 7:00 PM. I don’t think I am breaking any rules by announcing I have been assigned to the Finance and Facilities subcommittee. It would seem I have my work cut out for me, as we have union contracts up for negotiation and the budget process both looming in the very near future.

Other School Committee News:

  • Superintendent Taymore issued a press release on the OCR Resolution Agreement for the first OCR investigation. You can find the text of it here. I am withholding comment until I discuss the outcome with the Superintendent directly.
  • Start School Later news. At the December 8th meeting the MSC passed a Kristin Thorpe proposal to explore the impact of moving the school start times back 20 minutes. It is evident that more discussion and action needs to be done before any final vote happens on this issue. I look forward to these discussions. Among the more interesting items learned was a possible review by our State Legislature on this topic as discussions appear to be happening on Beacon Hill. A change in MGL would have great impact on what we do in MPS.
  • Competency Based Education or Learning news. There was a lightly attended public forum on this topic in early December. I have been remiss in not uploading my notes from the presentation. Look for them later this week. In the meantime, the MSC approved Superintendent Taymore’s recommendation that a task force be formed to research the who, how, what and when questions relating to this topic. I am keen to learn more about this as I feel it is a positive program and can greatly improve education for our students, though many roadblocks and challenges are present.
  • Open house announced for incoming Pre-K at Franklin ECC. The tl;dr is Franklin will host open houses on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 from 6:30 – 8:00 PM and Friday, January 15, 2016 – 9:30 – 11:00 AM. Pre-registration opens ONLINE at 12:00 noon on Saturday, January 16th and closes at 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 24th. For more info:


Around the District: Dates of Interest

  • 4 Jan, 6:30 PM – MHS PTO meeting in room 112
  • 5 Jan, 9:05 AM – City-wide PTO in Superintendent’s Conference room
  • 5 Jan, 7:30 PM – Melrose Human Rights Committee meeting in Mayor’s Conference room in City Hall
  • 6 Jan, 7:00 PM – MVMMS PTO meeting in 2nd floor project room
  • 6 Jan, 7:00 PM – Franklin ECC PTO meeting
  • 8 Jan, 7:45 AM – MVMMS Geography Bee in MVMMS Auditorium
  • 11 Jan through 26 Jan – MVMMS 2nd quarter term exams
  • 11 Jan, 7:00 PM – City of Melrose Inauguration of newly elected School Committee and Board of Aldermen Members at Memorial Hall
  • 12 Jan, 7:00 PM – School Committee meeting in City Hall
  • 12 Jan, 7:00 PM – Horace Mann PTO meeting
  • 12 Jan, 7:00 PM – Lincoln PTO meeting
  • 12 Jan, 7:00 PM – Hoover PTO meeting
  • 13 Jan, 12:22 PM – District wide Early Release
  • 18 Jan – No School in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
  • 18 Jan, time TBD – MHRC MLK Day Potluck Dinner and presentation. Location TBD
  • 19 Jan – MHS Staff Development Day – No Students
  • 20 Jan through 25 Jan – MHS Mid-term exams
  • 20 Jan, 6:30 PM – Roosevelt PTO meeting
  • 25 Jan – MHS 2nd quarter term closes
  • 26 Jan, 7:00 PM – School Committee meeting in City Hall
  • 29 Jan – MHS 2nd quarter term grades due

Again- do not hesitate to contact me with information, corrections, comments or suggestions.