Launch Announcement: Competency-Based Education (CBE)

June 29, 2020 Jackie Christensen

A female student taking a picture of nature as part of a competency-based education learning initiative.

Meaningful feedback is critical to positive student learning outcomes, and with the newly released competency-based education features in Blackbaud Learning Management SystemTM, teachers can now assess a student’s mastery of skills on daily work through assignments. These features enable schools to break out of the conventional model of stack ranking students by the “points” they earn, providing actionable guidance on areas of strength and opportunities for growth.

“Schools must develop flexible and creative problem solvers. With a global pandemic wreaking havoc on our health care and economy, and with systemic racism and other forms of oppression that need to be broken, we need students to have the intellectual and emotional endurance to solve the truly gnarly problems that are literally right in front of them,” said Mike Peller, assistant head of school for teaching and learning at The White Mountain School in his presentation at Blackbaud K–12's 2020 private school tech conference.

“Therefore, what we teach and what we assess must match the core competencies students require to become the thinkers, leaders, and community members the world so desperately needs.”

Implementing an assessment model to support CBE is challenging if you don’t have the right tools to track and report on the content and transferable skills that students are working to acquire. The new Learning Progression report provides an aggregate view of progress towards mastery that keeps students, teachers, and parents informed every step of the way. Each skill can be expanded to see the history of both formative and summative assignments, along with the teacher’s narrative feedback to better understand a student’s current status on achieving mastery of the skill.

Learning progressions in Blackbaud's competency-based education software.

Blackbaud Learning Management System now offers the flexibility to support tracking students on CBE skills, conventional grades, or a hybrid. When schools utilize the extracurricular features in our LMS and combine it with Blackbaud Student Information SystemTM, students, parents, and teachers have a complete 360-degree view of student progress.

With Blackbaud's new CBE features, schools can

●      Import and manage both transferable and content-area specific skills; 

●      Implement industry-standard calculation choices for tracking student mastery of skills;

●      Use the Gradebook to evaluate students on skills, assignment grades, or both;

●      View a student’s learning progression across all skills at the student and course levels, as well as see their mastery status and read narrative teacher feedback on the next steps to continue growth.

The mastery Gradebook in Blackbaud's LMS.

Highland Christian School (HCS) also participated in our early-adopter program for CBE to manage its standards-based grading program at the elementary school level. HCS aligns its curriculum with the Indiana state standards, and after a successful pilot, the school plans to expand its use of Blackbaud’s CBE features into its junior high next year.

"The standards-based grading system has been very helpful in documenting student progress, said Richard Vander Woude, director of instructional technology at HCS. "The separation of formative and summative assessments in the learning progression allows students, parents, and teachers to clearly see the growth in each standard."

If your school is making the switch to CBE, let us know how it’s going and share your wins and challenges in our K–12 Community. Schools looking to adopt the new competency-based education functionality may be interested in the Blackbaud University Training sessions for configuring and utilizing the new features.

You can also preview the new CBE functionality in this quick overview video

About the Author

Jackie Christensen

Currently serving as a product management manager, Jackie Christensen has been a member of Blackbaud K–12's product development team since the inception of the education management solutions. In fact, she was on site with the first school to launch our LMS and SIS. She loves the journey of working with schools and our UX and technical team to bring ideas to life. Jackie lives in New Hampshire with her husband Mark and three boys. Depending on the season, you’ll either find them at the lake or skiing.

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