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7 Essential Skills for PBL Teachers

Master teachers are usually measured by their ability to deliver high quality instruction and manage classrooms so that every child learns. These basics apply to project based learning (PBL) as well, but I have found that successful PBL teachers must possess a more diverse—and demanding—set of skills to make project based work effective.

I call these skills the seven essentials for PBL teachers. The skills can be parsed separately, as I’m going to do, but they only work synergistically. Designing and executing engaging projects that move students to a new level of learning and self-awareness—which should be the goal of every project—derives from seeing PBL as a set of moving parts that mesh to create a powerful experience for students. Partly, PBL is an instructional process powered by teacher knowledge; partly, it’s a facilitated process that draws heavily on people management skills; and partly, it’s an intuitive process that relies on open communication between students and teachers.

Some of the essential PBL skills can be taught or learned, and some, frankly, are more personality driven. But every PBL teacher should think about becoming skillful in these seven areas:

  1. Know world-class PBL methodology. Project based learning and ‘projects’ are two different worlds. Over the last decade, PBL teachers in many countries have developed high quality methods that work. The methods begin with organizing a project around a central, vital, and engaging question, moving students through a deliberate process that requires them to think, inquire, share, reflect, and perfect their products and reasoning, and concluding with a meaningful demonstration of their learning that surfaces content acquisition, conceptual understanding, and application of 21st century skills. Getting results from PBL is not serendipitous; it comes from using thoughtful, replicable methods.
  2. Create a culture of care.  You might prefer to call this a ‘student-centered’ culture, but I believe that the underlying dynamic that drives better performance in PBL is a personalized classroom culture in which every student feels known, respected, and communicated with. This isn’t just a nice thing to do; it’s the known result of years of youth development research that demonstrates that a culture of care allows you, as the teacher, to assume a mentor role. The mentor role allows you to both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ students through the ups and downs of the PBL process. If you’re not in that role, you will find it difficult to move from a classroom manager to a project manager, a crucial shift for successful PBL.
  3. Shift from teacher to coach. In a traditional classroom, human variation is muted by rows, a standardized lesson, and the teacher’s ability to keep an eye on every student. In PBL, personalities bloom, tendencies—good or disruptive—emerge, and students often confuse the freedom to inquire with the license to mess around. The messiness can be cured only by coaching individual students to perform better—by speaking to their strengths, helping them see their challenges, and returning at all times to the standards and norms for top performance. In a traditional classroom, the end product is paramount. In PBL, the process of learning assumes equal weight as an outcome. Success on the journey often entails what I term the art of ‘ruthless compassion.’ Give every student maximum support; require every student to perform at their best.
  4. Use the tools of people management. Like the methods for world class PBL, a set of tools has been developed, largely in industries outside of education, that help people stay on task, achieve goals, and work harmoniously. In PBL, nearly everything you do has people management ramifications. This begins with norms and performance expectations, agreements on behavior, and clear directions. But other elements contribute just as much: (1) A clearly stated Driving Question that captures imagination and starts the project in the right direction; (2) a consistent explanation of the why behind the project; (3) an air of experiment, problem solving, and discovery; and (4) a promise that, at the end of the project, the results will matter to someone besides the teacher or the test designers.
  5. Make teamwork productive. PBL is a group based form of learning. But an essential step is to move from the language of groups to the more powerful vocabulary of teamwork and to teach team members to think deeply together. To achieve high quality work in PBL, there can be no, “Well, she’s sick today and she has all the stuff and we don’t know what to do.” Or, “I did all the work and I got a ‘C’ because my group slacked off?” In teams, everyone is committed to each other’s success and everyone assumes accountability. PBL teachers have developed tools to spur this process, including work ethic and collaboration rubrics, contracts, and bonus point systems to reward initiative and empathetic behavior. If you’re not using these tools, you’re not taking advantage of methods that work. And, most important, if your teams don’t work, neither will your projects.
  6. Know how to teach and assess 21st century skills. PBL is the best method we have for teaching students how to solve complex problems. But to get to a meaningful solution, students need to master the skills of collaboration and self-management. And, to show us how they arrived at a conclusion or created a product, they need to communicate effectively. That’s a short version of why PBL is central to teaching 21st century skills. But PBL teachers face a challenge: Nothing has been standardized in regard to teaching or assessing these skills. Solid performance rubrics have been developed, but are rarely used school wide. I urge PBL teachers at every school to band together and agree on rubrics and methods for assessing 21st century skills (this is a prime topic for PLC work), as well as sharing ideas on how to teach these skills.
  7. Value reflection and revision. Finally, educators can learn from the slow food movement. High quality PBL requires a different time frame and expectation, primarily because problem solving is not a linear, 50-minute period experience. This means not just being flexible (one of the prime qualities of the successful PBL teacher), but also making reflection and revision, in pursuit of excellence, central to the process of learning. This takes several forms. First, during a project, encourage drafts and prototypes, then structure time for peer debriefs, jig saws, or other disciplined ways for students to share and exchange ideas. At the end of a project, reflect and debrief thoroughly. Make excellence a standard for your projects.


About Author:

Thom Markham is a psychologist and school redesign consultant. He is the principal author of the Handbook for Project Based Learning, published by the Buck Institute for Education, and the author of the Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for inquiry and innovation for K-12 educators., as well as Redefining Smart: Awakening students’ power to reimagine their world. Download the Top Ten Tools for PBL on his website, or contact him at


Novare Partners with the San Carlos School District
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Novare Partners with the San Carlos School District

Novare is proud to announce that we have on-boarded the San Carlos School District. We are so excited to support this amazing District focused on some incredible goals, bringing Project Based Learning and 21st Century ‘Habits of Mind” skills to the classroom, without loosing student accountability.

“The San Carlos School District has been working with Novare to create a digital solution for our Project Based Learning approaches that are well underway in the district. Novare is helping the district find easy ways to upload and ‘tag’ student work so that students can gather evidence towards competency in the 21st Century ‘Habits of Mind’ skills, which include Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Citizenship / Stewardship and Ownership. We are excited to be able to compile digital examples of projects that students have collaborated on, while also allowing students to gather individual artifacts and assessments to self assess and set goals for future improvement. In addition to this, the student growth over time that is demonstrated in a digital portfolio can be shared in student led conferences and at 8th grade exit presentations. We are very excited about the possibilities that this flexible and forward thinking digital solution offers to us!” – Marie Crawford, Principle on Special Assignment, SCSD

More About SCSD: The San Carlos School District shall provide an innovative and engaging learning experience that fosters the development of the Whole Child to ensure all students are well prepared for success in the 21st Century, as evidenced by:

  • Reaching their highest academic, social, emotional, intellectual, and physical potential;
  • Becoming problem solvers, critical thinkers, risk-takers, designers, collaborators, and innovators; and
  • Developing into contributing, empathic citizens and leaders who are responsible stewards of their world and care about equity and justice, both locally and worldwide.

SCSD has had a long history of focus on the “whole child,” the notion that learning needs to go significantly beyond the traditional basic subjects and cover areas such as music and the arts (fine arts, theater, etc.); sustainability; physical, social, emotional wellness; leadership skills and community involvement; and communication and collaboration skills. Students are encouraged to examine their own thoughts and actions and be sensitive to others’ feelings and needs. Within the context of guided activities and peer feedback, children acquire the tools to be successful within the interpersonal domain, as well as to develop personal resiliency and awareness in the intrapersonal domain.

10 Conversations at #PBL World Focus on Students, Learning
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10 Conversations at #PBL World Focus on Students, Learning

Awesome post on by ! Check out #10, a special mention of Novare!

Yesterday at PBL World, a project-based learning conference hosted by Buck Institute for Education, we heard many interesting conversations that focused on the powerful teaching and learning happening across the globe.

1. All You Need in a Lesson

Brought to you by keynote speaker Dr. Ramsey Musallum (@ramusallam), this short list is maybe all you need to plan a successful lesson. Ramsey is a high school chemistry teacher–(see his Ted Talk here and blogs at His checklist has potential for all classrooms:

  • Does lecture happen later?
  • Are the products public?
  • Is feedback anonymous?

2. Bedtime Science

Ramsey Musallam (@ramusallam) has two daughters (ages three and six) and said he ,“Got tired of Pinkalicious and started doing bedtime science instead.” #SmartParents, take note. Inspire curiosity at home. Watch Ramsey’s videos of his two daughters as they talk about laws of physics and more science. And for more on activating student-centered learning (#SCLchat) at home, see our Smart Parents series (stay tuned! Our book Parenting for Powerful Learning will publish in August).

3. Seen and Heard

Deeper Learning partners New Tech Network (@newtechnetwork) presenting on college ready projects assessments into the PBL Classroom. ConnectEd (@ConnectEdorg) presenting on infusing rigor and tech in PBL.

4. The Posters Talk

There are lots and lots of project posters around the school that demonstrate project brainstorms from teachers – they are literally all over the PBL conference location – Napa New Technology High School in Napa Valley, California.

5. “If it’s not public, it doesn’t exist.”

This quote is brought to you Austin Kleon.

Student blogging is one way to make work public as we have written about here and here. Game changers: 1. Blogs are a medium that is changing the world. 2. Through blogs, all people can share and spread ideas. 3. Blogs provide a medium for reflecting on learning publicly.

6. Competency-Based Ed. “It’s all happening.”

We had a great chat with Dave Potter (@GlobalReady) from VIF (@VIFprogram) about their work to provide online professional development for teachers- badges and all! Look for more as this work partners with other organizations such as Digital Promise to provide microcredentialing. (And if you want to learn more about this, see our Preparing Leaders for Deeper Learning paper in partnership with Digital Promise).

7. Make It, Imagine It, Animate It

Destination Imagination’s (@IDODI) vision is “to be the global leader in teaching the creative process from imagination to innovation.” How does their program teaches 21st century skills? “We focus on skills for jobs that have not even been created yet.”

GoAnimate (@GoAnimate) showing teachers how students can animate anything and turn it into videos. We hear the kids love it.

Makey, Makey is cool (I can’t wait to order this for my daughter). Check out: Hack a banana, make a keyboard!

8. New Schools and Tools

Biz World (@bizworldorg) makes entrepreneurship fun for kids.

School4One (@School4one) allows teachers to post submit assignments, provide feedback & track student progress by standards all from one app. You can also read more about School4One in They Are Not Paperweights; an iPad Program That Works.

I ran into an old friend Amy who is starting the Valley School of Southern Oregon, a charter school based on the Montessori philosophy in Medford, OR. I’m excited to track Amy and the school’s progress as she opens in southern Oregon this fall for grades 6-8.

I had a chat with Shane Krukowski (@pblhq) about Project Foundry (@ProjectFoundry), where he’s the VP of Product Development. Project Foundry helps teachers scaffold project-based learning by providing tools to help manage workflow, portfolios and reporting tools.

9. #SmartThanks

At team Getting Smart, we have a tradition of giving kudos to others.

Thanks David Ross (@davidbie) for hosting and chatting about #globaled.

Thanks Bob Lenz (@pblbob)- I am looking forward to reviewing your book, Transforming Schools Using Project-Based Learning, Performance Assessment, and Common Core Standards (co-authored by Justin Wells and Sally Kingston).

Thanks to Ashley Auspelmyer (@AshAusp) for the discussion about what it means to be a leader in schools.

Thanks to Marcy Barton, Founder and CLO at for the sage wisdom around the book writing process.

10. Summing It Up

Thanks Molly Anderson (@beautiful5day) for the chat about parenting and your inspiration for Novareedu. (@novareedu), a platform that helps all stakeholders (teachers, students, parents) manage student-centered projects. She summed up project-based learning this way. “I truly believe the future of education is engaging students through project work by making learning meaningful.”

Mondays with Molly-YEAR IN REVIEW1
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Mondays with Molly: YEAR IN REVIEW

Hi Molly, so the school year is officially over!?

Yes. The classrooms have been cleaned out and we look forward to next year.

Wow. So what was new this year?

I’d say the debates have begun and it seems this year was THE year that real action is happening. There have been debates about Common Core, how it gets implemented, the good/bad of No Child Left Behind, High Stakes Testing… so many topics!

I know Common Core was a big conversation piece this year…

Well, it is huge this year, and the reason is because Common Core has begun implementing the metric to assess students using the Common Core criteria… and it’s stressful because they’re still vetting the tests… and well… you can’t vet something until you’ve used it! So there’s a lot of questioning and uncertainty regarding both implementation and authenticity of the test and results.

And those are the “high stakes” you have mentioned previously?

Yes. They’re high stakes tests… which control access to classes, resources for both schools and children, and used to evaluate programs. Parents and students have protested or opted out of testing.  It demonstrates a flaw in our system where we need to look closely at to remedy.

So when you say “remedy”, what do you mean?

Well, this year there has been some major responses to the system in real ways. We are working with several districts across several states who are implementing alternative ways of assessing students. At Novare, we see the change that is happening right in front of us. This year has been very special.

Ok, looking at the year, what would be the highlight and lowlight of education in America this academic year?

Hands down, I think one of the lowest parts of education this year that has come to the forefront is the stress that we put on children… I live in Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley, and am witnessing what is happening in the Bay Area with suicide rates among teenagers soaring.

This is terrible!

That’s horrible. How are schools dealing with this?

Schools are dealing with it by addressing how to deal with stress instead of focusing on what is causing the stress. It’s a systemic change. It’s not schools or parents… it’s really a societal issue with expectations on children being unrealistic … Soooo much stress that teachers are cheating and going to jail (which also happened this year), and children are throwing up on their bubble tests, and you know it just has to change.

Yes, agreed. Just awful. I’d love to switch gears and ask you about the highlight!?

Ha. Yes, well there are positive changes this year. The highlight of this year is the movement that is happening across the nation… to really look closely at education and to see what can we do to improve it. There is excitement with Project Based Learning, you can see the movement growing… you see it in other words as well…design thinking, 21st century skills, Competency Based Education, Reggio inspired… it’s happening!

This movement, to me, is incredibly exciting and you can see it’s truly happening in states like New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Department of Education is developing a state-wide performance assessment system that will balance local control with state-wide accountability and comparability. New Hampshire is working with the Center for Collaborative Education and The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment to pilot this program in four districts this coming year. They are striving for a balance of assessment that will help students be college ready with a deeper understanding of learning. That means giving students projects and helping them develop communication and organizational skills. Along with these skills will be an ability to articulate and manipulate the content in a way that truly demonstrates mastery of learning.

I’d say that was a big win for students and teachers. I mean, you have got to love New Hampshire, they’re motto is “live free or die”!

Well that certainly is a positive thing. It’s really about looking at education from a fresh perspective.

Completely. Education isn’t static and change can be exciting. We are evaluating what we do and why. What is the best way to do something? What’s the best way teach? What’s the best way assess? What’s the best way to get the information we need? In the past there’s been tradition and you’re stuck with the way we’ve always done things and what we’ve always had… but now there’s this feeling that we don’t have to settle or use what we’ve used in the past, we live in a very technologically advanced society and if we approach it right, we can leverage all of our resources and steer education away from stress, cheating, suicide, teaching to the test and toward deeper learning… and I think that’s the most exciting thing this year…

Now that IS positive and exciting! What a great way to end the year! Thank you so much Molly for spending time with me each week.

Thank you. And I want to truly thank all of the trail blazers out there making things happen. It’s not a top down scenario, every person is important and it is because of every single one of us that this shift is happening.

Mondays with Molly-Report Cards
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Mondays with Molly: Report Cards

Hi Molly! So it’s June! Are teachers pretty much wrapped up now?

If not, they are close. It is the final mad rush of finishing projects, finalizing reports and celebrating the year.

What makes it such a mad rush as teachers finish up the school year?

Of course the rush is unique for each teacher and depending on the grade levels they teach. However most teachers are wrapping up assignments, reports are finalized or getting close. There are end of year awards to distribute for students, teachers, volunteers, and school leaders. Also last minute field trips and end of year celebrations add to the mayhem of schedules, excitement and pressure on time. It is a rush for everyone. But it’s also some of the most fun times for educators, parents and kids.

How so?

As curriculum is finishing, it can be an opportunity to explore … without the pressure and limitations of assessment and testing. It is also a time to celebrate what has been learned over the year.

Such as…?

Well for me personally, let’s see this week, there was a presentation about first and second graders studying “Is change good or bad?”. In the process, they studied seasons and migration. They decided to build a hummingbird garden and learned about irrigation and how to help animals. They planned a presentation for parents and dedicated the garden to the school. This week, as projects were winding down they explored bubbles and surface tension. My middle school student is wrapping up projects about Octavia and Cuttlefish and going to Blackberry Farm with classmates. This weekend, my freshman had a group at my house practicing their presentation for Romeo and Juliet and preparing for finals. My Senior has been swamped preparing for graduation, beginning with an award ceremony last week, projects and celebrations that are culminating next week. And teachers have to organize everything!

Oh that sounds like so much fun!

It is. I see the energy associated with projects and how much students benefit from being able to manipulate and talk about what they are learning. It would be great to make this possible throughout the year.

What’s stopping it? It sounds like a positive learning environment.

Well, It is. But it is challenging. Understanding new standards, what students should learn and how to facilitate that learning is only one challenge. And it takes time to develop and organize it.

Is this the first year many teachers have used a different set of standards? or Common Core?

Yes. As for Common Core, most states who adopted it have rolled it out via incremental adoptions, but I’d say this year was the first year it is being fully implemented. And for many schools across the country, whether it was Common Core or state standards, there has definitely been an attempt to change the way we grade, assessment has been the focus.

Does this pose problems for teachers?

Understanding what you want students to learn, and how you will evaluate them will drive what happens in the classroom. Changing standards and assessments is stressful as teachers work on how to implement them and communicate them.

What would help with the end of year “rush”?

Well, not to sound simplistic but what I hear the most is “I wish there was an easier way to do report cards!”  Wanting detailed report cards that explain what children understand in a way that is easily managed will help. Although technology can be a cumbersome idea to some teachers, new platforms are attempting to solve this frustration.

What is one solution?

At Novare, report cards were first and foremost on our priority list. That is, finding out how we can take this portfolio driven assessment and connect it toward actual standards, or rubrics, or even learning goals. In fact, I’m excited about this years reports cards because we have implemented a new format.

Can you explain the new format?

If you input information throughout the year… you know, after presentations, projects, lessons, etc., the platform can then compile that information quickly, literally with one click! That’s it! Then you can add notes to personalize how each student is doing.  We are making it easier all the time by listening to teachers about the features they want. It makes it so much easier at the end of the year.

Do other programs have this feature?

Well some platforms may aggregate information over time, but then I see responses that look like “not included in final report” which tells the teacher they have to go back and look through their assessments and then they have to review and select and create another one…

I see…

I know that the features that make ours easier is that it’s one click away and ours allows narratives, which are really important. You can create your reports at a class level, group level, individual level.  You can add narratives both at a group level an personal details under the group narrative, moving easily from one child to the next on the same screen page.

I think you’re on to something! Well, thank you so much Molly. I know our readers love spending their Mondays with you.

Thank you. And I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to all teachers!! I appreciate you so much. And to those who want to learn more about this change, check out organizations like Competency Works and the Buck Institute. Or, if you are interested in what I’m doing, you can talk to me anytime. My email is ping me and we can schedule a chat anytime!

The Past, Present And Future Of High-Stakes Testing
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The Past, Present And Future Of High-Stakes Testing

originally posted by Anya Kamenetz on 2015

After a long stretch as the law of the land, annual standardized tests are being put to, well, the test.

This week, the Senate education committee held a hearing on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and, specifically, on testing. The committee’s chairman, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has released a draft bill offering a lot more leeway to states in designing their own assessment systems.

But Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the committee, have dug in their heels to say that annual tests should remain mandatory.

All this comes as parents, students and educators around the country are asking serious questions about the number of tests children are taking and the reasons they’re taking them.

I’ve just written a book on this topic, The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed with Standardized Testing — But You Don’t Have to Be, and Steve Inskeep sat down with me to ask me a few questions about it.

How much more widespread are standardized tests than they were 10, 15 or 20 years ago?

Since No Child Left Behind became federal law, every state has been required to test every child every year in third through eighth grade in math and reading, plus once in high school. And districts have added many tests to follow on to state-mandated tests.

Why would they do that?

Well, the state tests are tied to consequences for districts, schools and teachers as well as students. Districts are adding on benchmark, practice and interim tests, and that’s how they get these multiplying and ballooning requirements. That’s why the Council of the Great City Schools found that students are taking 113 standardized tests in grades K through 12.

I heard from an elementary school teacher recently that she felt like she wasn’t doing anything other than preparing for, or administering, tests.

I hear that from educators all around the country. Even the ones who want the data and the information, they lament the fact that the whole school experience is increasingly becoming defined by testing and test prep. And I’ve walked into lower-income schools around the country where test scores are posted right in the front entryway and the message is very clear: That we care about you as a person and everything, but what really matters is the score that you post in April.

In talking with teachers you even hear stories of the entire school experience being distorted by these tests because the school is worried only about kids who are just on the edge of passing or failing the tests. They don’t seem to care about the kids who are doing really well or really badly.

What you’re describing is an example of perverse response to incentives. And everybody does that to some extent. And researchers have documented what your friend noticed, which is called educational triage or rationing. More and more attention goes to students just on the verge of passing, and schools don’t have capacity to focus on students who are doing really well or really badly.

This is in some ways an old debate. We’ve heard about it for decades. We are in this data-driven world where people want information and accountability for schools. How do you get beyond that?

Well, this is an interesting inflection point in the debate. On the one hand you’ve got parents and teachers saying, “This is too much.” But the other question is, What can we do instead? I talk about a couple of different approaches in the book, like statistical sampling and “big-data” approaches [see this story for more details].

So how open is the political system to some kind of reform?

Well, this is a really interesting moment, Steve, because the political alignments around education are always confusing, but right now you have a situation where Sen. Lamar Alexander is proposing a draft bill to eliminate annual testing requirements and really leave it up to the states to have much more flexibility.

But Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Democratic leaders in Congress are saying we must protect annual testing at all costs — this being the policy initially introduced by George W. Bush.

OK, what is the case in favor of annual tests?

Well the core argument in favor is that NCLB forced schools to report the performance of historically disadvantaged groups — minorities, students with disabilities, English language learners and low-income students. So instead of hiding those students behind the average, schools were made responsible for the welfare and success of every single child. And so some civil rights groups are saying that equity must be ensured by testing every child every year.

Then you have groups on the other side saying equity isn’t just about measuring students, it’s about ensuring equal outcomes and equal access and equal opportunities, and we don’t really believe that more testing is really going to do that.

Top 10 Teacher Appreciation Week Quotes!
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Top 10 Teacher Appreciation Week Quotes!

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” – Carl Jung

“A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience’s attention, then he can teach his lesson.” – John Henrik Clarke

“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” – C.S. Lewis

“Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students.” – Charles Kuralt

“I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession.” – John Wooden

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” – Mark Van Doren

“The thing I loved the most – and still love the most about teaching – is that you can connect with an individual or a group, and see that individual or group exceed their limits.” – Mike Krzyzewski

“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” – Lily Tomlin

Hot on the heels of New Hampshire’s rollout of PACE, Novare Edu proves it’s on the right track.
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Hot on the heels of New Hampshire’s rollout of PACE, Novare Edu proves it’s on the right track.

Novare’s assessment platform supports competency based learning models and is onboarding schools for Fall 2015.

Palo Alto, CA March 12, 2015

Being in the right place at the right time is crucial to success and Novare’s official launch for Fall of 2015 couldn’t be better timed. With the recent news of New Hampshire’s rollout of PACE (Performance Assessment for Competency Education), Novare is perfectly positioned to address the immediate needs of states and school districts looking to make a change. Novare is an assessment platform and was built hand-in-hand with teachers to support different ways of learning, from a PACE driven competency based model to the Common Core State Standards. The platform allows educators to understand and meet students where they are, and to consistently evaluate their programs to fill necessary gaps.

Novare has successfully been piloted in schools across the country who are rethinking standardization or opting for a way to assess students comprehensively. “Whether you’ve adopted Common Core or not, we believe in capturing and organizing student experiences thereby providing conscientious feedback to promote learning and thinking.” Molly Anderson, CEO, Educator and Novare visionary explains, “Ultimately we support managing a process. And the common thread for these new ways of learning is to focus on following a process, a project, or even tracking progress over time.”Collins-Maxwell Iowa District Superintendent, Jason Ellingson, has jumped on board in using Novare to support what he calls ‘community and communications’. Ellingson explains, “the goal for education is unlocking the potential of every learner to truly learn at their individual pace and follow their own pathway.” Ellingson, a thought leader in Competency Based Education, has a clear goal for his district, “Collins-Maxwell is all about relationships and knowing students. It’s important to identify struggles to provide learning opportunities that can meet students’ needs in order to stretch their potential and that honors each individual student in preparation for their future.” And this type of insightful analysis requires different tools that a standardized test cannot offer.

It is evident that the problem is not the desire to implement changes but rather the execution of it. “School districts and teachers alike have expressed interest in adopting these promising and innovative models, like competency based learning or design thinking, but seeing how deep the demands on the educators are, proves to be overwhelming,” says Marcy Barton, Design Thinking Expert and Stanford University Design School Speaker, “and that’s where Novare’s platform becomes relevant.” Barton has seen the results of using this approach at her CreekSide Learning Lab. “Similar to competency based learning, design thinking is a process that moves learners through defining a challenge and iterating multiple solutions. Novare’s platform can capture this ongoing, dynamic interplay between the learner and the product/outcome.”

Although the true test is usability and whether another technology tool will help or hinder teachers, but so far, Novare’s program has been met with positive reviews. Sarah Griffiths, a 1st and 2nd grade teacher from California proclaims “Novare’s program was designed with teachers for teachers and gives us the 21st Century tools we’ve been asking for.” Griffiths goes on to explain that “Novare provides essential data, insightful reports and innovative communication tools, to reflect on the child as a whole.” Following this success, Novare is now slated to onboard new schools to prepare for the 2015 academic year.

About: Since 2013 Novare has been focused on developing solutions that empower educators to assess the growth and development of the whole child on a learning continuum unique to each individual.