Author: Molly Anderson

Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 2.04.38 PM
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

A Case Study Accelerating a Competency Based World

Creating Professional Networks to Implement Change
Around the country, schools are forming networks to support innovative models to improve student learning. These networks provide a professional Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 2.04.38 PMlearning community that helps schools grapple with how to best implement or improve deeper learning through student centered, competency based and project based learning. Place Network, an initiative of Teton Science Schools, is no exception as a leader in supporting place-based education with core commitment to putting the learner and place at the center. Place Network is focused on implementing a next-generation learning model in rural schools across the nation to build a network deeply committed to connecting learning to local places and reimagining local community. Over the next three to five years, the network will support 50 schools serving 10,000 students. The network is currently accepting applications for the 2019-20 cohort year.


Using a Proven Model

For more than 50 years, Teton Science Schools has educated youth and adults through place-based education. Using a core set of principles such as inquiryScreen Shot 2019-02-12 at 2.09.11 PMand design-thinking, participants show increased engagement and academic outcomes – as well as a stronger commitment to community impact. With increasing demand to replicate the model, TSS launched a national network of place-based schools. Place Network Schools share a common core framework grounded in six place-based principles. Place-based education connects learning and community through economic, cultural, and ecological lenses. Students and teachers use inquiry and design thinking to understand their communities and create solutions based on opportunities and challenges. Student interest and background is valued through learner-centered approaches and traditional disciplines are integrated through interdisciplinary models. The Community is the Classroom as students expand school walls beyond the school, learning how there is a local to global connection.

Place Network Schools use four key learning elements to support these principles. High quality project-based learning provides opportunities for students to collaborate around relevant, impactful, and complex learning experiences. Competency-based assessment links learning goals with learning experiences in meaningful ways so that students progress upon evidence of proficiency rather than just time. To learn core skills in English Language Arts, mathematics, and design/technology, students progress along a personalized path of equal and high expectations at a pace and in a way that maximizes learning. Supporting these tools are the development of Habits of Success, connecting character development, learning habits, and social-emotional learning to develop the human potential needed to thrive in the future.

The Tools to Successfully Transition, Implement and Scale

After considering many competency based platforms to help them accelerate, Place Network Schools selected Novare.  Novare supports learning by providing the backbone to create and share projects connected to competencies and communicate student progress. logoNovare provides opportunities to capture in the moment learning in multiple modes, provide feedback easily and connect proficiency levels to competencies . Notifications keep students, families and teachers informed and on top of learning. Place Network Schools especially appreciate the visual representations of student learning to easily understand where students currently perform and direct their learning. Reports are easily generated with opportunities to add details to share student learning with families. Matching technology with pedagogy accelerates a competency based world and makes learning meaningful and learners engaged.

As Place Network expands, having a common platform will create efficiencies to adopt and implement best practices, share curriculum, as well as further network goals of improving academic outcomes, student engagement and community impact. Novare is proud to support national thought leaders in education.

Kindergarten invitation to create stories before writing begins
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

What it Means to be a Reggio Inspired Platform

 What is Reggio?

Reggio Emilia is a learning approach which focuses on the child’s experience and learning through big ideas. Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of Reggio Emilia, explained this approach in his poem The 100 Languages, describing how life, play, learning, and ideas are intertwined and should not be experienced in silos.  Reggio’s holistic approach to educating the child is reflected in the fundamental principles that  emphasize relationships and connections.

 What is Novare?

Novare is a platform that creates efficiencies and organizes information to support Reggio inspired learning using best practices. Novare was developed to support learners, teachers, families – the entire community. We do that by supporting relationships, exploring big ideas, connecting work to competencies and portfolios. We support schools moving in this direction as well.

Reggio’s Fundamental Principles

Picture from River Garden South Yarra
Picture from River Garden South Yarra


Children are Competent 

Everyone is a learner and even very young children are competent and capable.  Learning is an active process. This concept shapes the relationship of teachers and students into facilitators, mentors and collaborators. The teacher guides a learner to think deeper, articulate their thoughts and provides the environment and context to stimulate and engage learner

At Novare we believe the relationship between student and teacher is the foundation for learning. School leaders select the the language for proficiency levels to support their culture and foster a growth mindset.

At Novare we follow research and best practices to make learning visible, both helping articulate competencies prior to starting a task and easily providing feedback.


Reflection / Intention and Documentation

Listening to learners leads to opportunities to combine interests and education. Learners and teachers reflect on questions, ideas, and their understanding.  These reflections are modeled, recorded, and shared, building metacognition for both learners and teachers. Part of the reflection process is documenting the learning. Conversations and work samples deliberately capture and communicate what is happening, and build a map leading to further growth opportunities.`

At Novare we provide many opportunities to develop metacognition from reflecting on work, curating a portfolio, chats for clarification or creating and monitoring individual goals.


Big Ideas  / Emergent Curriculum

Learners think deeply about big ideas and weave different disciplines together to explore how ideas, connections, and relationships influence outcomes.

At Novare Big Ideas can be organized, shared, re-used and modified for different classes. Novare supports collaborating in projects at many levels.

All for One and One For AllScreen Shot 2019-02-06 at 12.03.13 PM

This example is taken from a first and second grade multiage class. With intentional thought-provoking questions from the teachers at the beginning of the year, learners explore how individuals in a group get along in a society:  

  1. Create and ratify a class constitution and learn about our Constitution.
  2. Explore how laws are made and how each branch of government is involved in the process
  3. Participate in a mock trial in the county courtroom with actual attorneys and  judges guiding the learners.
  4. Travel to a local law school to discuss our system of law and justice.
  5. Write and draw pictures to help people wrongly incarcerated.
  6. Run three presidential elections with two-week terms

Weave into the four months of project work, opportunities for the learners to read, write, craft voting booths, tabulate election results, present ideas, and have fun  developing these skills.


What does all of this really mean?

The Reggio approach means respecting and supporting the entire child while providing intentional opportunities for learners to participate in real world experiences. Throughout the experience the learners take the time to capture the learning and reflect on the meaning and process and use the experience to step even deeper into an idea or connecting thought. This can only be implemented, effective and appreciated within an environment supported by tools that allows educators to capture in real time, collaborate on ideas within relevant and dynamic groups, assess and highlight growth, invite the community to participate and influence in the growth of the individual child.

Learning is complex. Novare creates efficiencies to support your learners and teachers. Developed through a Reggio philosophy, Novare keeps projects, competencies, portals and report cards in sync to create synergies and keeps the focus where it needs to be, on the learner.

Our platform is designed to more easily capture  and understand how learners are progressing in a complex learning environment. It has many features that enable learners to direct their learning, demonstrate understanding and see progress. Novare is a next generation platform supported by the latest research and easy to use.  

kids in grass writing
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Choosing a Competency Based Platform to Support Students

Discovery Charter School, located in San Jose, California. It has an amazing program and a competitive lottery for acceptance to the school. Discovery Charter School is dedicated to creating lifelong learners that are prepared to meet the challenges of the future. They focus on educating the whole child through strong family involvement, project-based learning, and respect for individual learning styles and developmental readiness. They recently chose Novare to help them implement their mission. Novare is a learning management platform that facilitates project based learning by connecting competencies to student work and creating portfolios. Novare helps schools communicate with learners and families through competencies, proficiency levels in the language of the school and competency based reports.

We recently interviewed 6th grade teacher, Toni Sindelar, to learn her perspective about why Discovery chose Novare and how implementing it has been.

What first drew your school to Novare?

Creating efficiencies for teachers to create competency based reports

“Our educational philosophy is based on a growth mindset and tracking students’ learning through skills. Our current student information system forces us to tie a letter grade to each assignment, and we wanted to use an assessment system that does not rely on a letter grade. Novare is great for this because the focus is on understanding what skills the students are gaining, rather than simply providing a letter grade. Novare also connects to our student information system, so we have the flexibility to use both platforms in sync.”


What is your experience with Novare?

“The platform has been really fun to play with and very forgiving. If I make a mistake, I can easily undo it. It is adaptable and flexible.”


What about Novare Team members and customer service?

“It has been great. The team is extremely responsive, very patient, and accommodating. They are willing to work with us, and are transparent every step of the way. Whereas other systems that we use charge us for every communication or support issue, Novare has a one time fee and the team continues to help us at no extra cost.”


Would you recommend Novare?

“Absolutely. We have been very happy with Novare so far and would certainly be willing to refer Novare to other schools.”

Novare looks forward to connecting with you to further your vision in competency-based education. We are all about building relationships and putting learners at the heart of our work.


education, elementary school, learning and people concept - group of school kids with pens and notebooks writing test in classroom
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

4 Key Components to Assessing Critical Thinking

Assessing critical thinking can be tricky.  Figuring out the tasks, isolating the skills, and knowing what you are actually assessing. Here is a summary of the key components for assessing critical thinking in even very young students.

 1. Take out the noise. If you are measuring reasoning, focus on reasoning. Do not focus on other skills, such as spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Reasoning assessment should be done through conversations for kindergarten and first grade students. Beginning in  second grade, activities that incorporate writing may be used.

2. Don’t scaffold. When assessing reasoning skills, do not provide support. Give them the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding without help from teachers or other students. Here is an example of a task for second or third grade students.


First generate a class list of what makes a hero.  Make certain you discuss heroes that are not super heroes. Typical lists may include brave, strong, faces challenges, clever…. Then read Jack and the Beanstalk retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg.  Each student should have a copy to follow along to read and look at the illustrations.  Review any questions on vocabulary. This version shows Jack as morally ambiguous. Next ask students according to the characteristics, was Jack a hero? Support your answer with specific evidence from the text.


3. Use a scoring guide. Know what you are looking for to demonstrate different proficiency levels. Here is an example of a scoring guide for grades 2 and 3 with different proficiency levels. The first row describes the skill for that proficiency level. The row below shows the evidence to look for in determining at which level the student performs.



4. Analyze student work together.  Comparative assessment helps calibrate expectations between classrooms and provides rich dialogue for understanding criteria and student outcomes.


This topic was one of many explored at EL National Conference. Many thanks for the insights and resources provided by Jeff Heyck-Williams and Jill Clark, who taught the master class on Creating Assessments of Critical Thinking and Problem Solving!

Teachers in schools have saved countless hours by utilizing Novare’s assessment platform to organize and share resources for assignments, evaluate student work and easily aggregate and manipulate data.


On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Life Lessons & Risk Taking

Our friends offered to take us rock climbing last weekend.  My family has NEVER been climbing outside of the occasional indoor climbing wall. We were thrilled and a bit nervous about the experience. After a beautiful drive up to Summit Rock, we began to hike.


The day was exhilarating.  It is hard work rock climbing. There is a great deal of problem solving and trust involved.  The problem solving involved figuring out how to use the space to climb to the top – using your body as a lever, where to position hands and feet to get the next few inches up. Learning to trust is the other critical part to climbing – trusting the people have you, trusting your ability, trusting the rope that holds you.

Thinking back to the day, the most thrilling experience was climbing over the precipice, dangling at the top of a cliff and rappelling down the rock.


Why did I risk it? Exhilaration, joy, the view, the self confidence?  But in truth it came down to feeling safe to risk the climb.  I knew there was someone below to slow my descent if I lost control. I had a careful teacher at the top guiding my hands with advice. I was able to take that jump, because of the scaffolding of support.


As a teacher, a parent, the CEO of a company that supports teachers and students, I want to create the scaffolding to permit teachers, students and my children to take risks, learn from mistakes, grow and thrive.

May each of you climb mountains.

PBL World and Novare!
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare / 1

PBL World and Novare!

Novare is proud to be invited to participate in the Ed Leaders Tech for Schools Workshop at PBL World! PBL World is a National Conference that promotes Project Based Learning. We agree with the Buck Institute for Education, co-host of Ed Leaders Tech for Schools at PBL World and a leader in helping teachers prepare students for successful lives, that PBL engages students in real life problem solving, supported by research and develops deeper learning!

Why PBL” by the Buck Institute for Education as shown on their website.

Why Project BasedLearning (PBL)?

Project Based Learning’s time has come. The experience of thousands of teachers across all grade levels and subject areas, backed by research, confirms that PBL is an effective and enjoyable way to learn – and develop deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career, and civic life. Why are so many educators across the United States and around the world interested in this teaching method? The answer is a combination of timeless reasons and recent developments.

  • PBL makes school more engaging for students.Today’s students, more than ever, often find school to be boring and meaningless. In PBL, students are active, not passive; a project engages their hearts and minds, and provides real-world relevance for learning.
  • PBL improves learning.After completing a project, students understand content more deeply, remember what they learn and retain it longer than is often the case with traditional instruction. Because of this, students who gain content knowledge with PBL are better able to apply what they know and can do to new situations.
  • PBL builds success skills for college, career, and life.In the 21st century workplace and in college, success requires more than basic knowledge and skills. In a project, students learn how to take initiative and responsibility, build their confidence, solve problems, work in teams, communicate ideas, and manage themselves more effectively.
  • PBL helps address standards. The Common Core and other present-day standards emphasize real-world application of knowledge and skills, and the development of success skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, communication in a variety of media, and speaking and presentation skills. PBL is an effective way to meet these goals.
  • PBL provides opportunities for students to use technology.Students are familiar with and enjoy using a variety of tech tools that are a perfect fit with PBL. With technology, teachers and students can not only find resources and information and create products, but also collaborate more effectively, and connect with experts, partners, and audiences around the world.
  • PBL makes teaching more enjoyable and rewarding.Projects allow teachers to work more closely with active, engaged students doing high-quality, meaningful work, and in many cases to rediscover the joy of learning alongside their students.
  • PBL connects students and schools with communities and the real world.Projects provide students with empowering opportunities to make a difference, by solving real problems and addressing real issues. Students learn how to interact with adults and organizations, are exposed to workplaces and adult jobs, and can develop career interests. Parents and community members can be involved in projects.

EdSurge, co-host to the Ed Leaders Tech for School Workshop at PBL World, describes the summit and demonstrates the value of attending this free conference.

“The Ed Leaders Tech for Schools Workshop at PBL World will give you the inside track on emerging tech & trends directly aligned with best practice Project Based Learning.”

The purpose is to “focus on deep engagement between education leaders and edtech companies through a personalized program based on district priorities for supporting teachers and school leaders in using Project Based Learning.

The workshop showcases innovative, effective technology tools for classrooms and schools that directly support high-quality PBL.”

Novare is honored to be selected to participate in this workshop.

See you at PBL World!




Product Update-Customize Proficiency Levels!
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Product Update: Customize Proficiency Levels!

Attention Novare Users! We are excited to announce that we have added another level to our 4 previous levels. You can now select “incomplete”. This level helps track students who were absent, you can now circle back with them and let students know if they have not submitted their work.

Also, schools can determine different proficiency levels and how to best describe them.


Welcome Indigo Program!
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Welcome Indigo Program!

The Indigo Program is a safe and caring K-8 program designed to educate the whole child. At Indigo, “We provide multi-age interactions and constructivist learning activities through a positive discipline approach. This approach is supported by strong parent involvement. Indigo values the unique learning styles, skills and abilities of each child so they will be prepared to make a positive impact on the world.”

I had the honor of working with Mimi, Nasreen, and Natalie. We focused on looking at the benefits of having portfolios. Novare can show which standards connect with a proficiency level and date stamp along with narrative opportunities from both teachers and students to help students delve deeper into ideas. The Indigo team is also interested in reporting out not only projects to families, but also reports that can incorporate student, teacher, parent learning goals, overall view of assessment, narratives, pictures, videos and portfolios all in one report, easily assembled with portals, that permit students to manage their portfolios and parents to better understand what their children are learning. All this information is in one place!

Novare Connecting with Oelwein High School
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Novare Connecting with Oelwein High School

It has been truly inspiring to meet so many thoughtful, insightful and caring education professionals! I am proud to announce that Novare is working with the leadership team at Oelwein High School. Their Mission Statement is: The Oelwein Community School District is ‘forming the future’ by accepting, educating, guiding, inspiring, and caring about students in order that they may achieve their fullest potential.

Josh and Liz shared with me their excitement of being able to track multiple assessments on a single standard to show how students progress over time. They are also interested in the ways they can customize report cards to share how students are doing. Liz and I discussed how Novare can help with also supporting students with special curricular standards to personalize learning and meet students where they perform.

Welcome Earl Frost Elementary
On / by Molly Anderson / in Novare

Welcome Earl Frost Elementary

Novare is excited to work with Frost Elementary School. Frost’s mission is to ensure that every child’s potential is achieved. The entire Frost Team is dedicated to creating a nurturing yet rigorous environment that enables each child to develop academically, socially, and emotionally. Frost teachers work collaboratively to design and implement curriculum that will engage students through common core standard-aligned units. Every lesson aims to develop the following skills in each child:

  • Learning – critical thinking, creative, collaboration, and communication
  • Literacy – information literacy, media literacy, and technology literacy
  • Life – flexibility, initiative, social skills, productivity, and leadership

I had the privilege of working with Tiffany and Erin. Erin has great curiosity and explored many aspects of the platform. Her focus was personalizing PBIS standards and creating groups and projects. Tiffany is thoughtful and insightful. She explored ways to organize groups, create learning goals for assignments, began tracking assessment and looking at ways Novare can help teachers collaborate. It’s wonderful to work with this savvy leadership team.