Category: Novare

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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.

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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.  

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On / by Brandon Hess / in Novare

Competency Based Reports: A Shift in the Right Direction

Competency Based Education presents a unique opportunity to individualize student learning and measure student growth and progress. It varies from traditional education by focusing on skills and proficiency levels instead of points and grades. Using Novare, a platform that grew through a Reggio approach and created for Competency Based Education, ensures communication with learners and families are optimal to promote a Growth Mindset as intended, to close the achievement gap, not hide or perpetuate it.

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Highlands uses two types of reports in Novare. This is one example of the many Competency Based Reports Novare can easily generate.


This pedagogical shift can be challenging for schools. What do parents think of it? What about teachers? We went to Highlands School to ask them about Novare and how it helps communicate with a different type of reporting for their 4k-3rd grade classrooms. We spoke with Treasure Horton, an insightful elementary teacher at Highlands School to gain her perspective.


Treasure describes how easy it is to personalize and communicate  learning. She recalled an example when her class played a math game to help her determine math fluency in addition. Using Novare, she captured the proficiency level easily and could quickly add a note to provide insight, noting that one child surpassed the fluency and was mastering place value.


highlands greenhouse

Students congregate outside a green house under a solar paneled pergola.


The new reports provide a clear picture of personalized student growth, and speaks volumes to the benefits of competency based reporting as is evidenced in Highlands School community. Such reports provide a vivid understanding of student growth when communicating with families.


Shifting to this new model is extremely helpful when you have support. Highlands appreciates  the support of their Curriculum Director, Elise Blackerby who provides teachers time to learn new systems and reflect on criteria that measure student learning. The shift was facilitated by the ease of use of Novare’s platform.  Treasure highlights, “It is fantastic and smooth and is an easy to use program.” Treasure also was quick to point out that she’s thrilled  Novare has strong and immediate customer support, “you never hear anyone  from Novare say ‘ok, we will get to it’, there is always a timely response to all questions.” Having a platform to support teachers and save time helps teachers focus on students.


yello chair


Thanks Highlands for your time and feedback! We appreciate the perspective of a school that is on the cutting edge of providing an engaging education. While visiting, we loved seeing the gardens, science labs, flexible seating, and even mood lighting to reduce stress, engage students and invigorate learning!

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.

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On / by admin / in Novare

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


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!




Ventana A Case Study
On / by Marcy Barton / in Novare

Ventana A Case Study

Why Novare Works for Us

We are an independent, Reggio-inspired Episcopal school in the heart of Silicon Valley serving children in preschool through fifth grade. Our mission states, in part, [we] ‘value innovation and tradition.’ And in our quest to educate the ‘whole child, we inspire children to have an inquiring mind and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, and the gift of joy and wonder in the ever-changing world.’ (c.2010)

Early adopters of Novare’s Authentic Assessment Tool, we began to use it as our assessment and reporting platform in 2013 as our elementary program was beginning to take shape. We have found that Novare’s Authentic Assessment Tool provides crucial flexibility as we align our assessment and parent reporting needs with the philosophy and growth of our organization.

An example of this versatility can be found in the recent upgrade of our semester report (i.e. report card). As an independent school our curriculum is guided by, but not strictly tied to, state and national standards (e.g. Common Core, Next Generation Science, C3 Frameworks). Previously, when attempting to assess student progress our educators found these sets of standards ponderous and overwhelming, and our parents found our ‘standards-based’ report difficult to interpret. We determined to simplify both the standards and the assessment scale. We synthesized the standards documents by combining critical ideas, simplifying the language, culling all but the essential learnings appropriate to our student population, and reducing the assessment calibration scale from four to two (i.e. developing, consistent). That done, it was a simple matter to insert our new, home-grown sets of standards into the Authentic Assessment platform. An added plus are Novare’s artifact archive and digital portfolio features. Teachers and parents appreciate this multi-media corroboration of student learning and the dynamic repository of student growth over the years.

With our in-house refinement of standards into developmentally appropriate and meaningful benchmarks, then making them accessible to our teaching staff, we have remained true to our Reggio-inspired philosophy of teaching and learning, and have prepared a parent reporting document that clearly communicates student progress.

We have found that Novare has the breadth, depth, and flexibility to serve our (indeed any) school population.