Liberation School



Competency-Based Graduation

The New Orleans Liberation Academy (NOLA) educational program for high school graduation is organized around a competency-based, outcome oriented curriculum.  In a competency-based system, desired learning outcomes are clearly defined and stated up front. Students are assessed by whether they can demonstrate those outcomes.  In the NOLA curriculum, the different learning outcomes are called "competencies." Students progress through the NOLA curriculum by demonstrating that they have met the learning outcomes through a process we call “validation” in a variety of skill and knowledge areas. We call this demonstrating a competency.
What is a competency?
A competency is simply a statement of learning outcomes for a skill or a body of knowledge. When students demonstrate a competency by completing a validation they are demonstrating their ability to do something. They are showing the outcome of the learning process. Lots of the things that people do in their lives can be defined as different competencies - job skills, living skills, etc. In the NOLA curriculum we've taken the different kinds of skills and knowledge that are important for our students success, whatever path they may choose after high school. and we have defined them as different competencies or validation areas.

In most educational programs, a student moves through the requirements by taking a class and being assessed and earning a grade at the end of that class on how well she has done meeting the requirements of the class. The assessment says how well a student has done in a class, but it doesn't necessarily assess what a student has learned. Wherever the student is at the end of the class - that's what the assessment shows. When the semester ends, the student is done with that learning and moves on to the next class.
NOLA’s educational program is different (and we think more like the real world). Students at NOLA know up front what the expected learning outcomes are and each student is expected to fully demonstrate them all.  It's not enough to be part way competent in something, our goal is to help every student reach the level of demonstrating their competence/mastery.  If it takes less than a semester to acquire a particular validation, the student can demonstrate the competency and move on.  If it takes more than a semester, that's okay, too.  All students are expected to demonstrate the required outcomes, but different students will do it in different ways and at different paces.

How do students graduate from NOLA?
NOLA students graduate by doing projects, performing internships, completing suplumentary learning packets and/or taking classes towards twelve different learning areas.  Not everyone’s learning experiences will look the same; each student, their advisor and their validators will create a plan that will best suit their needs and interests.  As the student works on the twelve validations, they will also receive traditional credits for the time they put in.  Student’s transcripts at graduation will consist of at least 30 semester credits, and twelve summaries of learning, called validations

NOLA’s competency-based graduation process allows learners to earn a diploma through demonstrations of competence in addition to or in combination with traditionally determined credits.  In addition to meeting the state’s minimum graduation requirements, the student must meet the desired outcomes in twelve validation areas, and must demonstrate competence through projects and summaries of real-world learning experiences.  Each of these validations must be signed by an expert in that particular area called a validator.  The validator should be involved in the creation and execution of the learning plan, as well as its final assessment.  Upon successful completion of all twelve validation areas, the learner will amass a portfolio consisting of the twelve validations, or summaries of learning, as well as projects that showcase the student’s work.  The student will then present the portfolio to a graduation committee comprised of the student’s advisor, one or more family or community members, a program director, other staff, and a current New Orleans Liberation Academy student who is also on the competency-based plan.

Some of the validation areas will be met through traditional classes; however, students are encouraged to create their own learning and assessment plans in most of the areas.  The following is a list of the twelve validation areas in which NOLA students must demonstrate competency in order to graduate:

à        Effective Communication
à        Literary Analysis
à        Effective and Informed Citizenship
à        Valuing Diversity and History
à        Mathematics
à        Science and Technology
à        Physical and Mental Well-Being
à        Artistic Expression and Appreciation
à        Accessing Information
à        Community Involvement & Leadership
à        Employment Skills, Entrepreneurship & Career Exploration
à        Philosophical, Emotional and/or Spiritual Awareness