This is the sales pitch that these folks are using to stump for the destruction of traditional schools. Let's break it down.
In traditional education, they say, learning happens inside a classroom with "little or no accommodation of student interests or learning styles." I don't know-- maybe the comparison is meant to show that CBL in the present would be better than taking a time machine back to a public school classroom in 1935. Because I went to teacher school in the late seventies, and by then the idea of trying to accommodate each individual student in your classroom was already conventional wisdom.
But in CBL students have "a wide range of learning experiences at school, online or in the community." This triumvirate is important, because it allows just about anyone to get in on the education tax dollar money grab, and it renders traditional schools irrelevant. Just go learn from your neighbor, or a software bundle, or a charter school, or a mini-charter (that only teaches one subject) or a church school, or just home school. "Diverse partners" are the key, allowing students to get education from anywhere-- you don't need any special qualifications to edumacate the children.
At a public school, "students are expected to master grade level college and career ready standards." But CBL wants them to "master competencies" connected to the standards with "clear, transferable learning objectives." So that's... it's.... I don't know. Students are expected to do something rather than know something. I'll confess-- when you add the checklist education minimalism of CBE to the amateur-hour bad standards of
"Students advance at educator's pace regardless of mastery or needing additional time." Yup. When I set a pace in my classroom, I set it strictly based on my own preferences, and not based on professional expertise and experience from decades of working at my craft. But CBL students "advance upon mastery of learning targets" and not because of some time requirement. Plus they get customized support both in school and out of school "to ensure they stay on track."
Wait a minute. If they meet the learning targets at their own pace in their own way, then what is this "track" we are ensuring they stay on. I thought the whole point was that there is no track? Either some professional educator is setting a pace and set of targets, or the student is just going as she will. Or, I suppose, the targets and pace could be set by amateurs based on whatever they feel like.
In public schools, "every classroom has one teacher who designs and delivers instructional program with very little differentiation." But in CBL, "educators" work "collaboratively with community partners and students to develop flexible learning environments, grouping strategies, and extended opportunities to support a unique learning plan for every student."
This is the heart of the CBL pitch-- traditional public schools are run by those professional educators with their fancy "training" and "experience" and they're just so uptight and think they know it all, but if we put some amateur education entrepreneurs together with these students' future employers and just did whatever we thought was cool, school would be awesome. Also, we will replace the "wheel" with a fancy round disc that turns on an axle and helps wagons roll.
The notion that teachers don't differentiate is laughable, and the offhand dismissal of the idea that instructional programs should be designed and delivered by trained professionals is silly. As is the idea that flexible learning environments, grouping, and extra support are cool new ideas that these folks just thought up.
But part of the underlying philosophy is that schools are not turning out properly trained worker bees, and if we would just cooperate with the future employers of these drones, we could come up with a system more carefully focused on vocational training (of course, children of the upper classes will never, ever be subjected to CBE-style education).
Public schools offer assessments "at set times to evaluate and classify students." Well, yes. "One opportunity to take the summative assessment at the end of the year." Well, no. Sort of, in some states.
But CBL offers a "comprehensive assessment system" in which "formative assessments guide daily instruction" and whenever the students wants to, they can take a summative assessment as many times as they want, to show mastery. So, all testing, all the time.
According to KnowledgeWorks, in traditional public schools, "grades are norm-referenced, reflect course standards, are typically based on weighted quarters and final exam." I don't know whether KnowledgeWorks is ignorant of what happens in a public school, or if they are just making shit up in order to make public schools look bad. I do know that it's incorrect to say that public schools use norm-referenced grades (which would mean that we're all grading on the curve, a practice that went out of educational fashion around 1978). Nor is the use of a final exam universal by any stretch of the imagination.
In CBL "scores reflect the level of mastery within a learning target," which is extraordinarily unlikely. That's because CBL mastery style learning requires students to check off "mastery" of a skill on the big list, and mastery is mastery. One of the problems with a CBE system is that it's basically binary-- you either "passed" the mastery assessment or you didn't, and if the student has done well enough to meet the minimum mastery requirement, there's no real reason for that student to press on to achieve a higher level of mastery. It's pass-fail. Once you've passed, what reason is there to try to pass harder? (That lack of differentiation of achievement is in fact one of the complaints about the CBL system being rolled out in Maine.)
"Course credit is earned when students master identified learning targets." The goal, in other words, is not to see just how excellent you can become, but how quickly you can score a Good Enough To Get By on the assessment. In Maine, students are "graded" on a scale of 1-4. This does not exactly lend itself to a nuanced picture of student achievement.
This is the CBL/CBE/PBL pitch. It depends on a studied vagueness about how it works (because "students sit a computers and take standardized tests and testlets and quizzes every day" doesn't really sing) as well as a careful misrepresentation of what happens in public school. This is not how we make education better.