Rural System, Inc.
 Sustained rural lands; sustained profits

The Performance Assurance System

Academic degrees mean so many things today that employers and society can have little confidence in any particular thing they once meant. There are "degrees" given by universities that have the same name but few courses in common. The same "course" title means nothing between universities, even great differences exist between sections of the same course in a single university. Grade inflation is well known; cheating is widely reported.

Agencies seem to have no means to police or analyze these differences. Changes in the natural resource world de-stabilize agencies. The schools have diversified courses; the agencies diversified employees; society has diversified and clouded its goals; and employees have broadened their studies to increase employment options. The situation is bad for employers, for schools, for society . . . and for the wise management of resources upon which society depends. Something needs to be done about this unfortunate, potentially dangerous, and at least inefficient situation. We know many things that can be done, but the one that we have selected is to create a performance assurance system. We call it Competency, a new enterprise. Similar systems are familiar in many fields. A person goes to our test center and demonstrates knowledge and abilities before the system cadre. The certificate received is clear proof, genuine evidence, of performance before licensed, certified, bonded employees of the system.

The employee or applicant may use the certificate in any way that he or she desires. It can be framed and can provide the depth and breadth of personal satisfaction that comes from taking a challenge or test and achieving success.

The certificate is unique, for it is not the result of a "multiple choice" test, not machine-graded and automated. It is an on-site display of specific competencies. It is not a test for cutting edge or unique skills or knowledge, but a test of the basics. Some skills are judged by some people as being trivial (e.g., prepare and light a campfire with no more than 2 matches, an early camp craft activity). Others are conventional (keyboard speed and corrections, power saw operation, tractor operation); others are standard (statistical tests, graphing, elementary mathematical problems). There are conventional written tests as well as demonstrations that require an official observer to judge: "satisfactory safe performance . . . or not?"

The list of performances assured is very long. It is official; there is no score assigned. The judgment for each item in the performance list is simply yes or no. An applicant may return at any time to demonstrate competencies gained since the last demonstration session. Future work with other groups may be sought.

Many competencies are assumed to be permanent and are not re-tested. Others are removed from the person's record after 7 years (the maximum period in which not using a skill or knowledge component may result in poor decisions and resource abuse). A person may request a re-test (or removal) of any performance assurance at any time.

The Rural System, Inc. performance accuracy system is not a school. It does not teach. Applicants arrive, prepared to perform. Each person selects the items in which he or she wishes to demonstrate their performance. Typically many are demonstrated in a period of 2 to 5 days, depending on the items selected. While a person may "count" competencies, such counts are almost meaningless for an employer may want assurance of only 3 competencies. Others may not know what they want or may be an "opportunity maximizer," selecting applicants with the greatest number of demonstrated competencies.

The costs are typically the applicant. Anyone may demonstrate performance, thereby Competency makes opportunities available to everyone without regard to age, university experience, or source of knowledge. "Can you do it?" is the question. There are only two answers within the context of Competency.

Typically, an applicant performs in the field at an area, moving from spot to spot in the area designed for them. An assistant accompanies them. They perform at each spot before an evaluator. They are given equipment, conditions, and time to perform. After success (or failure), they move to the next spot based on (1) their selection, and (2) local scheduling. In the office environment, they move, also with their assistant, from spot to spot to demonstrate their selected performances.

An official record is kept. Participants may elect a confidential or open status. Those indicating an "open" status may be included in a response to a request: "send names of all people having competency in x and y." Participants are kept informed in a membership newsletter of progress within and changes of the system, new opportunities, new programs, new recognition of the value of Competency, and status of members.

In the indoor performance areas, written tests may be taken, computers used, laboratory situations engaged (e.g., all of the major internal organs of a fowl named; a chemical titration performed, sample parts of trees identified correctly).

A writing unit assures ability to write and type a grammatically correct description of an object.

A public speaking unit assures ability to give a quality verbal description (score > 90) of 10 minutes to a group of 5 or more people after 10 minutes preparation.

A Phase II component of Competency is to operate a computer simulation of an eastern U.S. deciduous forest and to achieve within 5 operation events a score of greater than 90.

Phase II is a direct response to well recognize concerns that knowledge of the parts of a natural resource system may not result in their use or proper use. Synthesis, unification, and trade-off may not occur. Phase II is one way by which performance of the combined, integrated use of knowledge may be demonstrated. Because the system is designed to be realistic, some variation is included, thus a "perfect" score is only equally probable to a score of between 90 and 100.

Phase III, is an advanced unit only available to those having demonstrated Phase II competence. It is a team action and requires 5 applicants to work simultaneously for 3 days to use an advanced computer simulation of complex forest system problem. A successfully score of 90 must be achieved by the team within 3 days. Competency in team-based, holistic resource production system optimization is the performance assured.

A web-based testing service is now being studied.

Estimated development costs..... $100,000

Perhaps you will share ideas with me
about some of the topic(s) above at

Maybe we can work together
... for the good of us all
... for a long time.

Return to the top of page.