Over the last two years, I have been on a journey to try to make right what I think is one of the biggest policy issues driving inequity in the United States – the K-12 education system which is driven by seat-time. This journey is to re-design K-12 education around student learning and mastery.
The policies around seat-time limit how and when a student can learn, allow students to move to the next grade level with huge gaps in their learning, and limit extended learning opportunities. Why should it matter whether a student learns in school, out of school, online, in the girl scouts or at a museum? What should matter is that teachers are involved in assessing students’ mastery of learning at advanced levels. So, rather than measuring how empty the “bucket” of knowledge is – let’s work on filling the bucket with world-class knowledge and skills to empower kids from all backgrounds for a lifetime of success. Competency education, not seat time, is a critical design requirement to enable next generation learning environments.
When Chris Sturgis and I first met at the Grantmakers for Education Conference, it was fortuitous. At the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, our single biggest policy issue is moving away from seat-time toward competency models of learning any time, any place and any path for students. We are driven by a student-centered mission to give every student access to a world-class education. Chris’ background in establishing multiple pathways to graduation lead to a similar conclusion for different reasons. Many of our young people have been passed on for years so they are dramatically behind in their learning as they enter high school. Many others have adult responsibilities that requires much more flexibility than the current system provides.
Students shouldn’t be allowed to have huge gaps – we must do everything in our power to bring them to high levels of learning and offer multiple pathways to become successful. Across the nation, states, districts, and school leadership are innovating around mastery. Together, we have found national partners with diverse agendas, missions and strategies toward education reform who will be working together on the common goals in CompetencyWorks – iNACOL, MetisNet, American Youth Policy Forum, Jobs for the Future, the National Governors Association and others, supported by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the Donnell-Kay Foundation and others to come.
Please join us in moving the dialog, amplifying the good work happening on behalf of students in competency education, knowledge sharing and pushing policy and practice in the field toward a vision of equity, access and excellence through competency education.
We’ve co-authored four papers on competency education in the last two years to update the literature in the field of K-12 competency-based education. Now, it is time to tackle the tough issues, learn from each other in the field, and have a place to find lessons learned from competency education innovators across the country (and world). We’re blogging, sharing blogs, writing three more research papers and hosting a forum to share and learn about competency education. With the launch of the CompetencyWorks website and wiki, we want the world of competency education to come to life with the voices of the innovators in the field sharing promising practices, examples, and resources. In short, we want to spotlight the pathway to competency education and serve as concierge for the field.