CompetencyWorks is an online resource dedicated to providing information and knowledge about competency education in the K-12 education system. Drawing on lessons learned by innovators and early adopters, CompetencyWorks shares original research, knowledge and a variety of perspectives through an informative blog with practitioner knowledge, policy advancements, papers on emerging issues and a wiki with resources curated from across the field. CompetencyWorks also offers a blog on competency education in higher education so that the sectors can learn from each other and begin to align systems across K-12, higher education and the workplace.

a project of

inacol logo

Webinar on Designing Competencies

August 6, 2012 by

Sign up on the CompetencyWorks e-list to get the early release of the CompetencyWorks briefing paper The Art and Science of Designing Competencies with insights from practitioners across the country.

In addition, you can join us for a webinar on Designing Competencies on August 23rd at 3 pm eastern.  This webinar is designed to offer you a chance to explore the topic in more depth.  Kim Carter, Q.E.D. Foundation and Steve Kossakoski, Virtual Learning Academy Charter School will provide an overview on their processes and be available to answer questions.  Register now at iNACOL for this free webinar.

Print Friendly

Educator Pay in a Competency-Based System


Josh GriffithHow do we pay facilitators (teachers) in a Competency Based System?  This is a question that naturally arises when we begin to focus on a system designed around mastery rather than the time-based Carnegie unit.  Competency Based Education is going to become a reality and grow in support by educators.  When I first began thinking about this question I thought the answer was going to be simple, but after thinking more deeply I begin to find faults and issues with every payment plan I have been able to come up with.  I am hopeful someone else will be able to help me find better solutions.

I just recently finished reading Off the Clock by Fred Bramante and Rose Colby.  It is a great read that I highly recommend to anyone thinking about Competency Based Education or anyone wanting to stretch their educational philosophies.  In this book they bring up the issue of salary in a Competency Based Education System. There is a chance that if learning is completely personalized there will be facilitators who have more learners they are supporting than other facilitators, including, quite possibly learners from other schools.  Do we pay these facilitators on salary, by the hour, by how many learners they are working with, by learner completion of competencies, or some other way that I have not been able to think about yet?  Below, I outline my thoughts, questions, and concerns on each of these methods. (more…)

Print Friendly

Re-Learning and Reassessment

July 31, 2012 by

While that last planning year was filled with excitement and adventure, we hadn’t anticipated the journey that was to come. (See previous post and related resources on the wiki)

Spaulding High School has just completed year one of its implementation phase and has leaned so many valuable lessons ranging from just-in-time learning to re-learning to reassessment, just to name a few.  While we don’t necessarily have all of the answers yet, we certainly have generated a few solid questions that we are actively responding to.

Among those questions falls perhaps the biggest: How do you manage re-learning and reassessment within the constraints of school?!  We are implementing a progressive way of assessing and promoting students within a very traditional setting which presents constraints.  Some of these constraints include: bells, scheduling, teacher contracts, and access to technology.  (more…)

Print Friendly

Competency-Based Instruction & Assessment: Building the Framework


As the Rochester School District embarks upon its K-12 Full-Competency Based System of Instruction and Assessment, we continue to build steam.  While the push came from the state to embed competencies into the state’s high schools, what Assistant Superintendent Mary Moriarty realized was that the philosophy and practices of this structure were vital to the success of not just our high-school aged students but all of our students.  As such, the fall of 2013, the Rochester School District will open all of its schools’ doors with a Competency-based model in place.

Our work began several years ago when our administrative team at the high school began site visits in order to build an understanding of just what it meant to be Competency-based.  Through these visits it was observed that many schools were engaging in a process to makeover their framework but not much was changing in the day-to-day work that was going on within classrooms.  These schools weren’t to blame.  They simply weren’t provided support or a model to which they could aspire.  Individual schools were tackling this Competency beast in isolation. (more…)

Print Friendly

Using Competencies as a Blue Print to Personalize Learning

July 30, 2012 by

The following was written by Brian M. Stack, Principal; Michael Turmelle, Assistant Principal / Curriculum; Ann Hadwen, Assistant Principal / Freshman Learning Community; Michelle Catena, Guidance Director; and Vicki Parady-Guay, Athletic Director

Sanborn Regional High School had a very successful 2011-2012 school year in which it was recognized at local, state, and national levels for its work in school redesign for the twenty-first century. The school strives to become one of the premiere high schools in the State of New Hampshire and beyond. Using a competency-based grading and reporting system is one way the school personalizes learning for all students, but it is only part of a bigger picture. To move forward, the school has developed a master plan for redesign that is based on three pillars for success.

Pillar #1 – Learning Communities: Our learning communities work interdependently to achieve successful student performance for which we are collectively responsible and mutually accountable.

The term “learning community” describes a collegial group of administrators and/or school staff who are united in their commitment to student learning. They share a vision, work and learn collaboratively, visit and review other classrooms, and participate in decision-making. At our school, all staff belong to one or more learning communities that are based on a shared content and/or grade-level. Teams use student learning, specifically the mastery of school and course-level competencies, as a foundation for their work. (more…)

Print Friendly

Carnegie Unit Conundrum

July 25, 2012 by

How do you translate a measure of time into a measure of learning?

It seems to me to be the same dilemma as trying to convert a measure of length into a measure of weight.  They are fundamentally, conceptually different.  Across the country (including my state of Iowa), state Departments of Education and local school districts are struggling with converting our current Carnegie unit system into a system that measures learning competencies.

It seems impossible to me to be able to translate a Carnegie unit into a competency.

A Carnegie unit was designed to equal the amount of time in school districts across the nation.  It was a measurement that everyone could understand and use to standardize their educational offerings for comparison and accreditation.  Over time, it has become the defining unit for curriculum development, scheduling, and teacher master contracts (prep periods, anyone?). (more…)

Print Friendly

Update on Iowa

July 24, 2012 by

Iowa is advancing towards competency education. In a memo released July 16, 2012, Jason Glass, Director of the Iowa Department of Education outlined the statutory changes affecting schools based on the 2012 legislative session.

It leads with a discussion on SF 2284 on Competency-Based Instruction.

The State Board of Education will be adopting rules to allow a school district or accredited nonpublic school to award credit toward graduation based upon demonstrated competencies rather than “seat time.” The school will determine the assessment methods used to demonstrate competencies. There will be no need to request a waiver from the Department. (more…)

Print Friendly

The Core Business of Schooling: Competency (Part 1)

July 23, 2012 by

These are very exciting and interesting times for the field of education in general and those who are exploring competency as a core component of more effective approaches to education.  Notice I did not call it a “new” approach.

On the one hand, competency has been around as a concept for as long as human beings have been around.  Our own “competence” in terms of managing and manipulating the world around us is one reason we are a dominant species.  (Give thanks to meteors and the extinction of dinosaurs as another.)  Some would say we are approaching “incompetence” in terms of our survival skills on account of how we manage conflict, over use of natural resources and how we produce mind numbingly bad television shows.  However, we are pretty good at many things and our place in the world is evidence of this. (more…)

Print Friendly

The Core Business of Schooling: Competency (Part II)


The Endurance from Wikipedia

If competence is the core business of schooling then why does it seem like a new idea every time it emerges as a topic of reform, debate and consideration?

Part of the answer could be linked to the most important aspect of any venture – its core purpose.  The core purpose of education has long been defined by a contradictory set of principles: one explicit and noble, the other tacit and more base, but seemingly (or at least historically) practical.

The explicit and noble espoused purpose of public education is often paraphrased as being about opportunity and equity – the chance on a level playing field of making more of oneself – the chance to beat the odds of upbringing and class.  Some believe you are given your lot and you have to wait for the next time around to get a better one.  In our society there is a presumption that given certain opportunities people can exceed these pre-determinations and better themselves, their families and thus contribute to the progress of society as whole.  This is a good set of principles and it has served some leading societies well – including a good part of almost every generation of Americans. (more…)

Print Friendly

Where Do End-of-Course Exams Fit In?

July 19, 2012 by

Ready for the exam

Anyone deep in competency education is probably getting a lot of calls from around the country asking for briefings, and advice about how to move forward. So we are going to start a new category of posts aimed at making sense of competency education. We’ll just call it Understanding Competency Education, and it is designed for people who are just diving into the topic. Quite honestly, it is probably for all of us as our understanding deepens.


The first topic is something we are asked about frequently: What is the relationship between competency education and “end-of-course” exams? Does using an end-of-course exam mean that you have implemented competency education? Do you have to use end-of-course exams in a competency education system?

Let’s take this step by step. We are all working together to sharpen our thinking, so please jump in if you think I don’t have this quite right. (more…)

Print Friendly
WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera