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.

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Student Agency is What Counts

December 15, 2015 by
Keara Duggan

Keara Duggan

This post originally appeared in the Next Generation Learning Challenges Friday Focus Newsletter.

Over the past few months, NGLC has been pushing the field of next gen learning on questions of how we measure success. As Andy Calkins asked a few weeks ago in this column: How do we gauge students’ progress in developing those competencies required for the 21st century? This question resonated with me. I believe that without students understanding how they’re learning, what they’re learning, and how they’re progressing, it’s impossible to empower students to truly own their learning.

As a Senior Consultant at Education Elements, I have the opportunity to work with hundreds of schools and districts around the country to design and implement blended and personalized learning models. Three years ago when I started in this role, the national focus was on blended learning and the integration of digital content and tools. I’ve seen a dramatic shift over the past eighteen months as teachers and leaders think more deeply about how to develop student agency and student reflection as a core part of redesigning their classroom and school models. Student ownership, agency, and choice are all critical to the personalization process. (more…)

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Deer Isle-Stonington High School: Takeaways and Burning Questions

December 14, 2015 by

Image from the DISHS Website

This post is part of the series Road Trip to Maine. This is the last of a three-part look at Deer Isle-Stonington High School. Start with the first post on Turning Around the Culture and the second post on Breathing Life into the Standards.

The conversation with Todd West, principal of Deer Isle-Stonington High School left me with a number of questions and new insights, some of which I’m still noodling on.

  • It’s-About-Every-Student Leadership: We all know that leadership is an important aspect of any endeavor, and we can often get lost in the leadership style, the charisma, the vision. However, in proficiency-based learning, it always starts with values and commitment. You can tell what Todd West’s leadership is when he asks, “Why can’t we consistently have a high graduation rate? We have fifty teachers in our district, can’t we figure out how to get those two, three, four, or five kids who are having a tough time to the finish line?” This is the mindset of continuous improvement. This is the mindset that needs to replace the compliance mindset of a 100-year old education system.


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Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Simple Moves to Increase Engagement

December 11, 2015 by

HandsThis post originally appeared on Courtney Belolan’s website on November 2, 2015. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

Student engagement involves more than connecting learning to student interests or authentic purposes. Engaging students means creating the environment for all students to be successful with learning and tackling new skills and ideas. So having a “highly engaged” learning environment is as much about the number of students involved in learning as it is the ways in which they are engaged. One area of instruction to pay close attention to when creating an environment in which as many students as possible engage in learning is the class discussion. (more…)

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Want to Learn about the Every Student Succeeds Act?

December 10, 2015 by

Screenshot 2015-12-10 09.34.48On December 16, 2015, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST iNACOL will hold a webinar on The Every Student Succeeds Act—How Will the New Federal K-12 Education Law Support Personalized Learning? You’ll want to listen in to hear about the new opportunities for creating systems of assessments that are designed around learning! Register here. (more…)

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The Competency-Based School Librarian


LibraryThis post originally appeared at Pam Harland’s blog on November 26, 2015.

I’ve been the school librarian at Sanborn Regional High School in New Hampshire for five years. The Sanborn School District is a leader in competency-based education (CBE). The goal of CBE is to allow students to progress as they demonstrate mastery of academic content, regardless of time, place, or pace of learning. This type of teaching and learning leads to better student engagement because the content is relevant and more tailored to their unique needs. (Read more about CBE at Sanborn via Brian Stack’s blog posts on (more…)

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Deer Island-Stonington High School: Breathing Life into the Standards

December 9, 2015 by

Image from the DISHS Website

This post is part of the series Road Trip to Maine. This is the second of a three-part look at Deer Isle-Stonington High School. Start with the first post on Turning Around the Culture.

West led the high school in a process that began to reorganize the school around four themes: multiple pathways, personalization, proficiency-based learning, and community-based education. He explained, “We didn’t want to be a diploma factory to just pass out diplomas. We wanted kids to be prepared. The biggest obstacle was lack of student engagement. Kids often go through the motion of doing what is expected but they aren’t invested in their own learning. If we could engage students, they would be more open to meeting the higher academic expectations.” (more…)

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How My Understanding of Competency-Based Education Has Changed Over the Years

December 8, 2015 by

StairsNext week, I am excited to be sharing the work that my team and I have done in New Hampshire on competency-based education with a group of South Carolina educators as part of the Transform SC institute on Meeting the Needs of Every Student With Competency Based Progression. My preparation for this institute has been an opportunity for me to reflect on what has now been a six-year journey with competency education with Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, NH. This past week, our school district was recognized for the second year in a row as a “leader in competency education” by Tom Vander Ark’s organization Getting Smart, noting that Sanborn was one of 30 School Districts Worth Visiting in 2015. (more…)

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