Tag: state policy

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

October 8, 2015 by

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AMOhio department of education released its application to participate in the state’s new Competency-based education pilot program. It also created self-assessment tools for school districts to determine their readiness to participate in the program.

More Movement in the States


  • Arne Duncan supports Purdue University’s competency-based education program, and he is quoted as supporting competency education and shifting away from time-based systems.
  • An interview with Jennifer Deenik, Living Systems Science Teacher at Souhegan High School, by Jennifer Poon, Innovation Lab Network Director at CCSSO, takes a peek inside New Hampshire’s performance assessment pilot program.
  • Diploma Plus operates small alternative programs for students who have repeatedly failed a grade or are on the verge of dropping out. This interview with William Diehl, chair of the Diploma Plus board, discusses the key components of the schools’ efforts to prepare students who are coming from behind.
  • The Woodrow Wilson Foundation, in partnership with MIT, are creating the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning Sciences, which provides graduate programs in teacher education and school leadership. The Academy will be competency-based with a blended curriculum, and the first class will enroll in 2017.
  • In Giving Students Charge of How They Learn, John McCarthy discusses student-developed products based on learning targets, student-developed rubrics, student-developed conferences, and setting students free to learn with you.

Videos and Films

  • Beyond Measure is a film that challenges the assumptions of our current education system, and paints a positive picture of what’s possible in American education when communities decide they are ready for change. Watch the trailer here.
  • The Illuminating Standards Video Series explore the relationship between meeting demanding state standards and designing powerful learning experiences for all students. The video series are listed by grade level.


For more updates and news in K-12 competency education, follow us on twitter and sign up for our monthly email updates on our home page.


Update from Iowa

October 6, 2015 by
Sandra Dop

Sandra Dop

Thanks to Sandra Dop at the Department of Education for helping me understand how competency education is developing in Iowa. However, any errors are all mine. We’d love to hear from others involved in competency education in Iowa so that we gather different perspectives and insights into your efforts.

The Iowa state legislature opened the door to competency-based education three years ago when they eliminated the Carnegie unit as the only way to earn credit in Iowa high schools and instructed the Department of Education to establish the Iowa CBE Collaborative to investigate CBE and develop pathways for others to engage in the transformation. The Collaborative has five years to complete two goals: establish Iowa demonstration sites and develop a Framework for Transformation to a CBE System.

The first year or so was spent with the ten districts of the Collaborative exploring together what it means to be personalized and competency-based. They brought in speakers such as Susan Patrick, iNACOL; Rose Colby, New Hampshire; Laurie Gagon and Gary Chapin, the Center for Collaborative Education; Kim Carter, QED Foundation and founder of Making Community Connections Charter School; the Reinventing Schools Coalition, and yours truly. The state provided resources such as Delivering on the Promise, Community-Based Learning: Awakening the Mission of Public Schools, Make Just One Change, and Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools.

Districts developed a variety of pilots that emphasized different aspects of competency education: personalized, blended learning, and transparency of learning goals, rubrics, and progress. For example, Cedar Rapids moved well beyond the pilot stage when they developed Iowa BIG, which takes advantage of the competency-based structure to support students in taking on big, interesting projects while ensuring they are building their skills. Mason City started with one sixth grade math teacher engaging in blended learning and are slowly and purposefully expanding. Van Meter is investing in project-based learning, using twenty-first century skills as the framework to guide student learning, and is also remodeling their building to provide open space for peer and student/teacher collaboration. Spirit Lake started with a two-week project-based January term (J-Term) in secondary, and Franklin Elementary in Muscatine did a two-week intersession to connect their students to community mentors and real world projects. Each district is finding its own way into the transformation. (more…)

Competency-Based Learning Assessments Coming Soon to North Carolina?

September 16, 2015 by

NCWe were delighted to see that the North Carolina budget conference report published yesterday indicated their interest in competency-based education. As I understand it, there is no budget attached to their intent to transition to a “system of testing and assessments” for K12 that “utilizes competency-based learning assessments.” As you can see from the text from the report below, they are using the five part working definition of competency education to define the system.


SECTION 8.12.(a) It is the intent of the General Assembly to transition to a system of testing and assessments applicable for all elementary and secondary public school students that utilizes competency-based learning assessments to measure student performance and student growth, whenever practicable. The competency-based student assessment system should provide that (i) students advance upon mastery, (ii) competencies are broken down into explicit and measurable learning objectives, (iii) assessment is meaningful for students, (iv) students receive differentiated support based on their learning needs, and (v) learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include the application and creation of knowledge.

SECTION 8.12.(b) In order to develop the use of competency-based assessments for all elementary and secondary public school students in North Carolina in accordance with subsection (a) of this section, the State Board of Education is encouraged to evaluate the feasibility of integrating competency-based assessments for use in local school administrative units and as part of the statewide testing system for measuring student performance and student growth. The State Board may examine competency-based student assessment systems utilized in other states, including potential benefits and obstacles to implementing similar systems in North Carolina, and the relationship between competency-based assessments and innovative teaching methods utilized in North Carolina schools, such as blended learning models and digital teaching tools.

We’ll share more information on North Carolina’s interest in competency education as we gather it.

Integrating Career Technical Education with Competency-Based Education

August 8, 2015 by

This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on August 5, 2015.

Library“One system that has often been overlooked in conversations about competency based pathways has been that of career technical education (CTE). CTE has promoted personalized learning and real-world application – both fundamental tenets of a competency-based approach – yet it has rarely been intentionally integrated into states’ Competency-Based Pathway (CBP) approaches.”

Alissa Peltzman, Achieve’s VP of State Policy & Implementation Support, is right. There’s much to learn from CTE that can inform and act as an entry point to competency-based systems in both K-12 and HigherEd systems.

With this acknowledgement, Achieve recently partnered with the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) to elevate the value of coordination between CBE and CTE leaders.

In May 2015, Achieve and NASDCTEc brought together national partner organizations alongside several states within Achieve’s Competency-Based Pathways (CBP) State Partnership to better understand the implications of systems alignment, identify key considerations, and elevate states and districts already beginning this integration. To share insights from this work, the groups co-authored and released Building a Strong Relationship between Competency-Based Pathways and Career Technical Education–a report that identifies opportunities for collaboration, integration, and strengthened relationships between CBP and CTE leaders. It explores the leverage points and challenges to integrating CTE into a CBP system, and where possible, offers state and district examples. (more…)

Revisiting Threads of Implementation

August 3, 2015 by

MaineDOEI had the chance to re-read Threads of Implementation: A Thematic Review of Six Case Studies of Maine School Districts Implementing Proficiency-Based/Learner-Centered Systems, a summary of the six case studies prepared by the Maine Department of Education. It is such a helpful overview of the early work in Maine that I’ve decided to reprint it here. It’s also an example of one of the new functions for state education agencies – sharing tools, documenting processes, and helping districts to learn from each other.

Beginning in February 2012, the Maine Department of Education through its Center for Best Practice (Center) began publishing a series of in-depth case studies of school districts who were implementing proficiency-based/learner-centered systems. These districts were in very different stages of their implementation journeys. For example, the member districts of the Western Maine Education Collaborative (WMEC) were just beginning implementation while Poland Regional High School (of RSU 16) had been completely proficiency-based since it opened in 1999. Though each of the districts featured in the Center over the last two years took decidedly different paths on their way to change, there were common themes that emerged throughout the case studies. Their experiences serve as lessons for other Maine districts just beginning this transition in preparation for all schools in the state issuing diplomas starting in 2018 to students based on demonstrated proficiency.

Vision and Framework (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

July 16, 2015 by

CompetencyWorks in the News

Steps to Help Schools Transform to Competency-Based Learning
, a Mind/Shift article by Katrina Schwartz, features Chris Sturgis and CompetencyWorks’ recent report: Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders. A panel of district leaders implementing competency education presented a webinar on this report; you can find the archived webinar here.Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.22.41 AM

School Designs

Competency Education Policy

  • States considering policies to support competency-based education are on the rise, according to a recent iNACOL blog post. Policy levers that support competency education and personalized learning include innovation zones, school finance changes, planning grants, new assessment frameworks, and pilot programs. Read more here. (more…)

State Policy: Resources for Getting Started

July 15, 2015 by

Susan Patrick

Looking for a few resources to send state policy makers to get started on competency education? Here are some suggestions.

How Are States Advancing Competency Education?

The report Necessary for Success: A State Policymakers Guide to Competency Education (iNACOL CompetencyWorks) provides an overview and recommendations for state policy.

There is also a short briefing paper on Aligning K-12 State Policy with Competency Education that you can use and adapt for your state.

This article provides an overview on Iowa’s initiative.

New Hampshire’s efforts have been well-documented, including NH’s Story of Transformation and From policy to practice: How competency-based education is evolving in New Hampshire.

Maine also has been documenting their efforts. You can find resources here.

Background: Overview of Competency-Based Education

States considering policies to support competency-based education are on the rise. Policy levers that support competency education and personalized learning include creating innovation zones, supporting school finance changes, planning grants, implementing new assessment frameworks, and starting pilot programs.

Five approaches in state policy to enable competency-based education:

  1. Competency-Based Education Pilot Programs
  2. Innovation Zones
  3. Competency-Based Diplomas
  4. Competency-Based Task Forces
  5. Flexibility for Competency-Based Assessments


States Considering Policies Supporting Competency-Based Education

July 14, 2015 by

LibraryThis post originally appeared at iNACOL on June 26, 2015.

States considering policies to support competency-based education are on the rise. Policy levers that support competency education and personalized learning include innovation zones, school finance changes, planning grants, new assessment frameworks, and pilot programs. This week, we highlight states’ efforts to pass policies that support new models and systems of assessments, including flexibility for locally-developed, performance-based assessments.

How a state structures its assessments and accountability systems can significantly enhance or impede competency education. Acknowledging this, North Carolina HB 439 expresses legislative intent that the state “transition to a system of testing and assessments…that utilizes competency-based learning assessments to measure student performance and student growth.” The bill passed the House by a vote of 112-2 but has stalled in the Senate. North Carolina can still pass the bill but must move quickly in order to do so because the legislature adjourns on July 1.

Federal rules require states to administer summative tests at the end of each school year that include test items from only students’ current grade levels. These single-point-in-time assessment systems discourage schools from implementing personalized, competency-based pathways. (more…)

Lesson Learned: Enabling Policy Isn’t Enough, It takes Incentives

July 7, 2015 by

Ohio SealOhio offers all of us a big lesson learned about how states can advance competency education. They have learned from experience that enabling policy isn’t enough, it is going to require incentives to engage districts in full systemic re-design. Several years ago, Ohio created credit flexibility that allowed for districts to award competency-based credits to students. Even though a district could have used this to create competency-based pathways or even make the transition to competency education, there was little uptake. So now the Ohio state legislature passed H.B. 64, which includes funds for pilots in competency-based education. (Go to page 2572 SECTION 263.280. to find information on the pilot.) The Ohio Department of Education is authorized to make two-year grants to five districts, schools, or consortia of districts and schools of up to $200,000 for each fiscal year.

Ohio is going to be a state to pay attention to, as they are also encouraging higher education to become competency-based, as well. Thus, we may start to see some innovations about how to create more seamless K-16 competency-based pathways.

Below is the testimony of iNACOL President and CEO Susan Patrick (and co-founder of CompetencyWorks) to the Ohio House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education regarding competency-based education:

Chairman Cupp and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of the competency-based education pilot program found in H.B. 64.

iNACOL is a non-profit organization with the mission to ensure all students have access to a world-class education and leads the CompetencyWorks initiative.

The competency-based education pilot is an important step for Ohio districts and schools to begin this transition towards providing personalized, competency-based learning to Ohio students.

The iNACOL/CCSSO definition of competency education has five elements:

  • Students advance upon mastery;
  • Competencies include explicit, learning objectives that empower students;
  • Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students;
  • Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual needs; and
  • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, and the development of important skills and dispositions.


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