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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A Different Sort of Future for Education

March 23, 2018 by

This is the fourth and final article on Sal Khan’s The One World Schoolhouse. In the first three articles (read parts one, two, and three), I highlighted the chapters on what is mastery-based learning, how we learn, filling the gaps, and the limitations of the traditional model.

Khan raises six themes in the final section of his book The One World Schoolhouse, all of which are worthy of consideration as we continue to advance competency-based education. (more…)

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The Broken Model

March 22, 2018 by

This is the third article on Sal Khan’s The One World Schoolhouse. In the first two articles (read parts one and two), I highlighted the chapters on what is mastery-based learning, how we learn, and filling the gaps.

The second part of Sal Khan’s The One World Schoolhouse is called The Broken Model and contains a thoughtful analysis of why the traditional system is problematic. Before I dive in, I do want to bring to your attention that research by Karla Phillips and the team at the Foundation for Excellence in Education suggest that parents are not interested in the history of the education system, why it is a problem, or even want to think of it as broken. (See the upcoming webinar on April 3, 1 pm ET.) My assumption is that parents, who want the very best for their children, can’t bear the thought that they have put their children in schools that may be broken. The research is that it is much, much, much better to talk about improvement and doing better. That said, I found this section fascinating. I also think understanding the limitations of the traditional system helps educators understand “why” we need to change and the paradigm shift that is demanded. Understanding that the traditional system is flawed makes it clear that the status quo is unacceptable. (more…)

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Filling in the Gaps

March 21, 2018 by

This is the second article on Sal Khan’s The One World Schoolhouse. In the first piece, I highlighted the chapters on what is mastery-based learning and highlights of cognitive learning.

Sal Khan speaks of repairing the gaps. Not only does he believe they can be repaired, but that it is essential to do so. Khan also begins to raise important questions about where the responsibility lies for filling the gaps. However, here I think he could have gone much farther. One of the biggest issues that continues to challenge us in competency-based education is related to filling in the gaps. (more…)

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The One World Schoolhouse by Salman Khan

March 20, 2018 by

I’m always asked which books or resources folks should use to learn about competency-based education. The good news is that there are now a lot of books that can be helpful. However, the challenge is that different books are helpful in different ways and districts/schools are in different places with different needs. So what I’m going to do is pick one to two books a month and highlight what I think is helpful in it, what might be missing that you’ll need to get elsewhere, and share my personal “talking with the text” about how it pushes my thinking. However, I’m sure each of us would engage with the ideas in different ways. Too bad we can’t have a virtual book group. Or can we? — chris

Sal Khan’s The One World Schoolhouse is a joy to read, simply full of engaging stories and language. It won’t tax you if you are tired from a hard week. In fact, the chapters are short and can be picked up here and there when you get a chance.

Khan speaks from his own experience about how he became interested in education. He explains what is problematic with the traditional education system as well as what it means to focus on mastery learning. I love the windows into history that explain how we got where we are. The last section in which he lays out his vision for the Khan Academy is fascinating. (more…)

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Conversations with Authors About Competency-Based Education


When Susan Patrick and I started working together in 2010, there was very little available literature on competency-based education. You could certainly read about Benjamin Bloom in the 1960s. There was fascinating research on the classroom approach of mastery learning in the 1980s. But there we were, 30 years later, and the only thing available was Delivering on the Promise, written by some of the educational leaders who helped develop the Chugach model. Now eight years later, books on competency education and next generation learning abound (check out this blog to see all the reports that have been written). I skim them as they are published with hopes of reading them. However, they are now piled up to my waist, waiting for me to dive in to draw out every insight I can.   (more…)

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McComb’s Strategic Planning Begins with the Community

March 19, 2018 by

Multiple stakeholders involved in strategic planning. Image from McComb website.

This is the third post on a series about McComb School District in McComb, Mississippi. Start here.

In 2014, McComb developed a strategic plan that would guide them toward a personalized system. This article has three sections: engaging the community, developing the strategic plan, and highlights of the strategic plan.

Engaging the Community (more…)

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McComb’s Six Pillars of Student-Centered Learning

March 16, 2018 by

Stephen Johnson, Data Analyst and Personalized Learning Coach

This is the second post on a series about McComb School District in McComb, Mississippi. Start here.

Superintendent Cederick Ellis didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. As the district began to think about how they could improve schools in McComb School District, they knew they needed to learn from other districts and schools around the country. So they began to read about and talk to other districts.

In 2013, Ellis, the finance director, curriculum director, and other district leadership visited the Education Achievement Authority to understand their personalized approach. (Please note: The EAA no longer exists, but you can find articles about it at CompetencyWorks while it was under the leadership of Dr. John Covington and Dr. Mary Esselman.) Ellis remembered, “It is rare for a finance director to get excited about anything about teaching and learning. It was the children themselves and the conversations she had with them that lit her enthusiasm. She told me, ‘We have to find a way to make this work for our children.’” (more…)

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Personalizing the Learning in McComb, Mississippi

March 15, 2018 by

Dr. Cederick Ellis, Superintendent

McComb is a town of about 5,000 households located an hour south of Jackson in the land that was originally cared for by the Choctaw. Getting there was a bit of an adventure, as I flew into New Orleans on the day of a freezing rain that closed all the highways in the region. Thus, I approached McComb through the backroads of Louisiana, which once again reminded me that although the majority of the American people live in urban and suburban areas, the country continues to be deeply rural.

McComb School District came to my attention through the Education Reimagined network. McComb is on a path toward personalized learning (they also use the term student-centered learning synonymously). They have established six pillars of student-centered learning: (more…)

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The Promise of Next Generation Learning Models for English Language Learners

March 14, 2018 by

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on January 8, 2018.  It is the fourth blog in a series that explores the ideas in the iNACOL report, Next Generation Learning Model for English Language Learners: Promising Practices and Considerations for Teaching and Learning. Read the first post here.

Next generation learning models hold promise for transforming education for every student by providing a personalized, student-centered approach to learning. It’s worth comparing how the current system is falling short of preparing English language learner (ELL) students for success in several key areas and how next generation models may better serve the needs of all students and solve critical flaws in the education system and improve learning outcomes for all. (more…)

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Multiple Measures Data and Reporting in Vermont and California

March 13, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on February 14, 2018.

In personalized, competency-based education, schools should have far better data to support student learning, provide greater transparency and analyze and continuously improve on their practice through data and reporting with multiple measures. Likewise, states can consider how to present multiple measures of student learning and school quality with advanced data visualization to provide families with rich, easy to understand information.

What States Are Using Multiple Measures for Reporting Data and Continuous Improvement?

This post highlights how Vermont aligns multiple measures to the state’s student-centered learning priorities and to guide continuous improvement. This post also highlights California’s multiple measures dashboard as an example of providing information to different education stakeholders in the state. (more…)

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