Category: Resource

The New Hampshire Learning Initiative: A Model for Catalyzing State-Wide Transformation

July 18, 2019 by

First NHLI Promotional PosterThe New Hampshire Learning Initiative serves as a catalyst to oversee and support scaling of New Hampshire’s work toward an integrated, competency-based education system. I recently attended their annual Powerful Learning Conference, where hundreds of school and district personnel attended keynotes, sessions, workshops, and daily “team time” (with school teams or groups of individual attendees) to advance their practices related to competency-based education.

The annual conference is one of many initiatives that NHLI provides throughout the year to support transformation at the school, district, and state levels. Their work is closely tied to New Hampshire’s Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) Pathways Network. PACE provides an opportunity for districts to administer locally developed performance assessments that support deeper learning. These assessments are designed to be a meaningful and positive learning experience for students—a key component of competency-based education. The PACE system is approved by the U.S. Department of Education through its Innovative Assessment Pilot program, section 1204 of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

NHLI is explicit that both their work and PACE are not just about assessment and accountability, however. As shown in the figure below, PACE also emphasizes project-based learning, teacher leadership, competency design, student agency, student exhibitions, extended learning opportunities (NH’s term for out-of-school learning activities), and work study practices (NH’s term for lifelong learning skills such as collaboration and self-direction).

NH PACE Pathways GraphicNHLI leads a diverse set of initiatives that provide a series of “on-ramps” to deeper implementation of each of these elements of quality competency-based education. Just as CBE promotes meeting students where they are, NHLI’s on-ramps meet educators and administrators where they are. And sometimes “where they are” includes being unclear on what performance assessments are, fearful of starting because of obstacles to full implementation, or concerned that not all teachers or school committee members are on-board.

The different on-ramps enable any school to become part of the PACE network regardless of where they are. This fits well with New Hampshire’s status as a national leader and innovator in competency-based education. Three of NHLI’s many initiatives are described below, and could inform efforts in other states seeking to deepen their competency-based practices. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency-Based Education?

June 11, 2019 by


  • The 74 reviews two recent studies on personalized learning and explains the challenges in researching the effectiveness of personalized learning.
  • Growth Mindset – A recent MRI study gives some of the first biological evidence that presenting math in a way that encourages a growth mindset changes not just students’ motivation to learn, but the the way their brains tackle problems.


  • iNACOL recently conducted an Introduction to K-12 Competency-Based Education webinar that answered the most frequently asked questions about this system of education designed to equitably ensure that all students develop the skills they will need for college, career, and life. The webinar recording and slide deck are available here.
  • Global Online Academy has launched the Competency-Based Learning Toolkit, a design tool that helps teams of educators shift to activities that are skills-driven, performance-based, and co-designed with students.


Professional Learning – Some upcoming opportunities include:

  • The New Hampshire Learning Initiative is offering its annual Powerful Learning Conference, July 9-11 in Bow, NH, to celebrate innovative projects from across the state on topics such as competency instruction, learning progressions, and embedded work study practices.
  • The Personalized Learning Summit will take place in Chanhassen, Minnesota on August 5-6, 2019. It is an opportunity to learn about culturally responsive teaching, explore feedback and assessment, and gain tools and resources to more fully realize student-centered learning.
  • The Competency-Based Education Summit will take place October 9-11 in Westminster, Colorado. Westminster Public Schools is a large district implementing a competency-based system. The summit will support educators in learning how to do the same.


Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education

December 17, 2018 by

Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher begin Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education (2016) with a bold and inspiring statement: “Teachers are brain changers” (p. 1). Thus begins their exploration into how teachers can leverage Mind Brain Education (MBE) strategies to design enhanced learning experiences for students. Early on, Whitman and Kelleher, both teachers at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland, make a powerful analogy between teachers and doctors to relate the importance of keeping up on research and innovations in practice. As medical patients, we would not choose a doctor whose only treatment plan consisted of the use of leeches, as this would indicate both an impoverished ‘tool kit’ and a lack of knowledge (although leeches are still used in innovative ways). Likewise, the authors of this book argue that we would not want teachers working with our students who are not keeping up with pedagogical advances. It is simply not good enough to do things the we always have just because it has worked for us in the past. (more…)

Want to Become Competency-Based? Three Books to Light the Way

December 5, 2018 by

This is the final article in the series Conversations with Authors About Competency-Based Education. Links to the entire series can be found at the bottom.

Districts and schools are choosing different entry points for their path toward personalized, competency-based education. Remember, we aren’t referring to technologically driven solutions. When we say personalized, competency-based we are referring to drawing from the research on learning to create schools that strive to help students reach college and career readiness while discovering their passions and potential.

There is no one implementation guide on how to move forward, but thankfully there are three great books that can outline a number of the steps. (more…)

November 2018 CompetencyWorks Catch-Up

December 3, 2018 by

Here are the highlights from November 2018 on CompetencyWorks. Happy reading. And let us know if you have questions you want us to delve into!


Aotearoa New Zealand

Mill River Unified Union School District


What’s New in Competency Education

November 30, 2018 by

Today’s What’s New is dedicated to the resources that have been released relating to several capacities that are important to implementing personalized, competency-based education.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Beloved Community has released DEISI: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Standards and Indicators. DEISI is a comprehensive benchmarking tool that assesses diversity, equity, and inclusion in every function of an organization. DEISI provides over 150 customized indicators to assess governance, operations, program/pedagogy, adult culture and, where applicable, student culture. Equity in Schools indicators are linked to specific stakeholder groups: students, parents/family, community partners, vendors/subcontractors, faculty/staff, leadership, and Board. Equity at Work indicators are specific to their stakeholder groups: target participants/clients, community partners, B2B vendors, employees, management, and trustees. Depending on the school or business structure, DEISI also includes indicators that assess DEI in scholarships, grants, employee assistance benefits, and corporate giving. (more…)

Still Learning from Delivering on the Promise

November 28, 2018 by

This is the sixth book in the series Conversations with Authors About Competency-Based Education.

It continues to be a pleasure to read the story of Chugach School District’s journey of transformation described in Delivering on the Promise: The Education Revolution (DeLorenzo, Battino, Schreiber, and Carrio, 2009). Even though the term competency-based education is not mentioned once in the book, it continues to be one of the best books to date to explain the basics of competency-based education.

Much of the Reinventing Schools Coalition’s approach (purchased by Marzano Research Lab several years ago) still holds true, although we now know so much more.

  • We know much more about the importance of an empowering, inclusive culture in making the new structures of competency education sing rather than dribbling away into a series of checking the boxes.


October 2018 CompetencyWorks Catch-Up

November 1, 2018 by

Here are the highlights from October 2018 on CompetencyWorks. Happy reading. And let us know if you have questions you want us to delve into!


Aotearoa New Zealand

Mill River Unified Union School District



What’s New in Competency Education

October 31, 2018 by

Reports and Resources

CompetencyWorks released Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education, a new book offering guidance on ensuring high-quality learning environments as more schools and districts transform to competency-based education systems. It’s long. So you might want to wait until iNACOL offers it as a physical book you can order.  

Lindsay Unified School District, Summit Public Schools, and Transcend have released  Instructional Look Fors, Site Level Conditions and Faculty and Leadership Mindsets. (more…)

Building Our Assessment Literacy

October 23, 2018 by

This is the fifth book in the series Conversations with Authors About Competency-Based Education.

I have never been a teacher. Thus, I don’t write very much about instruction and assessment as my knowledge base is about the size of a raindrop compared to the sea of knowledge that teachers tap into every day. I simply don’t have enough knowledge to know where to focus or the types of questions to ask.

However, my knowledge has been growing over the past two years as I ask every educator I can, “How do you meet students where they are? How do you make sure they are progressing and gaps are being repaired?” My little raindrop became a small puddle of knowledge after reading Using Formative Assessment To Enhance Learning, Achievement, And Academic Self-Regulation by Heidi L. Andrade and Margaret Heritage (recommended to me by Paul Leather).

We talk a lot about how we need to build our assessment literacy among schools, districts, national organizations, and policymakers. We aren’t going to get beyond the age-based summative accountability policies without deeper knowledge that can feed our imaginations of what might be possible. This book will certainly help…and it is super easy to read even for someone who doesn’t have background in teaching. The elegantly composed vignettes bring the ideas to life. The discussion in the book raises core concepts, describing what they are as well as problems of practice that wouldn’t be as beneficial to students. (more…)

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