Introducing the New CompetencyWorks Director

January 1, 2019 by
Eliot, Students, and Son in 2006

With my students and my son in 2006

When I was a high school teacher, a wonderful student of mine scored too low on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery to achieve his dream of joining the Army. His IEP included reading issues, and English was his second language, although he spoke it fluently. Disappointed but undeterred, he landed a job in security services and later became my first student to earn a college degree—in criminal justice. Now at age 30, he is still doing great. Maybe the ASVAB didn’t fully capture his abilities?

Many CompetencyWorks readers are determined to transform the education system so that every student has what they need to develop their full capacities. That determination is why I’m thrilled to be iNACOL’s new Research Director, with oversight of CompetencyWorks as one of my exciting projects.

My personal voyage to iNACOL has been circuitous. After earning degrees in electrical engineering and psychology, I transitioned to the field of education with a summer doing outreach to street children in Guatemala City and my dissertation on Latino parents’ involvement in Boston elementary schools.

For my post doc, I researched the intensively student-centered learning approach of the Met School in Providence, Rhode Island and wrote a book about them. Impressed by their work, I went to work for the organization that was spreading their model nationally (Big Picture Learning), and then became a teacher at the Met School for four years. (The photo accompanying this post shows me and a few of my students on graduation day, plus my son, who is a couple feet taller now.)

After relocating to my current home in western Massachusetts, I taught for three years at an Expeditionary Learning high school (Four Rivers), part of another national network that has done extensive work to advance competency-based education practice. Finally, I returned to the research world at the UMass Donahue Institute for almost a decade, working on multiple competency-based education initiatives such as the New England Secondary School Consortium.

I hope that my background and passion for student-centered learning will help me support your journeys to improve education for all students. I welcome your feedback, requests, and suggestions for topics and guest authors that you would like to see featured in the CompetencyWorks blog.

Finally, let me express the tremendous gratitude that we all feel for Chris Sturgis, a pioneer who co-founded and has led this blog since 2012, contributing so deeply to the development of competency-based education. Thank you, Chris, for the great wisdom and connections you have brought to the field, and for your generous support during this transition.

And Happy New Year!

Eliot Levine is iNACOL’s Research Director and manages the CompetencyWorks blog. He has conducted education research in partnership with many schools, colleges, non-profit organizations, foundations, and government agencies, focused on supporting success for all students. He was also a teacher for seven years at two innovative, student-centered public high schools in the Big Picture Learning and EL Education national networks. Follow @eliot_levine


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  1. Comment by Joy Nolan 10:47 am, January 6, 2019

    Welcome and happy 2019, Eliot.

  2. Comment by Eliot Levine 3:23 pm, February 14, 2019

    Thank you, Joy! Happy 2019 to you too, and greatly looking forward to our upcoming visit!

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