Replace ‘seat time’ with competency, report says

According to iNACOL and Chris Sturgis, co-author of the report and a principal at MetisNet, competency-based learning relies on:

  • Students advancing upon mastery;
  • Competencies including explicit, measurable, and transferable learning objectives that empower students;
  • Assessments that are meaningful and provide a positive learning experience for students;
  • Students receiving timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs; and
  • Learning outcomes that emphasize competencies such as the application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.

Successful implementation of competency-based standards not only will help students have a positive experience with learning, but also will “increase [the nation’s] productivity” by decreasing the dropout rate and closing the achievement gap, the report argues.

“With approximately $600 billion spent annually in the U.S. on K-12 education, why wouldn’t we want to create incentives for our schools so that every dollar going to fund education was based on students’ outcomes, performance, and growth in learning toward world-class expectations, rather than on seat time?” the authors ask. “What would it take to unleash innovation to allow practitioners, educators, and administrators to create competency-based pathways of learning for each student, regardless of where or how long they sit?”

As one participant in the iNACOL/CCSSO forum expressed: “The problem  is quite simple—we are measuring the wrong end of the student, related to learning.”

Recommendations: For beginners

For those states looking to take their first steps in moving toward competency-based learning, the report suggests thinking about seat-time waivers and credit flexibility.

Seat-time waivers are useful because they allow districts, schools, or even classroom educators to have alternatives to seat-time restrictions while remaining in compliance with state policy.

Credit flexibility gives districts the ability to use competency-based learning instead of seat time, thanks to the expansion of online learning and the demand for credit recovery.

Recommendations: Mid-level

After state leaders consider both seat-time requirements and credit flexibility, the report suggests they:

Meris Stansbury

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