5 things to help move us closer to competency-based education

Despite educators’ genuine enthusiasm, competency-based education may be slow to spread to U.S. schools due to sizable barriers, according to a report published Oct. 22.

The report, “Show What You Know: A Landscape Analysis of Competency-Based Education,” features an overview of the current status of competency-based education in the U.S. produced by Getting Smart and reflections from XQ on some of the more complex transition issues. The report was commissioned by XQ.

Educators are trying to meet students’ unique learning needs with competency-based models, which let students advance based on skill mastery rather than seat time.…Read More

5 trends for seeding CBE growth

As more and more school systems across the country explore competency-based education (CBE), we need to be attentive to the processes that will actually allow such innovations to thrive.

Current time- and age-based accountability measures have a stronghold on schools, even those trying to break away from the factory model of education. As a result, we would predict that time-based metrics and incentives could thwart many efforts to reinvent learning in a competency-based manner. School systems need to heed this warning and take pains to protect innovative competency-based approaches from the tug of status-quo pressures and performance measures.

How can schools disrupt the traditional mold if they must remain accountable to that mold? According to our research, systems can successfully nurture disruptive efforts, like CBE, with new performance metrics by establishing autonomy beyond the reach of traditional metrics and accountability. Otherwise, schools will find themselves innovating on top of their existing model—perhaps making that existing instructional model more efficient or differentiated—but not wholly competency-based.…Read More

4 important lessons our school learned about competency-based learning

The rigors of an interconnected, global society have changed the way in which schools need to approach student success. In previous generations, the “organize and sort” method, typified by an A-F grading scale, was the most thorough manner of assessing students given the lack of unifying systems that could track and chart specific skill development.

But times have changed. In the last 10 years, a school’s ability to dig deep into the specific skill sets of students and provide meaningful information about their strengths and challenges has grown dramatically. Through competency-based education, we can now provide more relevant, personal assessment for each student and use that assessment to truly develop an equitable model of student success—as long as we are willing to accept innovation.

Of course, for schools to make the jump to competency-based education, they must adjust their pedagogy and learning systems in a manner that emphasizes student-centered and human-centric learning practices. If the data that competency-based education provides is used as simply a greater and more robust means of sorting out “winners and losers,” then the many benefits—from personalized instruction to equitable classroom models—go out the window. We must adjust our own collective sense of meaningful pedagogy in concert with the change in technology to take advantage of what we’re capable of doing now and steer it in a manner that benefits kids.…Read More

A tale of two competency-based districts

Districts around the country are moving away from teaching models based on lectures and textbooks—but transition isn’t always simple. Creating a competency-based or mastery-based environment requires re-thinking everything, including teaching methods, assessments, and how to best prepare students for life after school. Both Kankakee Public Schools in Illinois and Naugatuck Public Schools in Connecticut are making the shift to competency-based learning, and have had their share of challenges along the way. Here, administrators from the two districts chart their journey and reflect on the importance that project-based learning (PBL) has in preparing students for college and careers.

Caroline Messenger, director of curriculum at Naugatuck Public Schools

As the director of curriculum, I help students answer the age-old question, “Why do I need to know this?” A few years ago, this question inspired me to begin exploring a route for K–4 and 5th- and 6th-grade students that would allow us to stray from the traditional model of lecture and testing. Rather than focusing on traditional curricula, we transitioned to a mastery-based learning model. Competency Works defines this type of learning model as “designed to ensure students are becoming proficient by advancing on demonstrated mastery.” Districtwide, we now focus our teaching and learning on the competencies we expect our students to achieve.…Read More

5 examples of blended learning success

Discover how New Hampshire is sustaining positive blended learning policies in its schools

blended-competencyAs new educational models gain support among educators and students who want to learn in new and different ways, blended learning is perhaps one of the strongest among these new models.

Now, researchers have discovered that some of these models work well together–for instance, blended learning and competency-based learning, another strong model in which students advance based on mastery and not grade level or time-in-seat, have evolved to overlap and complement one another.

A new report from the Clayton Christensen Institute, authored by Julia Freeland, notes that blended learning supports competency-based learning in at least four ways:…Read More

The latest push for competency-based learning

As personalized learning becomes more in-demand, more educators advocate for competency education

competency-basedStudent-centered learning is at the forefront of many education reforms today, as stakeholders realize that personalizing learning is key to student success. And competency-based learning–the idea that students advance based on concept mastery and not time- or grade-level restraints–is a key part of student-centered learning.

Supporters maintain that education’s design as it is today, which centers around time and curriculum, doesn’t support students the way they need to be supported in order to prepare for a competitive global economy. Critics wonder if all student groups are well-served by the model, and have said there can be too much testing.

“Competency-based education is really foundational for true student-centered learning and personalized learning,” said Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), speaking during an April 28 web briefing.…Read More

How the government can drive school innovation

The federal government should support, and even offer incentives to, states that move toward competency-based learning systems, Horn writes.

The opportunity to transform the nation’s education system from its factory-model roots to a student-centric version has never been greater.

Online education is growing rapidly in full-time virtual schools, and even more so in blended-learning environments. This is the future of our education system. Now, America must embrace this change to create alternative learning models that maximize every student’s learning potential and improve the outlook of the country’s global competitiveness.

Although this critical issue is a national challenge and opportunity, it does not mean the best way to drive innovative change in education is through the federal government. Most of the funding and decision-making around education in this country occur at the state and local levels. The federal government has limited ability to effect change. That said, what the federal government can do is create the conditions for the type of changes to emerge that put the focus on each individual student.…Read More

Experts share their ed-tech predictions for the new year

More students will have access to personalized learning opportunities, and competency-based learning will begin to take hold in 2012, experts predict.

We recently asked a handful of education and ed-tech experts for their thoughts on what the future holds for 2012—and beyond.

Nearly all agreed that technology’s potential to create personalized, student-centered learning environments will be even more fully realized in the coming year, thanks to powerful developments in blended instruction, data analytics, formative assessment, and more. But one expert warned that achievement gaps between privileged and disadvantaged children will only increase if income gaps and unemployment rates aren’t brought under control.

Here’s what the experts had to say. What do you think? Share your thoughts—and your own ed-tech predictions for 2012—in the comments section below.…Read More

Replace ‘seat time’ with competency, report says

Experts say it shouldn't matter how fast students cross the finish line, but that they actually cross it.

A new report says that competency-based learning is becoming more attainable for schools, and with some actionable policy steps, state education leaders can help schools personalize learning and focus on competency rather than how long students are in school.

The report, titled “Cracking the Code: Synchronizing Policy and Practice for Performance-Based Learning,” comes from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), with help from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). It calls into question the logic of “seat time” and current accountability standards.

“We are proposing what amounts to a vital change in current methods of instruction and measurement so that students can move ahead when they demonstrate knowledge,” said Susan Patrick, co-author of the report and president of iNACOL. “Unfortunately, many states and school districts are still handcuffed by rigid regulations that prevent them from moving toward the student-centered, performance-based approach.”…Read More