Competency-based Education

New Hampshire Pilot Eliminates Grades in K-8

A set of schools in New Hampshire is piloting a competency-based education (CBE) program that eliminates both kinds of grades — the ones children move into from one year to the next and the ones they receive for their efforts. No Grades, No Grades (NG2) is a project being run by the state's Department of Education and the New Hampshire Learning Initiative, an organization that promotes innovation in education.

The purpose of NG2 is to develop a model of personalization for elementary and middle school while eliminating what the project views as educational barriers to that: the grades. The six schools involved will receive no incentives and no additional funding from federal, state or local sources to run their programs.

The process they’ve followed began with an assessment running from April through June last year, where teams convened to review current student performance and other data and then develop strategic plans. Those teams visited schools running similar programs in other states to see how school time and space were changed in a CBE model and to gain an understanding of the learning progressions and teacher roles. In July, participants attended an institute where they developed interdisciplinary projects that use CBE and multi-age groupings. The teams refined their projects in August. During the school year, they continued the development process to create tools and learning progressions, perform data collection and do revision and documentation.

The "Live Free or Die" state has long been a leader in competency education. In 2005, New Hampshire changed its state rules to enable its high schools to base academic credit on demonstrations of mastery rather than "seat time" as long as students met state and local standards. By now the "Carnegie" unit is completely gone at the high school level. Until the arrival of NG2, just a few K-8 schools in the state have tackled CBE. The latest pilot is intended to expand personalized learning into more districts.

NG2 received a two-year grant that began in February 2016 from the Assessment for Learning Project, supported by the William + Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.