Learning Pathways

Aurora Institute Report Outlines Recommendations for K–12 Next Gen Credentials

Education innovation organization Aurora Institute has released a new publication, “Going Beyond the Traditional: Next Gen Credentials and Flexible Learning Pathways.” The publication outlines the difference between what traditional high school diplomas and next generation credentials demonstrate about a student’s learning, competency, and achievement and makes recommendations for adopting new ways of tracking them.

The institute argues that traditional diplomas, based on an outdated system called “Carnegie units,” i.e., credits (which even the Carnegie Foundation is ready to change), don’t tell the full story or even an accurate story of a student’s mastery. Course credits and diplomas are based on “seat time, or time spent in a classroom,” the publication notes, and “do not reliably capture the amount of knowledge gained.”

Instead, the institute recommends converting to next gen credentials and examines six systems already using them: the International Big Picture Learning Credential, the New Zealand Comprehensive Record of Achievement, the Mastery Transcript Consortium’s Mastery Transcript and MTC Learning Record, Vermont’s Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements, Utah’s Personalized, Competency–Based Learning framework, and North Dakota’s Next Generation Digital Credentials.

What all of these have in common, and what the organization lists as recommendations for creating K–12 next gen credential systems are the following:

  • Define and establish a new “portrait of a graduate” into knowledge, skills, and competencies, with input from industry stakeholders.

  • Outline multiple pathways to graduation that align with the graduate portrait.

  • Redefine the Carnegie units from class time to competency that supports anytime, anywhere learning.

  • Support state policy changes to advance next gen credentials and begin pilot programs to adopt them.

  • Define a statewide vision of what a lifelong learning system looks like.

  • Create opportunities for aligning K–12 education with career, technical, and employment training to continue earning next gen credentials.

  • Build capacity and invest in local and statewide technology and infrastructure to create and track next gen credential records and systems that extend into higher education and beyond.

  • Build collaborative coalitions within and among schools, workplaces, communities, regions, states, and government to support competency-based pathways.

“Every learner takes their own path in life, and it doesn't end at high school,” said Laurie Gagnon, program director of the CompetencyWorks initiative at the Aurora Institute, and co-author of the report. “Effectively capturing what an individual knows and is able to do over their lifetime of learning requires far more than a traditional high school transcript or diploma. Our new publication seeks to lift up meaningful alternatives to the traditional high school transcript, and examines breakthrough models to transform how we document and validate learning both inside and outside the classroom.”

To learn more and download the publication, visit the institute’s report page.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.