Comptency-Based Education

Report: New England School Districts Embracing Competency-Based Education

Competency-based education may be reaching a tipping point in New England, where more than half of school districts are currently in the process of planning or implementing this approach to teaching and learning, according to a new report from CompetencyWorks, a project of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).

The report, "Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England," examines K-12 competency-based education policies and practices across the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The report provides insights into the policies and practices in those states and is intended to support district leaders and policymakers who seek to implement competency-based education initiatives.

iNACOL defines competency-based education as an approach to teaching and learning where "students receive timely, differentiated support, and they advance by demonstrating evidence with meaningful assessments via mastery, not seat time."

The report outlines eight key elements of competency-based education:

  • Students advance upon demonstrated mastery;
  • Explicit and transparent learning objectives empower students and improve instruction;
  • Students receive timely and differentiated support;
  • Aligned assessments are rooted in the cycle of learning;
  • Students develop and apply a broad set of skills and dispositions;
  • Education promotes a growth mindset and a culture of learning;
  • Students build intrinsic motivation; and
  • Accountability is built into school and district operations.

Based on research funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the report delves into the question of why New England is emerging as a leader in competency-based education. While the answer is complex, the report does find that competency-based education in the region is "a movement that has been growing simply because the status quo is unacceptable and the vision so compelling."

The full 89-page report is available as a free, downloadable PDF on iNACOL's site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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