New Report Advises States on How to Support Personalized Learning

A non-profit that promotes competency-based and blended and online learning in K-12 has begun turning its attention to states, where the coming era in education transformation is expected to play out. The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) released a new report with recommendations for state policymakers to support local and statewide efforts to improve student learning.

"Meeting the Every Student Succeeds Act's Promise: State Policy to Support Personalized Learning" points out that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), enacted in December 2015, places a heavier burden on states and local education agencies to enact and oversee systems for assessments, accountability, educator evaluation and use of federal funding. iNACOL considers the transition period now occurring as federal oversight gives way to broader state control to be a prime time "to redesign K-12 education systems around student learning," with an emphasis on blended or online and competency-based models.

The report examines five areas where state policies and investments may need revision and includes specific recommendations.

  • Accountability, which calls for states to reconsider how they define student success and encourages them to collaborate with a "diverse set of stakeholders" to develop an accountability plan under ESSA that aligns "the elements of accountability" with that new definition.
  • Assessments, which suggests that states "better support personalized learning" with their systems of assessments, including delivering "rich, real-time data to teachers to support continuous improvement of student learning toward college- and career-readiness" and to close up gaps in student achievement.
  • Educator preparation, which needs to be "modernized," the report suggested, to support competency-based and personalized instructional practices. One recommendation in this area is to use microcredentials "in lieu of seat-time-based continuing education unit requirements for professional development."
  • Adoption of competency-based education systems, which, for newbies to CBE might consist of supporting experimentation in "innovation zones" or, for states moving forward in their CBE efforts, putting in place "proficiency-based diplomas" for students.
  • Infrastructure, specifically to support "robust broadband connectivity, secure, learner-centered data systems and openly licensed content."

The recommendations in the report are intended to "provide a roadmap for state policymakers to support innovative educators and leaders to close achievement gaps and take advantage of opportunities and flexibilities under ESSA through personalized, competency-based education," according to iNACOL President and CEO, Susan Patrick.

"It is hard to overemphasize the rare and incredible opportunity states have under ESSA to redesign K-12 education systems around student learning," concluded the report. "States should work with communities to fundamentally reimagine education and scale powerful, personalized learning models to meet the needs of every student."

The report is available as an open download on the iNACOL website.

About the Author

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