KnowledgeWorks new policy report calls on federal policymakers to support competency education

Current federal assessment and accountability systems impede competency-based approaches to learning

KnowledgeWorks today released a new report designed to help policymakers redefine federal assessment and accountability systems to support competency education in the nation’s public schools. 
The report, titled “An Emerging Federal Role for Competency Education,” is the first in a series of reports planned in the coming months that will lay the groundwork for a redesign of the federal education system to support competency education. KnowledgeWorks’ Senior Director of National Policy Lillian Pace is the author of the report.
For decades, the education system in the United States has been based on time, sorting students by age regardless of the level of proficiency. A competency education system places students at the center, replacing rigid, time-based assessment and accountability structures with flexible systems of assessment that enable students to receive customized supports and the extra time they need to demonstrate mastery of content and transferrable skills upon graduation.
“The U.S. education system for too long has been geared toward adults that operate the system and not the children who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the system,” said Matt Williams, KnowledgeWorks’ Vice President of National Policy and Innovation. “Competency education turns that assumption on its head, because learning becomes personalized for students, meeting them where they are. Our hope is that policymakers embrace this new approach and truly help students prepare for college and career.”
In the report, Pace familiarizes policymakers with the paradigm shift happening in K-12 schools across the country, but also brings to the forefront the fact that federal law makes it difficult for states, districts, or schools interested in pursuing a competency-based approach.  Pace writes that competency education allows graduates the “ability to showcase true mastery of learning instead of a transcript that tells colleges and future employers little more than an accumulation of credits or classes.”
The report includes a competency education continuum chart, which helps policymakers differentiate between approaches that are fully implemented and those that are in early stages. The report also outlines key barriers in the current federal accountability and assessment systems that can stymie the development of competency education, and highlights areas where the approach is currently being implemented.
“We want to empower students and engage them in their own learning. Obviously, all students need to graduate with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college, without remediation, and actively move on to meaningful work.” Williams said. “Mastery of competencies is a surefire way to know students really absorb and understand material, and we are hopeful that policymakers will help us advance this work.”

KnowledgeWorks is a social enterprise that seeks to create sustainable improvement in U.S. student readiness for college and careers by incubating innovative schools, influencing education policy, and engaging in education research and development. Our portfolio includes New Tech Network, EDWorks and Strive. Follow KnowledgeWorks on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WorldofLearning. Like us on Facebook: KnowledgeWorks

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