Have you ever wondered what it would take to redesign the education system so it relies less on grade levels, credit hours, and traditional classroom-based instruction and focuses more on the individual needs and interests of students? If so, I encourage you to read a new report titled, A K-12 Federal Policy Framework for Competency Education: Building Capacity for Systems Change written by myself, and my brilliant co-author, Maria Worthen of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). This report – a result of months of collaboration at our favorite coffee shops around the Washington, D.C. area – is our best attempt to jumpstart a conversation about federal K-12 education policy and the rise of competency education. We believe the federal role must change in order to support a growing number of bold innovators working in states and districts around the country to redesign the system around students.
The report unveils an alternate vision for federal K-12 policy – one that would remove barriers to innovation so that student-centered approaches to teaching and learning, such as competency education, can thrive. The big ideas in this vision include:
Accountability – Federal accountability policies should incent districts, schools, and educators to use real-time, individual student data to tailor instruction, supports, and interventions to ensure that each student is on pace to graduate with mastery of college- and career-ready standards and aligned competencies.
Assessment – Flexible, balanced systems of assessments should measure mastery of competencies aligned to standards, with multiple measures, performance assessments, and evidence providing educators with a data-driven guide for prioritizing continuous improvement of student learning to ensure that every student is on pace to graduation.
Supports and Interventions – The federal government should support states and districts in the development and implementation of a proactive system of supports and interventions that use real-time data to help students advance to college and career readiness through learning experiences aligned to their personalized learning pathways.
Data Systems – Student-centered data systems should collect, report, and provide transparent information on where every student is along a learning trajectory based on demonstrating high levels of competency, to help educators customize learning experiences to ensure that every student can master standards and aligned competencies. Data should provide useful information for improving teaching and learning, as well as for accountability and quality purposes.
I encourage anyone interested in federal education policy to read this report. We worked hard to identify critical barriers and explore specific policy opportunities that will help the federal government make this important transition. If your time is limited, at a minimum, take a moment to glance at the report’s infographic depicting the elements of a competency-based federal policy framework.