Competency Education is in Good Hands

One of my favorite activities involves getting a bunch of really smart people together and talking about something I’m passionate about.  I was able to do that this week as a panelist at the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) policy symposium.  Together with the other panelists – Nick Donohue, David Ruff, Cory Curl, Kate Nielsen, and Casey Cobb – we discussed competency- (or as it is called in CAPSSConnecticut, mastery-based) education.  Along with representatives from the Governor’s office, state legislators, folks from the department of education, and superintendents and other district leaders from across the state, we discussed several aspects on competency education including graduation requirements, assessment, accountability, teacher preparation, and professional development.  The resources from the symposium can be found here, here, and here.

After leading the research for KnowledgeWorks’ competency education publications, which can be found at the link above, and visiting several schools deep into the implementation of competency, I thought I had a pretty good idea of how nuanced a paradigm shift like competency would be.  I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  While I have spent many hours reading, researching, writing, and thinking about what the implications might be for assessment and accountability in a competency-based system, I did not have an adequate appreciation for how complex this shift would be given the other aspects (professional development, teacher preparation, graduation rates, etc.) we discussed in Connecticut.  Given my experience, there are my takeaways from the symposium:

  • I came away with more questions than answers but I am very OK with this because…
  • There are some extremely smart people working on this and I am confident that, together, we will find the answers and, finally…
  • I am more convinced than ever that a competency-based system is a great, if not the only, way to meet all of our students’ needs.

If competency education is something that you’re interested in learning more about, I would encourage you to check out the resources at the link above.  I have no doubt that they will put you on your way to better understanding competency-based education.

Jesse Moyer

About Jesse Moyer

Believer in public education working. Passionate about family, sports, and fishing.

One thought on “Competency Education is in Good Hands

  1. Yes!

    What you’ve described here, Jesse, is like trying to deliver Amazon-type choice and options and speed via a old-school bookstore-publisher logistics model. It can be done, here and there, with really exceptional local teams. And maybe after 30 years all the stores adjust.

    But what really had to happen was for a new distributor to begin directly engaging customers in a whole new way. Only after that were the old-school stores able to work in elements of the new model.

    Today we have a couple of examples of distributors directly engaging K-12 students with open competency-based learning:

    Khan Academy offers ~4000 competencies. They reach about 10,000,000 students per month and have delivered over 300,000,000 lessons.

    Questions arise. How much is teacher-mediated use of Khan vs student-initiated use? (Perhaps Khan has data?) How many of these competencies were actually achieved–vs merely explored or attempted? (Again, not sure we have data). How many competencies were part of a properly balanced K-12 experience? (Some Art history good; 50 hours probably a bit much. Again, such data would be a good thing to know.)

    A second direct-distributor, CK-12, is even newer at this.

    These just describe learning in a fairly narrow and well-defined domain of competencies, math, science, some programming and history. What about the vision Katherine paints in the next post?

    Exploring competency-based learning from the state and district-level down is absolutely necessary and good. (And it’s no surprise that all the issues you mention are very complex!)

    We also need laboratories for exploring student-initiated competency-acquisition. What happens when the student says, “I want to/ I need to..learn this”, goes to the world and learns it, and then says, hey, give me my recognition.” ?

    We need to really explore this, and feed what we learn into the overall competency-based movement.