Federal ESEA conversations support shift to competency education

Senate Chairman's ESEA reauthorization discussion draft would enable states to implement competency-based assessment systems


As a growing number of states and districts adopt competency-based models and practices, federal policy must evolve to support education systems that focus on students’ mastery of academic content and skills instead of seat time.

Today, KnowledgeWorks commends Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) for recognizing the growing interest in a competency-based education system in his discussion draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.

“Competency education will require a new approach to assessment, enabling states to build systems that ensure all students master the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in college and career,” said Lillian Pace, KnowledgeWorks vice president of policy and advocacy. “The current system’s time-based barriers make it nearly impossible for states to advance competency education, giving them no other option but to build two systems simultaneously.”

Alexander’s discussion draft proposes to give states the option of implementing competency-based assessment systems, as well as permission to use federal assessment funds to build these systems. It also upholds the federal commitment to annual, transparent data.

While the discussion draft raises many key issues, it creates opportunity to consider input from a wide range of stakeholders.

“There’s proof around the country that competency education can be an effective option in creating a highly personalized environment focused on driving student success,” said Matt Williams, KnowledgeWorks Vice President Policy and Advocacy. “We look forward to working with Sen. Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), as well as all members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and all stakeholders to advance an ESEA reauthorization that upholds rigorous accountability while supporting states in the design of next-generation competency-based education systems.”

KnowledgeWorks and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) have created joint ESEA recommendations for competency education.

About KnowledgeWorks

KnowledgeWorks is a national nonprofit organization advancing a future of learning that ensures each student graduates ready for what’s next. For more than 20 years, we’ve been partnering with states, communities and leaders across the country to imagine, build and sustain vibrant learning communities. Through evidence-based practices and a commitment to equitable outcomes, we’re creating the future of learning, together.  www.knowledgeworks.org