This article reflects accurate information as of mid-April 2022.
State legislative sessions offer a tremendous opportunity for policy change. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 45 states are holding or held legislative sessions in 2022. This legislative session, we’ve started tracking bills across all 50 states and the District of Columbia – some with especially interesting legislation related to student-centered learning policy.
At KnowledgeWorks, we examine policy change using our state policy framework to apply a lens that is centered in personalized, competency-based learning. In a personalized, competency-based learning environment:
- Students daily make important decisions about their learning experiences, how they will create and apply knowledge and how they will demonstrate their learning
- Assessment is a meaningful, positive and empowering learning experience for students that yields timely, relevant and actionable evidence
- Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs
- Students progress based on evidence of mastery or competency, not seat time
- Students learn actively using different pathways and varied pacing
- Strategies to ensure equity are embedded in the culture, structure and pedagogy of schools and education systems
- Rigorous, common expectations for learning are explicit, transparent, measurable and transferable
Source: Aurora Institute
As of mid-April, we’ve identified 202 bills across 40 states that would advance priorities in support of personalized, competency-based learning. Only 18 of those 202 bills have been enacted, but with legislative sessions still underway in some states, there will likely be additional movement.
We’re watching a few pieces of legislation closely, including H.B. 3883 in South Carolina, which would enable competency-based learning at the school-level, and H.B. 1939 in Pennsylvania would establish a student-centered assessment pilot program. Additionally in Missouri, S.B. 660 would establish a new degree pathway, a competency-based education grant program, a competency-based education task force and a competency-based credit system for high school students.
In Massachusetts, we’re watching a couple of bills around assessment and accountability. In Minnesota, a handful of interesting bills address instructional time and other culture of innovation policy elements. And finally, Ohio has bills introduced that could provide greater equity for students in the state.
At least 20 bills relevant to personalized learning have been introduced in Massachusetts, and a few bills represent a trend toward policy innovation to support learning.
First, computer adaptive assessments in combination with the option for grade acceleration would offer students flexibility in their pacing through curriculum and the opportunity to demonstrate advanced skills, which is especially valuable following the many years with inconsistent in-person learning and assessments. H.B. 645 and S.B. 326 specifically recognize the benefit of leveraging technology to gauge student knowledge on assessments. Adaptive assessments can be a tool to support more comprehensive assessment and better gauge student knowledge.
Second, S.B. 325 would “establish regulations regarding the use of whole-grade and content-specific academic acceleration,” and lists several acceleration strategies including combined courses, concurrent or dual enrollment and competency/mastery-based learning. These and other learning acceleration strategies mentioned in the bill show how personalized learning is being considered as part of learning recovery and acceleration strategies.
There are 19 pending bills in Minnesota demonstrating state-level interest in engaging in personalized, competency-based learning with legislation that would provide flexibilities and supports for schools and districts seeking different entry points to education transformation.
H.F. 2726 and S.F. 3744 seem to have replaced bills introduced last session that may no longer be a top priority for advocates. They address instructional hour requirements and would statutorily permit a local school board to determine the criteria for an activity to be counted towards instructional hours, including opportunities for project-based learning, out-of-classroom learning and flex time to meet students’ needs. Another interesting bill, S.F. 2687, would provide funding for a teacher mentoring and training program to build student-centered classrooms. S.F. 1441, and its companion bill H.F. 1644, would expand the definition of instructional hours to include non-traditional types of learning, including out of classroom learning experiences. They would also change the Innovation Research Zones Pilot Program to the Education Innovation Zone Program.
In Ohio, we’ve identified at least six bills that would support personalized, student-centered learning, and the legislature is considering at least three bills that are especially interesting. S.B. 214 would require schools to include instruction in Asian American history. While the superintendent of public instruction would develop a model curriculum, the individual district or school would ultimately decide the amount of instructional time to be spent on the subject.
H.B. 73 would make changes to testing, assessment and retention, reducing the amount of testing required and forming a working group to examine testing. While reducing testing can lead to more equitable learning environments, the especially interesting piece of this bill is that it creates allowances in retention requirements and instructs districts to continue to offer intervention and remediation services to students who might be struggling to meet the traditional, pre-COVID standards for grade-level promotion.
Finally, Ohio’s S.B. 306 would require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to establish and administer a program to provide tutoring and remedial education services to students in participating public and chartered nonpublic schools.
We hope you’ll use this short list to further explore legislative movements within a few states where personalized, competency-based learning related policy areas are seeing higher level of activity. If you want a refresher on the action that occurred last legislative session, check out our series of articles that includes policies on attendance and instructional time, assessments, student support and human capital systems and technology.