2022 Legislative Session Recap

Supporting personalized, competency-based education

Topics: Education Policy

This information is accurate as of early June 2022.

To better serve our mission of supporting personalized, competency-based learning, we have developed a state legislative tracking system to monitor and share the innovative ways that state legislatures are engaging in this area of education.

June marks a time where many states are winding down their legislative activity, and some are even preparing for the next legislative session. With many sessions already adjourned or coming to a close, KnowledgeWorks is ready to share some of the exciting legislative policy movement that we saw over the most recent session.

The National Conference of State Legislatures tracks legislative sessions and shows that 46 states and the District of Columbia have legislative activity of some sort this year, with 15 states and the District of Columbia still engaged in activity as of June 1. Below, we highlight trends from across the policy areas within our State Policy Framework for Personalized Learning.

Skip ahead to see the legislation supporting personalized, competency-based learning.

At KnowledgeWorks, we leverage our State Policy Framework for Personalized Learning  to ground our policy work across states. It includes 12 policy conditions necessary for successful implementation of student-centered learning.

  • Vision for student success: policies clearly articulate a vision for education that includes personalized learning to ensure every student graduates with the academic knowledge, skills and social-emotional competencies to succeed.
  • Collaborative leadership: policies support the engagement of a diverse group of stakeholders across all levels of the education system to create structures for personalized learning.
  • Comprehensive supports for educators and leaders: policies provide systemic efforts to build professional capacity for the implementation of high-quality personalized learning.
  • Supports for historically underserved students: policies establish equitable practices aligned to culturally responsive and trauma-informed practices to intentionally address gaps in student outcomes.
  • Equitable conditions for learning: policies include services provided in schools or by schools that support whole child development.
  • Student learning pathways: policies empower all students to access and complete equally rigorous pathways that enable exploration of career interests.
  • Quality frameworks for student success: policies support a learning framework, or set of standards, that represent the full-range of knowledge, skills and social-emotional competencies students need to success.
  • Balanced assessment: policies develop or implement formative, benchmark, interim and summative assessments at the state and district level that empower educators and deepen student learning.
  • Measuring success: policies support a robust performance measurement system, including accountability and reporting tools.
  • Culture of innovation: policies empower educators, researchers, communities and families to design, refine, evaluate, and advance new learning models that better support student needs.
  • Responsive funding systems: policies support adequate, equitable and flexible funding and resource systems that enable educators to advance personalized learning and address educational inequities.
  • Continuous school improvement: policies support improvement of all schools with transparent, dynamic systems that empower local leaders and their communities to diagnose, analyze and address the needs of all students.

In 2022, over 225 bills were introduced across 40 states that support one or more policy condition outlined in our state policy framework.

Number of Bills Introduced by Policy Condition

Bar graph depicting the Number of Bills Introduced by Policy Condition
a map indicating number of bills with designated blue shades for each state
This map shows the number of bills that support personalized, competency-based learning that were introduced in each state.

While we cast a wide net with our policy tracker, we acknowledge that we cannot possibly catch every bill related to personalized, competency-based learning. To interpret these numbers, consider them to be the minimum number of bills introduced in each state and in each policy condition. Of the bills introduced, 34 have been enacted and will play a key role in supporting personalized, competency-based learning moving forward.

Below we dive into a more substantive analysis of trends within policy conditions and highlight interesting examples from the four policy conditions that had the greatest legislative activity this session.

Equitable conditions for learning

In the pandemic recovery phase of education, the mental and physical well-being of students was top of mind for legislators this session. Schools can be central tools for communities to provide whole child resources and provide a safety net for young citizens, which is essential to establishing the conditions necessary to allow all students to thrive in a personalized, competency-based learning setting. We saw resources dedicated to supporting social-emotional learning, mental health, nutrition, water quality, vision screenings and more. This session, we identified at least 11 bills enacted out of the 76 introduced that support equitable conditions for learning.

Connecticut S.B. 1 establishes a grant program to support the hiring and retaining of additional school social workers, school psychologists, school counselors and school nurses. It also expands a grant program to support school-based health centers. Grant priority is given to schools with the largest student-to-school social workers, student-to-school psychologist, student-to-school counselor and student-to-school nurse ratios. Priority is also given to schools that demonstrate high volume of student utilization of mental health services.

Nebraska L.B. 852 requires the school districts to designate one or more behavioral health point of contact for each school building. Each behavioral health point of contact will have knowledge of community behavioral health service providers & other resources available for students and families. The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE), & the Division of Behavioral Health of the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) is instructed to provide each school district with a registry of state & local behavioral health resources available to work with students and families by geographic area.

Vermont S. 287 adjusts the state education funding formula to more equitably fund education. School funding formulas are one of the most challenging, but most powerful, tools to support equitable conditions for learning. Vermont S. 287 addresses equitable funding by updating pupil weights to better support students from low-income backgrounds and English learners by providing additional funds. It also includes a categorical grant for school districts with small numbers of English learner students.

Responsive funding systems

School funding formulas, grant programs and appropriation amounts are critical components of education service delivery. Financial incentives can make or break pilot programs designed to foster the growth of student-centered learning practices. Additionally, unfunded education mandates, even when well intentioned, can strain an already struggling education system. This year, funding formula changes, such as the Vermont example above, as well as general program appropriations were essential components to ensure the success of personalized, competency-based learning approaches. This session, we identified at least 13 bills enacted out of 73 introduced that represent movement towards or establishment of more responsive funding systems.

We saw several bills pass that provided general appropriations to support proficiency-based education programs. This includes bills such as S.B. 250 in West Virginia, which allocates funds to the state department of education to support mastery based education. In another example, H.B. 1600 in Mississippi provides money for programs that support personalized learning pathways, including WorkKeys, advanced placement, and dual enrollment programs.

In other cases, states provided funding for new programs and initiatives that will support personalized, competency-based learning. In Utah, H.B. 386 establishes and funds an innovation program for creating and implementing school systems that use alternative classroom schedules and/or alternative curriculum. In California, S.B. 129 appropriates funds to develop LGBTQ+ cultural competency training. Providing funding for the development and implementation of the types of programs in Utah and California can be critical to their success and create the conditions for learners to thrive in student-centered environments.

In a personalized, competency-based learning environment, students move through content at their own pace while utilizing customized supports to ensure that they get what they need, when they need it. […] State policy leaders play a crucial role in creating policy environments that permit this variation in education service delivery.

Culture of innovation

In a personalized, competency-based learning environment, students move through content at their own pace while utilizing customized supports to ensure that they get what they need, when they need it, to graduate college- and career-ready. Because this type of learning environment requires significant changes to traditional school structures, state policy leaders play a crucial role in creating policy environments that permit this variation in education service delivery. This legislative session we saw bills that established and funded pilot programs, created more inclusive definitions of or waivers for instructional time and provide greater flexibility in curriculum. This session, we identified at least 5 bills enacted out of 44 introduced that support a culture of innovation.

Arizona H.B. 2118 establishes an alternative education program that allows an alternative program or school to deliver the annual required instructional time or instructional hours on any day of the week. This type of flexibility will allow the program to meet the personalized needs of students while still maintaining the instructional time requirements set by the state.

Idaho S. 1238 permits students to be designated as self-directed learners and demonstrate mastery of content knowledge through grades, assessments, or mastery-based learning rubrics. This new policy will expand access to this type of learning for students and includes more flexibility for alternative instructional models.

Student learning pathways

The final policy condition with notable trends is student learning pathways. These pathways help students become college-and career-ready by providing personalization and flexibility to their learning curriculum. We saw the creation of pathways across job sectors, as well as the expansion of pathways that promote early access to both workforce training and postsecondary education. This session, we identified at least 5 bills enacted out of 41 introduced that support student learning pathways.

Tennessee H.B. 2429/S.B. 2498 requires the state board of education to develop an Industry 4.0 diploma as an alternative to the traditional diploma for high school students who are interested in pursuing a career in a high-need, high-skill industry after graduation. Part of the requirements for the students include receiving career coaching services beginning in their junior year.

Washington S.B. 5789 creates the Washington career and college pathways innovation challenge program. The purpose of the program is to increase postsecondary enrollment and completion and eliminate educational opportunity gaps for students of color, English language learners, students with disabilities, and foster and homeless youth. The legislation includes a grant program to local and regional partnerships to support various elements of this work.

Takeaways and next steps

The 2022 legislative session included some impressive movement in the field of personalized, competency-based learning. From the breadth of legislation introduced, states are clearly looking to both foster student-centered innovations as well as create the types of macro-level conditions needed to ensure that students thrive in these types of system. As we continue to track student-centered legislative policy, this year will serve as an important baseline in helping us identify trends in how states are supporting students and supporting ideas that enable student-centered, whole-child learning.

KnowledgeWorks created a set of policy recommendations for state leaders around assessment and accountability reform.