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Early Adopters Critical to Shaping Learning Environments of Today and Tomorrow

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Topics: 101, Education Policy

From Vision to Reality: Personalized, Competency-Based Learning for All Kids is designed to help school districts take steps toward creating a personalized, competency-based learning environment for all students and equip district leaders with the following support to do this critical work:

  • Rationale for making the case for personalized, competency-based learning, including what it means and resources to support conversations in a learning community
  • Guidance on crafting a future-focused vision and why it’s important
  • Essential considerations for educators, students and all stakeholders to ensure implementation of personalized, competency-based learning is successful
  • Resources on how flexible state and federal education policies can support personalized learning

Graduation isn’t the end of learning, and a foundation of personalized competency-based learning prepares today’s students to become lifelong learners.
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Creating supportive policy environments plays an integral role in advancing personalized, competency-based learning environments. Typically, we see both short-term and longer-term policy challenges. The short-term challenges include messaging and communicating what personalized, competency-based learning is, as well as moving beyond confusion over terms and moving to a deeper commitment to how personalized, competency-based learning is best for all students. Additionally, technical issues such as teacher of record or data reporting can become cumbersome in personalized learning environments.

Longer-term policy challenges trend more systemic in nature. These include building the teacher pipeline to support personalized, innovative practices in the classroom. Personalized, competency-based learning is student-centered but powered by effective, well-versed and resourced teachers. Furthermore, there are challenges within accountability, assessment and funding as we shift the system to be student-centered.

We’ve seen states begin to address some of these issues by implementing pilot initiatives to expand support and understanding of personalized, competency-based learning within communities, districts and schools. These approaches then allow states to offer greater flexibility to these implementers as well as gain insights and lessons from early adopters that help address policy barriers and, more importantly, orient state education agencies towards supporting and nurturing innovative practices. Additionally, states have worked to network pilot sites to ensure that the lessons in each unique pilot site are collective and shared. This networking approach is not only helpful for disseminating best practices and lessons learned but also for providing technical assistance in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), provides multiple opportunities for states to create more flexible, nimble environments to support personalized and competency-based education. We’ve seen states use ESSA to begin to address some of the longer-term issues by embedding personalized learning in their state vision, developing micro-credentials and reformatting professional development to transform the teacher pipeline. Many states are developing dashboards, scale scores and multiple pathways to begin to shift and transform accountability and creating opportunities to pilot social emotional learning and whole child supports and personalized learning plans for all students.

Policy plays a significant role in creating the environments that support personalized, innovative, competency-based learning. District leaders play a bigger role – they should move this work forward, work with their state education agency and work to remove barriers and transform the system as they go. Early adopters and implementers play the most important role in shaping the learning environments of today and tomorrow.

To prepare every student for success, leaders must look beyond their own district and this moment in time and think about more than this year’s group of incoming students, this year’s graduating class. Students need a strong foundation, and that foundation is strongest when we consider the future, leverage policy innovation and grow the capacity of our educators.