Improving Educational Opportunities and Outcomes in Minnesota

Topics: Education Policy

This post was co-written with Terrance Sullivan, former KnowledgeWorks director of state policy.

“Transformative.” “Freeing.” “Engaging.” These are all words practitioners used to describe their experience with competency-based education at a recent event in St. Paul, Minnesota, designed to educate legislators about the transformative nature of the work.

In Minnesota, current statute does not prohibit schools and districts from utilizing competency-based learning practices. However, statute does not explicitly allow it either. Senate File 485, filed this legislative session by chief author Senator Carla Nelson and a bipartisan group of co-authors, fills that gap by allowing schools and districts the flexibility to adopt a local plan to enact competency-based education.

Codifying competency-based education in Minnesota is important because in doing so, the state legitimizes the work of forward-thinking districts like Farmington Area Public Schools that already understand the power of the shift and are making strides to integrate competency-based learning into their practices. For instance, in a letter of support to the Senate E-12 Committee, Farmington Area Public Schools Executive Director of Educational Service Jason Berg said he believes personalized, competency-based learning “is the transformational shift of focusing from the teacher and teaching to the learner and learning” and “allows districts to make equity our pedagogy.”

KnowledgeWorks, too, believes that competency-based education methods will provide a significant opportunity for Minnesota’s children. The state’s ability to compete economically—and for communities to attract growth industries and create jobs—demands a fresh approach to public education. The one-size-fits all philosophy of our past and too much of our present doesn’t ensure our future economic and democratic success.

This week, KnowledgeWorks partnered with iNACOL and Education Evolving to support competency-based education in Minnesota. In addition to hosting an advocacy event with a diverse group of personalized, competency-based education practitioners and legislators who serve on the House and Senate education committees, members of KnowledgeWorks staff testified in support of the Minnesota bill enabling competency-based education.

Minnesota’s legislature has the unique opportunity to capitalize on the groundswell of support for competency-based education seen in schools and districts each day. Minnesota can, and should, use that forward momentum to continue to improve the educational outcomes of every child in the state.