Using Personalized, Competency-Based Learning to Address System Disruptions

Topics: Education Policy

Not a single part of the education system has been untouched by the challenges brought on by COVID-19. In particular, existing challenges, inequities and obstacles existing in the system have been magnified in the face of disruptions to the day-to-day operations of the education system. The transition from high school to post-secondary education exemplifies an already-strained part of the education experience being majorly disrupted due to the pandemic.

In response to the additional challenges weighing on the transition from high school to post-secondary education, Education Commission of the States (ECS) has released a series of briefs to better conceptualize these issues and to offer possible solutions to both ease the transition and to address the inequities that are deepened by COVID-19. The series includes an overview of the inequities existing in the transition to higher education — particularly for Black, Latinx and Native American students and students from low-income families — and six briefs that serve as deep dives into specific elements of the transition from high school to post-secondary education.

KnowledgeWorks contributed one of the six deep dive briefs, Policy Solutions That Foster Competency-Based Learning, focusing on the elements of personalized, competency-based learning that can enable a more equitable transition from high school to post-secondary education in the face of pandemic-related disruptions. This brief contextualizes recommendations outlined in our COVID-19 guidance for state policymakers released earlier this year.

In the brief, we recommend that state policymakers wanting to improve the high school to post-secondary education transition should prioritize three elements of a personalized, competency-based learning system:

  1. Create a profile of a graduate: This allows for vision alignment across levels of the system and creates an opportunity for states to prioritize K-12 outcomes beyond test scores.
  2. Develop statewide competencies: This provides the opportunity for different educational pathways that exist and continue to emerge to support students to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for post-secondary success.
  3. Enable anytime, anywhere learning: This supports students to be able to continue to show evidence of learning regardless of the number of hours in a traditional classroom.

While these are only a few of the steps for states to create personalized, competency-based learning systems, they are valuable steps to remedy the obstacles and inequities deepened by COVID-19.

Read all six briefs, including the KnowlewdgeWorks one, at the ECS website.