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Aurora Institute

Five State Policy Action Steps to Modernize Educator Preparation and Development Systems

Education Domain Blog

Authors: Dale Frost, Maria Worthen, Natalie Truong, Susan Patrick

Issues: State Policy, Develop Educator Capacity, Modernize and Diversify the Educator-Leader Workforce


To support transformation at scale to personalized, competency-based learning for students, there is an urgent need to modernize and align educator preparation and leadership development.

The vision is to have competency-based pathways through coherent and aligned educator preparation and development systems. The systems would enable educators to build and master the skills, competencies and knowledge needed to thrive in modern, student-centered learning environments. It is time to take action to move beyond outdated, siloed state systems of educator pre-service preparation, certification, professional development and evaluation to transition to a coherent, competency-based, educator professional learning system.

Why It Is Important to Transform Educator Workforce Systems

In order to transform K-12 education to personalized, student-centered learning systems, policymakers need to also modernize educator preparation and development systems to become learner-centered, personalized and competency-based.

Few educator preparation programs focus on the competencies and roles needed in learner-centered models. More often than not, teachers trained and credentialed in U.S. teacher preparation programs are exposed to strategies and methods with a heavy focus on delivering academic content within traditional seat-time learning models.

It is important to transform educator preparation and development systems to:

  • Provide educators with opportunities to experience personalized, competency-based learning first-hand;
  • Explore global best practices in contemporary theories of learning, evidence-based approaches, competency-based models, balanced systems of assessments and innovative instructional approaches for increasing learner agency and personalizing learning;
  • Prepare educators with the specific knowledge and skills they need to design and implement student-centered learning environments that meet the needs of every student, including a deep understanding of performance assessments and assessment literacy; and
  • Increase diversity and representation within the teaching workforce to reflect the diversity of students and communities and to dismantle institutional bias against vulnerable subgroups of students.

Educator capacity is critical and professional learning on contemporary learning theory must be addressed in educator preparation and ongoing professional learning. The focus on content and knowledge acquisition are certainly important and they must be complemented with the other skills and competencies needed for educators to thrive in competency-based education systems.

There is a dearth of training in assessment literacy. Professional learning to build capacity for calibration and moderation to improve reliability and consistency in grading performance assessments – central to competency-based education – is limited or non-existent.

State Policy Action Steps for Aligning Educator Workforce Development Systems to Competency-Based Education

How can policymakers transform educator preparation and development systems to create the capacity needed for student-centered learning for all students to prepare them for success?

The following are action steps for state policymakers to consider to begin the transformation of educator workforce systems:

  • Action #1: Support and engage with a working group composed of a diverse cross-section of educators, school leaders, district leaders, students, state leaders and experts working across the field of competency-based education to “define the space” for the capacity and supports that are needed for a next generation educator workforce designed to advance equity and competency-based learning;
  • Action #2: Learn about promising practices, programs and policies to transform the educator workforce in the state and around the country by engaging with experts, researchers and practitioners;
  • Action #3: Learn about how high-performing countries have incorporated the core concept of assessment literacy into their education systems by engaging with experts, researchers and practitioners and/or through an international study tour;
  • Action #4: Enumerate assessment literacy as a core principle to transform education to personalized, competency-based learning in certification, licensure and accreditation standards;
  • Action #5: Engage with diverse stakeholders to identify challenges and opportunities, and to define the goals for an effort to redesign the systems that build and certify educator capacity, including:
    • Defining and understanding the competencies educators need to design, implement and lead new personalized, competency-based learning models;
    • Addressing barriers to creating, scaling and accrediting innovative leadership and educator preparation models; and
    • Assessing implications for accreditation, licensure and certification standards and teacher quality or effectiveness metrics in state accountability systems.

By transforming educator preparation and development systems to become personalized, competency-based and focused on the skills educators need to create student-centered learning environments, policymakers will support transformation at scale for education systems that prepare every student for success in higher education, the modern workforce and as citizens. Developing educator capacity is critical to transforming the education system to student-centered learning.

This is the eleventh article in the Current to Future State series that explores the ideas in the recent iNACOL report titled: Current to Future State: Issues and Action Steps for State Policy to Support Personalized, Competency-Based Learning.

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