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Aurora Institute

Nevada Enacts Significant New Legislation to Advance Competency-Based Education

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Dale Frost, Maria Worthen

Issue(s): State Policy, Create Pilots and Innovation Zones, Base Learning on Mastery Not Seat Time

In Nevada, a new law supporting competency-based education (CBE), AB 110, was passed with unanimous support by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor on June 9. It establishes a CBE task force, a CBE professional learning network and a CBE pilot program and provides credit flexibility.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Calls for the Nevada Department of Education to create the Nevada CBE Network, which comprises a professional learning community and a CBE task force;
  • Creates a CBE pilot program at the Nevada State Board of Education for managing the application process and conditions for participation by schools in the pilot program; and
  • Enhances credit flexibility for school districts, empowering them to award credit for high school graduation based on demonstrated mastery rather than just seat-time. The legislation moves Nevada away from a strict policy of awarding credit only on seat-time or through limited credit by assessment policies.

For states getting started with competency education, often the best first steps are to create space for schools and districts to innovate, and to implement mechanisms to build educator capacity to establish personalized, competency-based learning environments. By building capacity through the Nevada Competency-Based Education Network and expanding credit flexibility, Nevada AB 110 does both of these things.

The unanimous support for AB 110, amongst both legislators and stakeholders, is a testament to the Nevada Governor’s Office effectively engaging key stakeholders in the process. Using funding from a National Governor’s Association grant for competency-based education, during the past year, Brian Mitchell, Director of the Office of Science, Innovation and Technology, facilitated opportunities for state policymakers and school leaders to visit schools in Idaho and Utah to witness competency-based learning first hand. These exploration trips built stakeholder support and excitement for implementing competency-based learning models in Nevada.

About the new legislation, Brian Mitchell stated, “Competency-based education is an important part of delivering a personalized education that meets the unique needs of all students and prepares them with the skills required for success in their chosen career. AB 110 provides schools and districts in Nevada a voluntary opportunity to develop their own whole-school competency-based systems that work for all students.”

iNACOL commends the Nevada Legislature and the Governor for advancing this important piece of legislation.

Now, the critical work begins to design and implement an effective CBE network to help Nevada school leaders and educators create student-centered learning models that prepare all students for success.

In addition, Nevada policymakers might consider taking advantage of the opportunities under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to advance personalized and competency-based education.

The 2015 federal law enables states to move away from the one-size-fits-all accountability, assessments and teacher quality requirements of the current system, to coherent education systems designed to build educator capacity and prepare all students to succeed. Even though Nevada has already submitted for approval its ESSA State Plan to the US Department of Education, under the new law, states can request to amend their accountability plans at any time. As states learn what works, or does not work, they may make changes in the spirit of innovations for equity and continuous improvement.

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