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Aurora Institute

New Idaho Law Lays Foundation for Competency Education

Education Domain Blog

Authors: Dale Frost, Maria Worthen, Susan Gentz

Issues: State Policy, Create Enabling Conditions for Competency-Based Education


iNACOL Policy Update: May 30 – June 5, 2015
By Maria Worthen, Susan Gentz, and Dale Frost

On May 21, iNACOL’s Vice President for New Learning Models, Allison Powell, presented to the Idaho K-12 Blended Learning Summit hosted by Boise State University. Educators and leaders from almost every Idaho school district and charter school were in attendance. The theme of blended learning as an integral tool for scaling up personalized, competency-based instruction was brought up continually throughout the event.

At the Summit, Senate Education Chair Dean Mortimer said, “We as a state need to have a student-centered learning system. It has to have flexibility. We have to provide the tools and to empower our students, our parents, and our educators. Finally, we have to explore new learning models…[Let’s] provide an educational environment that gives multiple learning opportunities and […] that personalize[s] learning environments.”

Idaho has been shifting towards competency education (or as they call it in Idaho, mastery-based education) since 2010 when it started allowing districts to award credit based on demonstrations of mastery instead of seat time. In March, the legislature passed Idaho HB 110 to accelerate this shift. The bill’s purpose states that moving to a mastery-based system would allow for more personalized and differentiated learning, create a focus on explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students, and emphasize competencies that include application of knowledge along with skills development.

This legislation requires the Idaho Department of Education to:

  • Conduct a statewide awareness campaign to promote understanding and interest in mastery-based education for teachers, administrators, parents, students, business leaders and policymakers;
  • Establish a committee of educators to identify roadblocks and possible solutions in implementing mastery-based education and develop recommendations for the incubator process; and
  • Facilitate the planning and development of an incubator process and assessments of local education agencies to identify the initial cohort of 20 local education agencies to serve as incubators in fiscal year 2017.

The bill allots $400,000 for one year to support the incubator schools during the pilot phase. Educators and leaders at these schools will receive support for professional development, stakeholder education, and ongoing assessment and coaching. The incubators will share data and best practices to help other schools implement mastery-based education.

Idaho HB 110 shows that the Idaho legislature understands that stakeholder buy-in, thoughtful planning, and supporting pilot districts with professional development, coaching, data, and the development of best practices are important elements of a sustainable shift to personalized, competency-based learning models.

On the topic of competency education, this week, iNACOL released a new resource for the field that highlights local school and district leaders who are successfully implementing personalized, competency-based learning environments. The paper, Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders, was published through iNACOL’s CompetencyWorks initiative.

A summary is below; a more detailed version with additional legislative information is available in the members-only iNACOL Member Forums. We track policy priorities and issues related to the field’s needs as outlined annually in the iNACOL State Policy Frameworks. This report provides background information and recommendations for issues on the critical policy shifts needed to transform K-12 education.

State Policy Highlights

  • iNACOL is currently tracking 97 bills in 32 states.

Legislative Calendars

  • Texas adjourned June 1, 2015.
  • Nevada adjourned June 1, 2015.
  • Connecticut adjourned June 3, 2015.
  • South Carolina adjourned June 4, 2015.

Bills on the move

  • A California bill, which would provide blended charter schools with increased flexibility to offer additional “anytime, anywhere” learning, passed the Assembly and was sent to the Senate on June 1, 2015.
  • A bill in Illinois that creates a Virtual Education Review Committee has passed the House and will be sent to the governor for consideration.
  • In Nevada, a bill that would require the State Board of Education to create a more flexible, alternative model of accountability for certain schools passed the Senate on June 1, 2015, and will be sent to the governor for consideration.

iNACOL 2015 Blended and Online Learning Symposium

The iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium will be held November 8-11, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Registration opened Tuesday, March 31. Take advantage of early bird registration discounts while they last.

Already a member? Access the more detailed legislative highlights through the Membership Forum.

Not yet a member? Join iNACOL to gain access to this Membership Forum, job postings, announcements, grant opportunities, and the latest information from the field.


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