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Aurora Institute

New Report on Action Steps for State Policy to Support Personalized, Competency-Based Learning

Education Domain Blog

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

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


Transforming K-12 education systems to be truly student-centered requires a shift in expectations and assumptions about what schools, teaching and learning can and should look like.

Policymakers are seeking action steps toward innovative education systems. Today, schools need to prepare students to tackle the challenges and uncertainties of the future. With rapid economic and social changes ahead, including preparing our youth for jobs that do not yet exist and developing leadership skills to solve social problems of deep complexity, educational success is no longer about regurgitating content. We are aiming to provide policymakers with a roadmap of moving from the current to future state of K-12 education and taking action steps to transform what is possible in personalized learning and competency-based education.

Continuously improving the education system, including the role of teachers and students, the use of time, the purpose and nature of assessments, the allocation of resources, learning model designs and the role of schools within the broader context of the community, is necessary to achieve lasting change.

iNACOL’s new report, Current to Future State: Issues and Action Steps for State Policy to Support Personalized, Competency-Based Learning, articulates a vision for the future of K-12 education and offers steps state policymakers can take to create the conditions for personalized, competency-based learning to scale. This paper is designed for state policymakers, including governors, state legislators, state boards of education, state school chiefs and state policy staff, with a vision to catalyze transformational change in K-12 education toward a long-range vision for systems that help all students succeed.

This report explores five issues to transform to personalized, competency-based education and identifies the action steps policymakers can take to address each issue:

  • Redefining student success;
  • Ensuring meaningful qualifications;
  • Rethinking accountability to drive continuous improvement;
  • Developing educator capacity; and
  • Building capacity to lead change.

Together, these action steps constitute a roadmap for state policymakers to catalyze transformational change in K-12 education towards a future state where each student has the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in higher education, the workplace and civic life.

Often, state policy agendas for education focus on short-term, marginal changes, programs or initiatives. These short-term efforts can begin the process of changing long-held beliefs in schooling. However, state policy agendas also change regularly due to the turnover of state leadership, leading to a lack of clarity in direction for a state’s education system for a transformed, aligned “future state” of K-12 education. Realizing a vision for K-12 education systems that prepare all students to succeed will require sustained focus, support and leadership (and the state to have a theory of action on how to get there). Effective commitment to a long-range vision requires engagement from a broader array of community leaders and members, families and organizations that cross-cut education, youth and communities. Together, we need to develop sustainable policy and a future orientation to ensure our students and communities of the future are healthy and prosperous and achieve goals toward a broader common good. This means education leaders working hand-in-hand with education associations, non-profits, workforce groups, philanthropic organizations and higher education, where turnover is less of an issue.

It is time to build K-12 education systems based on the core principle that all students can succeed and ensure students are ready for the next step in their learning, in the future workforce and in life.

State policymakers can catalyze this transformational change by:

  • Partnering with stakeholders to craft a vision for the purpose and goals of their education system;
  • Creating space and supports for competency-based, personalized learning models designed with equity in mind; and
  • Building capacity within educators and school leaders to transform learning environments to meet the needs of every student.

All three of these elements, addressed in a coherent manner, are essential to address continuous improvement over time.

State leaders should partner and collaborate with local stakeholders to create and sustain this vision of transformation to student-centered learning because stakeholders have:

  • The best understanding of what their communities and families need;
  • The biggest stake in the success of the vision; and
  • The responsibility of implementing the required changes over time.

It is particularly important that the views and perspectives of organizations looking out for students from marginalized groups those students who have been least well served by the traditional education system be included and respected in this vision of transformation to student-centered learning.

This report provides policymakers with a vision of moving from the current to future state of K-12 education and taking action steps to transform what is possible in personalized learning and competency-based education. Our goal is to drive changes designed to empower all students to discover and reach their potential.

Read more in the full report, Current to Future State: Issues and Action Steps for State Policy to Support Personalized, Competency-Based Learning.

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Authors

Susan Patrick

President & Chief Executive Officer

All blog posts from Susan Patrick