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Aurora Institute

Ohio Advances Competency Education Pilot Program

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Maria Worthen, Susan Gentz

Issue(s): State Policy, Create Pilots and Innovation Zones


May 9 – May 15, 2015

This week, we want to highlight Ohio HB 64, which would significantly advance competency education in the state by providing funding for up to ten school districts to pilot competency-based learning. Each pilot district or school would receive $250,000 per year to plan for and implement personalized learning models that advance students upon mastery, rather than seat time. Pilot sites can be run by a school district, school, or a consortium of districts and schools led by an educational service center.

The bill defines a “Competency-Based Educational Program” as a system of academic instruction, assessment, grading, and reporting where students receive credit based on demonstrations and assessments of their learning rather than the amount of time they spend studying a subject.

Importantly, the legislative language requires that the plans submitted by pilot program applicants must satisfy the following components, which bear a strong resemblance to the iNACOL CompetencyWorks definition for competency education:

  • Students advance upon mastery;
  • Competencies include clear, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students;
  • Assessments are meaningful and a positive learning experience for students;
  • Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs; and
  • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of work-ready skills.

The pilot program also requires applicants to partner with postsecondary institutions and local industry.

In the May 13, 2015 iNACOL Leadership Webinar, Buddy Harris, Senior Policy Analyst for the Ohio Department of Education, spoke of Ohio H.B. 64. He stated that he has good expectations that the legislature will maintain the proposal in the budget and pass it into law.

Since Ohio H.B. 64 is a budget bill, it would directly tie resources to the pilot program. Most states have introduced measures to enable competency education as stand-alone bills without resources attached. If this pilot program passes, not only can schools petition for flexibility from state policy barriers, but also acquire the necessary resources to plan and implement truly transformative changes to the learning environments they offer. Currently, Ohio has a Credit Flexibility Plan, which allows local boards to guide credit flexibility for high school students. All public schools had to implement a policy for Credit Flex for the 2010-2011 school year. Students must get their flex credit plan approved, however, which means districts are empowered to determine how easily students can access credit flexibility. Seat-time waivers are available in Ohio, but few schools have sought them. This measure would encourage a real shift in thinking to competency-based learning environments. iNACOL President and CEO Susan Patrick recently provided testimony in support of the Ohio competency-based education pilot program.

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 98 bills in 31 states.

Legislative Calendars

  • Colorado adjourned May 14, 2015.

Bills on the move

  • A California bill that would appropriate $1 million to train K-12 teachers to more effectively utilize technology and digital resources within their instructional day was considered by the Appropriations Committee on May 11 and placed in the “Appropriation Suspense File,” which means that the bill will be considered when the state has a better sense of available revenue.
  • The Ohio Senate Finance Subcommittee for Education considered the state budget bill, which includes a provision to allocate $2.5 million to create up to ten competency-based education pilot schools.
  • An amendment has been offered to the Illinois Course Access bill (which has already been amended to a degree that it no longer qualifies as a true course access program) that would replace the current language with language that establishes a Virtual Education Review Committee. This amendment essentially kills Course Access in Illinois.
  • The Governor in Indiana has signed a bill that would establish “Innovation Network Schools.”
  • A bill in New Hampshire that would allow districts to participate in the Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) system of local assessments, which was approved under the US Department of Education’s ESEA flexibility waiver, was considered in the Education Committee and amended.
  • The Governor in Oklahoma signed a bill that would require the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to establish a process to review and certify the quality of supplemental online courses, moving the state closer to a course access policy.
  • In California, a bill that would provide charter schools with increased flexibility surrounding the amount of time students must receive direct instruction in a physical classroom was originally scheduled for a hearing on May 13; however, it has been postponed.

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.

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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