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Aurora Institute

States Can Support Blended, Competency-Based Learning as an Entry Point for Innovation

Education Domain Blog

Authors: Alexis Chambers


The Aurora Institute is launching a new blog series to highlight the recently released, Education Policy Issues for the COVID-19 Era: Policy Actions and Responses to Leverage the Moment for Future Readiness. Across the United States, states face the challenge of providing access to ongoing and quality education for students during this unprecedented period of a national health emergency. We’ve developed this report with strategic guidance on how to harness our current opportunity to transform K-12 education. This report offers insights and recommendations on 10 critical issues identified through our technical assistance in the field and our work with education policy decision-makers around the country. In this post, we explore how states can support blended learning as an entry point for innovation. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, school leaders and education policymakers are grappling with unprecedented decision-making about closures and equitable continuity of learning. This historic event demonstrates the need to orient our school systems toward high quality, anytime, anywhere learning — and to modernize our systems to meet students’ individual needs. Districts the nation over are confronting the need to transition from face-to-face to different forms of learning experiences. States and districts would be well served to create space for engaging communities with real design challenges re-examining how schools traditionally use time and space.

State and district leaders can support blended learning as an “entry point” for innovation. States and districts are working to adopt a future-focused mindset for digital learning, planning, and implementation — one that reflects an understanding of the current trends and ensures appropriate strategic planning to address the inequitable access and use. Blended learning can help expand access and ensure teachers are familiar with personalized learning tools, digital content, and data-driven instruction. Although this can be a helpful first step, it is important to recognize blended learning is a “sustaining” innovation focused on a delivery model rather than an ideological model focused on creating space to transform to student-centered, personalized learning through innovation zones or advancing the broader systems change through competency-based education. 

State education leaders should embrace the principles of a competency-based, learner-centered approach to all decisions relating to the investment in and use of blended learning. States can work with districts to build capacity for blended learning by:

● Conducting a needs assessment for readiness for continuity of learning and remote learning;

● Evaluating local education agency (LEA) and school needs for: 

  • Technology infrastructure 
  • Professional learning for blended learning models and student-centered learning, anytime, anywhere
  • Platforms to support remote learning and student progress on competency development 
  • Digital content repositories/open educational resources 
  • Performance assessments and recognition of learning;

● Identifying partners to lead a short and long-term vision and engage stakeholders; and

● Creating a task force for short-term plans and long-term needs. 

States can work with districts to build capacity for competency-based learning by:

● Enabling innovation zones to support innovating districts and remove barriers for modernizing education delivery;

● Launching competency-based education task forces to study CBE and related policies and practices;

● Offering credit flexibility to allow for multiple pathways for any time, anywhere learning;

● Creating pilot programs to support the development of new models of teaching and learning; 

● Allowing flexibility for multiple pathways to graduation to ensure students gain the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to be successful in postsecondary, and career;

● Ensuring meaningful credentials that articulate what students know and can do through mastery-based diplomas aligned to a profile of a graduate;

● Redesigning for balanced systems of assessments to certify student mastery of knowledge and skills, and provide timely feedback on where students are in their learning;

● Launching state initiatives to intentionally build the local capacity of district and school leaders for innovation and competency-based education; and

● Designing a comprehensive statewide policy approach to competency-based education that supports the alignment of both education, and workforce systems with a vision of future opportunity and prosperity.

 


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