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Aurora Institute

The iNACOL State Policy Frameworks 2016: New Opportunities for States to Transform K-12 to Student-Centered Learning

Education Domain Blog

Authors: Dale Frost

Issues: Federal Policy, Harness Opportunities in ESSA


bigstock--123552989----webAcross the country, states are supporting local efforts to redesign K-12 education around student learning with competency-based, personalized education.

Educators are making learning more empowering, engaging and tailored to students’ goals and interests. Districts are moving away from seat time so students can advance upon demonstrated mastery. They are supporting data-rich environments and offering flexible, anytime, anywhere learning pathways to close persistent equity and achievement gaps.

Supportive state policies can remove barriers and liberate educators to thrive, innovate and focus on the learning of each individual student.

Research on personalized, competency-based learning is revealing promising results. A recent study found that the clear learning targets and opportunities to earn credit beyond the classroom in competency education were related to an increase in students’ intrinsic motivation. And a study from the RAND Corporation found that personalized learning approaches helped students, especially those who were lowest performing, make significant gains in both mathematics and reading compared to students attending similar schools.  

Each year, iNACOL publishes state policy frameworks to provide concrete, actionable recommendations for state policymakers to create system-wide transformation through personalized, competency-based, blended and online learning. These frameworks provide recommendations for states to create space for innovation and advance systems that align with competency-based, personalized learning.

New systems of student-centered learning must be designed to increase equity and effectively meet the needs of all communities, elevating the learning and readiness of all graduates, regardless of race, zip code or circumstance.

Historic Opportunity for States with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and replaces No Child Left Behind, presents a historic opportunity for states to align systems of assessments, accountability and educator development with student-centered learning.

One year ago, the iNACOL Federal Policy Frameworks 2015 urged Congress to make changes to ESEA that were incorporated into ESSA, including allowing states to:

  • Redesign systems of assessments to support student-centered learning;
  • Rethink accountability systems to promote continuous improvement of student learning, with multiple-measures aligned to a more comprehensive definition of success; and
  • Modernize educator and school leader preparation, licensure and development systems to effectively prepare educators for student-centered learning environments.

The iNACOL State Policy Frameworks 2016

Building on previous iNACOL state policy frameworks, this year’s frameworks address existing policy opportunities and emphasize new opportunities states have under ESSA to advance student-centered learning.

The recommendations that follow provide a roadmap for policymakers to support innovative educators and leaders to close learning and equity gaps with personalized, competency-based learning:

New Policy Opportunities for States Under ESSA

  • Rethink accountability for continuous improvement;
  • Redesign assessment around student-centered learning; and
  • Modernize teacher and leader development.

Continuing Policy Opportunities for States to Advance Next Generation Learning Models

  • Create personalized, competency-based education systems;
  • Increase access and opportunity for all students;
  • Measure and assure quality from inputs to outcomes; and
  • Build new learning models infrastructure.

Taken as a whole, the recommendations within these issue areas present a comprehensive state policy approach to supporting student-centered learning. However, each state starts from a different place, with its own unique policy context, stakeholders and education system.

We encourage state policymakers to develop and advance a coordinated set of these recommendations in a way that best meets the needs of students in their state.

iNACOL is launching this new blog series to explore each of these issue areas and share specific recommendations for state policymakers to support personalized, competency-based learning. For illustrative state examples of many of these policies, see iNACOL’s new report Promising State Policies for Personalized Learning.

This is the first blog in a series for the iNACOL State Policy Frameworks 2016. Taken as a whole, these frameworks create a foundation for sustainable, systemic change that will dramatically increase personalized, competency-based learning opportunities for all students. The complete iNACOL State Policy Frameworks 2016 will be released in September.

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