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Aurora Institute

Muscatine Jumps into Competency Education

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Learn Lessons from the Field, Engage Community

I don’t think there is a word for it…probably time to make one up. I just love the feeling of “a-ha!” – when I get an itsy-bitsy glimpse of understanding about our world and our work. I had two “a-ha!s” when I caught a glimpse into the Muscatine Community School District’s (Iowa) efforts in competency education.

The Muscatine Journal covered a school board meeting where a competency education pilot was described.

It starts in the classroom:  Muscatine has 26 volunteer teachers that are going to pilot competency education in their classrooms.  They are from elementary, middle and high school as well as their alternative school. They are doing their own research and figuring out how to integrate standards-based grading into their classrooms.

We’ve seen states lead the charge to have all high schools award competency-based diplomas, we’ve seen new schools develop that are competency-based, we’ve seen districts begin with elementary schools and work up or secondary schools and then back into earlier grades. Yet here is a district working across grades with teachers willing to take the lead.

A Variation on Grading:  There is always a lot of interest in how competency education schools manage grading and the translation back to the traditional grading systems. The teachers in the Muscatine pilot are doing away with the D’s and F’s. Instead students get a number, 1 or 2, for approaching or nearing proficiency. A, B and C’s are given to indicate the level of proficiency.  Interesting!

There are some great messages that come through in the article in the Muscatine Journal that others might want to use as well:

  •  When students know they can learn at their own pace, they can concentrate on the lesson instead of the deadline.
  • Competency-based education provides students with several ways to learn and show their skill mastery through more flexible use of time, place, method or pace.
  • A student is competent in a skill when he or she can apply what has been learned to other school subjects and to situations outside the classroom.

If there is anyone out there from Muscatine that can help us learn from your efforts, please give a shout.