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Aurora Institute

When the Math Doesn’t Work

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): State Policy, Base Learning on Mastery Not Seat Time

Last week there was a great piece Why Students Who Underperform Drop Out on the PBS Newshour.  Ray Suarez interviewed Stephanie Krauss, Shearwater  Education Foundation, Victor Rios, Professor, UC Santa Barbara and Adam Steltzner, NASA Curiosity Mission.  It was an interesting group with Krauss and Rios being former dropouts and Steltzner almost not graduating. The conversation was primarily on how to re-engage students who have gone “into the wilderness”.  In the midst of this conversation Krauss raised the issue of seat-time and competency education. Watch the show or you can check out Krauss’s discussion on seat-time below.

So, to the credit question, in the state of Missouri, one of the things that we’re really concerned about is something we call seat time.

So in order to get one unit of credit when 24 units are required to graduate, you have to get a passing grade and then be in class for 7,830 minutes.

So, if you have a story like mine — I left school and was what you would call chronically truant for a while. So I had a couple of jobs and I was goofing around with the wrong group of friends.

I wasn’t acquiring credit. I wasn’t at school. And so my education was disrupted. When I was still high school-aged, if I had returned, I would have been too old with too few credits.

And this is what we’re seeing all over the city of Saint Louis, these young people who are 17 or 18 years old, and they need 24 units of credit. They only have 22 or sometimes they only have three or four.

So the math doesn’t work out. So, what we’re trying to do is come up with what we call a competency-based approach. So, kids get credit when they show us that they know it, flexible paths for them to acquire credit, to show us proficiency. Do they know what you need to know in order to go on to college, so that you can succeed in work and life?

Absolutely great to see competency education on national news and in such a meaningful conversation.