Skip to content
Aurora Institute

A Rubric for Competency Education

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Paul Leather

Issue(s): State Policy, Redefine Student Success, Create Enabling Conditions for Competency-Based Education

A note from Chris Sturgis: CompetencyWorks has an incredibly great advisory board that provides valuable guidance.  This morning I received an email from Paul Leather, New Hampshire’s Deputy Commissioner of Education, with a reflection on how he has come to think about competency education:

In discussions with Mariane Gfroerer, Kim Carter, Rose Colby, and Joe DiMartino over the years, I have moved to the place of thinking of competency-based education as a developing rubric:

  1. Identify the competencies tied to state or local standards so that they are more transparent;
  2. Refine those competencies so that they work effectively in a learning environment. Competencies should be lifted off of specific unitized class curriculum so that they are more portable for the student to investigate their learning through extended opportunities;
  3. Organize individualized planning processes involving student reflection inculcating a culture of work and revision by both students and adults. Individual planning is supported by the introduction of project based learning, teaming of students, educators, and community mentors. Performance assessment is a dominant pedagogy in the individualized planning process;
  4. Connect to a revised grading system supporting continuous student learning and improvement; and,
  5. Shared inquiry begins to define the relationship between educator and student as all the pieces fall into place. The student owns and drives their learning. The adult provides ever greater focus on deeper meaning and precision, guiding the student as she pushes to demonstrate her mastery of her competencies through a shared learning path design.

A Reflection from Chris: This reflection has triggered a new thought – it looks to me that we might be under-valuing the individualized planning process as a critical element of bringing a competency-based system together.  I don’t hear a lot about it from the schools that are transforming themselves to a competency-based system.  If you have a well-developed individual planning process and tools, could you let us know so we can tell others about what your approach.

__________About the Author__________

Paul Leather is Deputy Commissioner of Education in New Hampshire. Mr. Leather’s background and experience in Education, Counseling, and Administration in New Hampshire spans three decades. He is also serving as Director of the Division of Career Technology and Adult Learning for the New Hampshire Department of Education (NHDOE) and oversees the administration of Vocational Rehabilitation, Adult Education, Career and Technical Education, Tech-Prep, School Guidance and Counseling, Apprenticeship Programs, and Career Development efforts, including Workforce Investment Act coordination for the NHDOE. In addition, Mr. Leather is past president of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) and oversees statewide initiatives such as High School Redesign, Extended Learning Opportunities, and Drop Out Prevention.