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Aurora Institute

Carnegie Rethinking the Unit

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

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

Andrew Carnegie; carnegie


Carnegie Foundation is taking a look at the Carnegie Unit? Yep, it’s true.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching announced that it has received nearly a half million dollars from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation “to support research on the Carnegie Unit and its role—past, present, and future—in American education”.  They explain, “It is time to consider how a revised unit, based on competency rather than time, could improve teaching and learning in high schools, colleges, and universities…”

That’s interesting…Why aren’t they thinking about elementary schools? We have examples of competency-based learning taking place across the country.

Hopefully they will expand their thinking beyond the historical development of the Carnegie unit to think about competency education as a model to replace the time-based system and the “unit” as a container of learning.

It will be great to see CFAT deconstruct how the Carnegie unit has been woven into almost every fiber of the education system. The harder part will be designing something that can be really meaningful for our students, teachers, and schools going forward.

Thomas Toch, a Carnegie senior managing partner, and Elena Silva, a senior associate for research and policy, will lead the project.

Here is link to Ed Week article.