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Aurora Institute

iNACOL Is Now the Aurora Institute

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick

For 17 years, iNACOL has been a leading voice advocating for expanding K-12 educational opportunity and access. CompetencyWorks is a collaborative initiative focused on sharing knowledge on the field of K-12 competency-based education, drawing on the knowledge of its partners and an advisory board. CompetencyWorks was launched in 2012 with iNACOL as the lead organization.

Over time, iNACOL’s work has shifted from an explicit focus on the delivery vehicle for education, namely online learning, to an expanded view of the systemic changes required to ensure all students are prepared for success in our rapidly changing world. CompetencyWorks has been an essential part of this shift.

We’ve just marked another important milestone in our journey. I’m proud to announce that iNACOL has become the Aurora InstituteCompetencyWorks will continue as an initiative of the Aurora Institute going forward.

Why did we decide to change our name? First and foremost, because every learner deserves a clear path to future success, and we believe that a clearer brand identity will better position us to prepare those pathways. However, changing our name also creates three other important solutions for us:

  • We get a name that defines us as an organization committed to systems change in K-12 education. For 20 years, we’ve been the brain trust for a growing field working toward activities as diverse as school redesign, redesigning assessment, providing technical assistance to policymakers, and dismantling inequities in the structure of public education. Our networks have looked to us to set agendas, unify our frameworks, and craft narratives about our collective work.
  • The change in name responds to a shift in our mission, vision, and values. Our founding in 2002 grew out of a concern that current models of K-12 education were not providing access to the teachers and the courses students needed, nor fully preparing students for future success with an orientation toward lifelong learning, which we know is critical for the rapidly evolving world in which we live.

  • Our initial focus centered around technology — online learning — to respond to this problem. This is because, at the time, it contained a wealth of unparalleled and unprecedented opportunities to innovate learning environments.
  • Over the past decade, however, our work led us to investigate the root causes of the challenges that beset our education system. These are things that cannot be unseen: our system is built on fundamental flaws that won’t get better with incremental, piecemeal change. What this inquiry means is that our exclusive focus on the delivery system, such as online learning, prevents us from fully acting on our original intention of innovating education.
  • In late 2017, our board of directors voted to adopt a new mission, vision, and values for the organization.
  • Our mission is to drive the transformation of education systems and accelerate the advancement of breakthrough policies and practices to ensure high-quality learning for all.
  • Next-generation learning, by definition, includes all delivery methods for learning. We have moved the field from a focus on its form to a focus on its intent and purpose. So too must we move ourselves as a representative of this change.
  • The name change illuminates our role as a convener of networks. Being known predominantly for advocacy around online learning masks our 20 years of work bringing people together to advance systems change.
    • We introduce school leaders working in isolation to support the implementation of student-centered learning models.
    • We assemble peers to jury our publications and other knowledge-dissemination activities.
    • We convene advisory groups to raise the field of personalized, competency-based education.
    • We survey a field of nearly 9,000 people for trends and changes in direction.
    • That’s in addition to our work of annually hosting the field’s largest conference dedicated to student-centered learning.

As thrilled as we are about the exciting new changes that the Aurora Institute will bring, I want to underscore that much will remain unchanged. The change in name does not signal a change in passion. All of the work and legacy embedded in the iNACOL and CompetencyWorks names will continue under the Aurora Institute, including conducting research, issuing publications, hosting webinars and blogs, visiting schools, analyzing and developing policy, facilitating learning communities, tracking legislation and offering technical assistance, and advocating for personalized, competency-based education. The annual Symposium, the field’s flagship convening for systems-change allies, will also continue.

In the coming months, we will share more about the exciting changes on the horizon and what they mean for you. Expect a new website in the spring of 2020. Among other changes, that website will be the new home for CompetencyWorks, including all of its past and future blog posts, issue briefs, reports, and other resources. Continue to watch our social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date, and please reach out if I may help you better understand why we are making this change.

In faithful partnership,

Susan Patrick,

President & CEO, Aurora Institute