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Aurora Institute

Promising State Policies

CompetencyWorks Blog

iNACOLThere are those who say we shouldn’t be trying to define personalization because it will inhibit innovation or that state policymakers will only muck things up if they try to regulate or legislate our way toward next generation models before we have established a better understanding of effective models and quality indicators. Certainly there is some truth to both of those positions.

There is also another truth.

We are asking teachers to go to work every day and do things that do not make instructional sense for children. We are sending our children to school every day knowing that they are going to be asked to do things because it is covered on the state exams at the end of the year even though they may not have the pre-requisite skills or they already know all of the material. This has to stop.

We need to do our very best, even if we make some mistakes along the way, to create the conditions for our teachers to use and build their professional knowledge to help our children learn. iNACOL’s recently released paper Promising State Policies for Personalized Learning, outlining three phases of state policy that can be used as a tool to catalyze conversation.

iNACOL has taken a huge jump in their recent paper Promising State Policies for Personalized Learning in integrating personalized learning with competency-based education. (If you haven’t been paying attention, you might not realize that iNACOL has made a strategic decision to focus its mission on personalized learning. This is a powerful jump from focusing solely on online and blended instructional delivery systems.)

The concepts of personalized learning and competency-based education are really two sides of the same coin – we want to personalize education so that it is effective for students no matter what their life experiences, abilities or disabilities, home language, the educational level of their parents, or skill sets they bring when they start school. However, we know that if we personalize in the traditional education system that has been designed to rank and sort students, all we are going to get is students who are ranked and sorted. So we need a system that will enable personalization but also make sure that students are making progress at the deeper levels of knowledge. We want to create a system in which accountability, and the drive toward equity, are embedded in the in how districts operate.

We want to make sure that policy is informed by practice. So take a look at the paper. React to it. Send in your ideas. Let’s use this paper as a tool for discussion. We need to get immediate relief to our schools and teachers. But that doesn’t mean we have to just leave it to state legislatures and boards of education. If we want to make sure that policy is informed by practice, we need to offer them the best thinking we possibly can.

Below is an outline of the examples you can find in Promising Policies for Personalized Learning:

  • States getting started and launching initiatives, including:
    • Creating competency-based education task forces to identify barriers and policy issues and to generate a feedback loop;
    • Supporting innovative systems of assessments and next generation accountability models;
    • Establishing innovation zones that provide school districts flexibility with state policies and requirements in order to implement new learning models;
    • Setting up pilot programs and planning grants to support personalized, competency-based learning models; and
    • Creating policies that allow for multiple pathways to earning credits and to graduation.
  • States moving forward through specific policies to support personalized learning, including:
    • Implementing proficiency-based diplomas;
    • Supporting innovative assessment models, and next-generation accountability models; and
    • Creating state-level initiatives and partnerships to develop educator and school leader capacity to implement personalized learning
  • States taking a comprehensive state policy approach for personalized learning, including:
    • Providing flexibility to school districts to award credits on mastery;
    • Creating flexible pathways to graduation, to higher education, and to careers;
    • Implementing proficiency-based graduation requirements to ensure mastery;
    • Ensuring all students have a personalized learning plan;
    • Building educator and school leader capacity;
    • Rethinking systems of assessments;
    • Redesigning accountability for continuous improvement; and aligning data systems with student-centered learning

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