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Aurora Institute

What’s New in Competency Education

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Learn Lessons from the Field

What’s New

The most exciting news is the direction Idaho is taking in integrating mastery education into the core of its State Department of Education. State legislators were in Idaho last week as part of a NCSL meeting and will be bringing ideas from Idaho back to your states. Be ready to continue the conversation.


  • According to Hechinger Report, as part of the Student-Centered Research Collaborative, AIR is releasing a new report on research that found “the more high-quality collaborative learning experiences students had at school, the more that the students said they felt their personal learning needs were met and that they were adequately challenged and supported when they needed help.”
  • David Conley has released a new book The Promise and Practice of Next Generation Assessment. The principles introduced in the book can be used as a launching point for discussion on what might a system of assessment look like. See Tom Vander Ark’s reflection on the book here.
  • In many school I have visited, EL Education has played a role in helping develop practices that empower students. EL Education has now developed a Character Framework that illustrates how the elements of a school can work together to develop effective learners and ethical people who contribute to a more equitable, better world.
  • The Center for Parent and Teen Communication (CPTC) at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has created a website to support parents, caring adults and teens in better understanding adolescent development and improved communication between adults and teens. As schools shift to competency-based education and reflect on their pedagogical principles, they soon realize that learning is a social process. This requires them to design and build capacity around relationships. Perhaps this resource can help teachers who are shifting from teaching the curriculum to teaching students?
  • Another resource regarding relationships and emotions is the report The Brain Basis for Integrated Social, Emotional and Academic Learning from the National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Learning.  
  • Mastery Transcript reports that they now have 219 member schools including independent, public, and international schools. They also have a slide deck designed to introduce the idea of a new transcript to communities. (Please do remember: CompetencyWorks does not recommend leading with changes in grades and transcripts until you have put a solid foundation for a competency-based system in place. Chances are that the conversation will get focused on grades and not learning if you introduce changes in grading too soon.)
  • Now that we have a logic model for competency-based education, can we use it to focus discussions between researchers and districts? Perhaps we could start by learning from the National Network of Education Research-Practice Partnerships recently highlighted in Ed Week.

From the States



  • Durango considers student well-being in their transition to personalized, competency-based education.



New Hampshire

  • Principals who are able to introduce competency-based education and support the transition are invaluable resources. Here is an article about Kate Lucas, principal at Stratham Memorial School, who is now leading her third school in the transition.
  • SAU 16 is looking at ways to introduce competency-based education into middle school.


  • Turners Falls High School has launched Powertown in the 21st Century (PT21) to provide students with a 21st century education needed for an ever changing world. During the planning year they have engaged stakeholders in identifying the life-long skills and competencies and a “vision of our graduates” from which they plan to redesign the high school experience. They are taking the time they need to fully prepare by reviewing research, visiting schools, learning about new approaches including competency education, and engaging the community.  


  • The Michigan legislature is considering a bill to create more opportunities for districts to innovate.



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