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What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Natalie Slocum

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

What's NewNews

Thought Leadership

  • By moving to a competency-based learning system, we can naturally embed the development of grit in students, as explained by Michael Horn in this article.
  • Thomas Arnett describes how technology alone does not yield sustainable improvements in student learning outcomes. It is about redesigning models and shifting instructional practices first, then applying new technologies to enable personalized learning at scale.
  • How can better community and stakeholder engagement support innovation and deeper learning? CCSSO’s Joey Hunziker shares how states should define clear state/local roles in decision-making under ESSA.
  • In this Mind/Shift KQED article, Katrina Schwartz makes the case for aligning school discipline practices with a school’s learning philosophy.

Grading & Assessment

  • Here are 3 ways performance-based assessments address 3 important critiques of standardized assessments.
  • The Washington Post recently published an article criticizing schools shifting toward no-zero grading policies. Julia Freeland Fisher penned a response to this article, describing how students can be held to high standards with the right amount of supports through carefully designed and thoughtfully implemented competency education.

Innovative Practices

  • Maine’s Lewiston Schools are offering summer camps, as an alternative to summer school, with hands-on learning and weekly field trips allowing students to experience what they’ve studied in the classroom.
  • At the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar, high school students described how student-directed learning inspire curiosity and spur motivation.
  • Bronx Arena is trying to reach high-needs students by replacing the traditional classroom with personalized, competency-based learning.
  • Maine’s Casco Bay High School lets students develop their skills and passions simultaneously through their proficiency-based education system.
  • After moving to a proficiency-based program, more than 180 of Frisco ISD’s students received national accolades for the 2016 National Spanish Examinations.
  • In Massachusetts, a consortium of 9 districts are teaming up to develop a new assessment model that includes multiple measures of student progress and school quality.
  • Badging is one way to provide evidence of mastery across a wide variety of disciplines and scenarios that can allow learning to take place anywhere and at any time. This article looks at the current state of badging in K-12 education and explores potential obstacles and promising practices.


  • A new report by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and American Institutes for Research looks at the relationship between competency-based education practices and students’ learning skills, behaviors and dispositions.
  • The Students at the Center Hub released Recognizing the Importance of Support Staff in a Student-Centered School. This resource provides field-based tools to assist school communities in deepening the role of counselors.
  • A new toolkit by the Students at the Center Hub explores building youth-adult partnerships.
  • The Nellie Mae Education Foundation released Putting Students at the Center, a new reference guide of current knowledge, approaches and tools to support student-centered learning.

Teacher Resources

  • Kettle Moraine School District shares strategies and practices to design and implement personalized PD through micro-credentialing.
  • KnowledgeWorks and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future released a new personalized learning resource for teachers: The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers.
  • The University of Chicago Education Lab Affiliate released results from a promising study of efforts to help teachers better serve students. Review the summary or download the full report.
  • Next Generation Learning Challenges released Measures That Matter Most, which explores how to measure student success in next generation learning models. Case studies within provide practical tools and resources for educators to access and use in their own schools.

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