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Aurora Institute

Who Should Determine What Proficiency Is?

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): State Policy, Create Meaningful Qualifications

map data (c) 2014 Google

Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education in Idaho has been considering mastery-based education (Connecticut also uses this term). No recommendations to the state legislature were forthcoming, because, according to the news story, “they haven’t settled how to measure ‘mastery,’ or even who will make that decision. Some urged local control, while others argued if Idaho is providing funding to these schools, the state should be entitled to set forth some expectations.”

Fascinating that they saw it as an either-or decision rather than something that they might be able to construct together. New Hampshire started out with an emphasis on local control in designing the competency frameworks, but superintendents and school boards soon realized that resources can be better used in ways other than recreating the wheel in each of their districts.  So the state department of education led a process of co-designing to create statewide competencies that capture the big ideas we want students to be able to achieve in math and English language arts.

It makes sense for everybody to try something new on their own – get the lay of the land, understand the key issues, and know what the key questions are. It also provides a chance for innovation and different designs. It also makes sense to then move to a co-design process. Beyond being cost-effective, it creates a shared understanding of what mastery-based or competency-based education is, a shared understanding of proficiency, and portability. (We don’t talk about portability much, but it is incredibly important to improving education for children from low-income communities. High mobility is part of life if you don’t own your own home and we need to be designing competency education so it works for low income students.)

So maybe next time task force members meets, they can decide how they might work together to define what proficiency is and how they can help the teachers in Idaho have a chance to build a common understanding as well.