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Aurora Institute

Innovation zones and personalized, competency-based education pilot programs in states create space for districts and schools to innovate and modernize teaching and learning.


State education agencies interested in shifting their role from enforcing compliance to one of supporting innovation and building capacity can use innovation zones to create flexibility for districts to innovate and competency-based education pilots to encourage programs to implement new designs in teaching and learning. Innovation zones help state policy leaders identify outdated policies and regulations that may get in the way of educators designing new learning models to meet the needs of every student. These models are also known as “districts of innovation” or “schools of innovation” as the concept name varies from state to state.

Pilot programs support the development of new models, incubating innovations in teaching and learning, while examining and sharing which strategies work in practice for scaling promising practices in other localities across a state.


  • States can convene a competency-based education task force to develop recommendations specific to your state context.
  • States can create innovation zones to provide schools and districts with flexibility from state policies and requirements to implement personalized, competency-based learning models.
  • States can establish pilots for personalized learning and competency-based pathways to build capacity and support educators at the district and school level for promoting student success.
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