Aurora Institute https://aurora-institute.org/ Wed, 16 Nov 2022 14:07:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://aurora-institute.org/wp-content/uploads/cropped-favicon-32x32.png Aurora Institute https://aurora-institute.org/ 32 32 The Quiet Revolution in Education: Building a More Effective, Personalized, Future-Focused Education System in Kentucky https://aurora-institute.org/blog/the-quiet-revolution-in-education-building-a-more-effective-personalized-future-focused-education-system-in-kentucky/ Mon, 28 Nov 2022 14:00:06 +0000 https://aurora-institute.org/?p=16212 The stories we hear these days about education are largely focused either on the culture wars–what gets...

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The stories we hear these days about education are largely focused either on the culture wars–what gets to be taught and what doesn’t–or how far students are “behind” in learning after nearly three pandemic school years. These stories are important, but what gets lost is the quiet revolution taking place across the nation–including in Kentucky–to modernize education for the future.

Traditional schools are often run like factories: one teacher, one textbook, one subject, one hour. When the bell rings, learners rotate and repeat. Advancing to the next grade or reaching graduation is determined by the number of hours spent in a classroom and “passing” assessments and coursework. Students don’t have much say in their paths. The system works well for a privileged few, while under-serving many, and rates of college and career success are unsurprisingly split along class, race, and geographic lines. If we want to keep up with an ever changing, interdependent global economy, K-12 systems must change.

What if students advanced after they demonstrated mastery of a given topic, rather than being forced to move on, or being held back while others are still learning? 

What if we challenged the master schedule and encouraged learning to happen anytime and anywhere? 

What if learning is valued both inside and outside the classroom with real, meaningful projects and community partnerships? 

What if students could select rigorous, mastery-based personalized learning pathways based on their passions? 

What if students earned credits toward graduation through portfolios of work, performances, and knowledge and skills learned during paid internships? 

Students snip wires for a boat-building project.
Allison Shelley, EDUImages

These approaches are part of what is often called competency-based education. Kentucky has been moving in this direction since the mid-1990s, when innovative districts developed projects and performance assessments. In 2012, the state launched districts of innovation–allowing districts more flexibility to advance innovations, and exempting them from certain outdated administrative regulations and statutory policies. This shifted the role of the state agency from compliance enforcement to innovation catalyst and obstacle remover, enabling innovative learning programs in schools and systems. Using state policy flexibility, districts have provided more flexible learning environments inside and outside of traditional classrooms. And in 2018, a legislative update allowed single schools and/or groups of schools to apply for innovation status.

Additional examples of rethinking when, where, and how learning happens are apparent across the state. Eminence Independent School District encourages students to learn through personalized projects aligned with their interests. They offer dual enrollment, where high school students take college classes at nearby Bellarmine University and earn college credits. As of 2022, over 200 students have participated in these new pathways– a sneak peek at college life and building confidence. Studying outside their high school campus, in their community, and getting real-world experiences helps them advance toward graduation and beyond.

Shelby County Public Schools has been transitioning to competency-based education for more than a decade. Students set goals, make daily decisions about their learning, receive regular feedback, work independently on authentic projects, exhibit their understanding through real-world experiences, and progress when they’re ready – all with coaching from teachers to help them develop skills for life-long learning.

The opportunity gaps between privileged and typically overlooked students are not new. But we must shift education away from its focus on fixed time and place, to prioritize advancing student learning, regardless of where it happens and how long each student needs to learn successfully. This means rethinking restrictive policies, using appropriate advanced technologies and tools, and putting the new learning designs in place before the next pandemic or crisis. We need to modernize education systems first.

Thankfully Kentucky has been doing the work to provide all kids more future-oriented learning experiences to prepare them for our rapidly changing world. We must continue to push for this sort of innovation across the state and the nation to ensure a more prosperous future for all of us.

Susan Patrick is the President and CEO of the Aurora Institute

Charles Reigeluth is a professor emeritus at Indiana University-Bloomington’s Instructional Systems Technology department, and consults on education systems change

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Help Aurora Make it to SXSWEDU 2023! https://aurora-institute.org/blog/help-aurora-make-it-to-sxswedu-2023/ Thu, 11 Aug 2022 15:22:22 +0000 https://aurora-institute.org/?p=15563 Help us get personalized, competency-based education on the agenda for SXSWEDU 2023! Aurora has proposed two sessions...

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Help us get personalized, competency-based education on the agenda for SXSWEDU 2023! Aurora has proposed two sessions with partners, which you can upvote via PanelPicker® until August 21:

Entry Points into Competency-Based Ecosystems (with Building 21Network): Learn about the power and possibilities of competency-based education (CBE) for equitable, rigorous, relevant learning to provide a responsive pathway to success for every student.

Designing Credentials for Innovative School Models (with Mastery Transcript Consortium, XQ Institute, and Big Picture Learning) How can we design transcripts and records that empower learners to share their unique strengths, abilities, and goals? In this panel discussion, organizations that support innovative schools will share insights and lessons learned from their credential design efforts.

To vote, sign in to PanelPicker® or create a free SXSW account with just your email. You can vote once for each of our sessions!

Share on Twitter: Help personalized, competency-based education make it to #SXSWEDU 2023! Vote for two @Aurora_Inst panels until 8/21! bit.ly/3vX1H7e

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Registration for Symposium 2022 is Now Open! https://aurora-institute.org/blog/registration-for-symposium-2022-is-now-open/ Tue, 07 Jun 2022 13:04:17 +0000 https://aurora-institute.org/?p=15317 The Aurora Institute Symposium is the leading conference for transforming K-12 education systems, advancing breakthrough practices and...

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Text on blue background reads: "Registration is Now Open: Aurora Institute Symposium"The Aurora Institute Symposium is the leading conference for transforming K-12 education systems, advancing breakthrough practices and policies, and implementing personalized, competency-based learning. 

Who should attend and why? Attendees include school leaders, district leaders, and teachers actively implementing personalized, competency-based designs, as well as technical assistance providers, non-profit stakeholders, policymakers, researchers, learning experts, and other education leaders. It is the premiere event for learning about cutting-edge promising practices, the latest policy developments, research, and future-focused trends in teaching and learning. This virtual event is designed to build the capacity of the K-12 field to implement equitable personalized, competency-based systems. 

Through keynotes and nearly 70 sessions highlighting breakthrough practices and policies, the Symposium inspires attendees, equips them with new knowledge and best practices, and sparks action by leaders to implement new learning designs. Session strands include: Shifting to Competency-Based Education; Transforming Education Systems; Whole Child Personalized Learning; Elevating Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Antiracism; Designing New Learning Models/Redesign; Enabling Anytime/Anywhere Learning; Modernizing Professional Learning; and more.

Attendee registration is now open for the Aurora Institute Symposium, held virtually on October 24-26, 2022. 

Aurora Institute members can attend the Symposium free of charge. Become an Aurora Institute member today, then register to attend the Symposium here

Non-members can take advantage of early-bird registration discounts through September 23, 2022. 

For questions, please contact the Aurora Institute Symposium team. We look forward to seeing you at the Symposium!

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U.S. Department of Education Issues Notice Inviting Applications for the Supporting Effective Educator Development Program https://aurora-institute.org/blog/u-s-department-of-education-issued-a-notice-inviting-applications-for-the-supporting-effective-educator-development-program/ Mon, 11 Apr 2022 18:34:41 +0000 https://aurora-institute.org/?p=15226 Overview: On April 4, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued a notice inviting applications for...

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Overview:

On April 4, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued a notice inviting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2022 for the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Program. The SEED program will provide $65 million in funding to support educators to implement evidence-based practices that develop the skills of educators.

The Aurora Institute strongly supports initiatives to modernize the educator workforce including through micro-credentials and professional development that are more closely aligned with competency based learning and innovative learning models. We encourage applicants for the SEED grant competition to consider ways to advance innovative teaching and prioritize student-centered education.

A group of educators working together. One teacher sits at a desk while three others stand around her.
Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

About the SEED Program Application:

In a news release Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote, “This grant competition will support institutions of higher education, national nonprofits, and other eligible partners that provide teachers and school leaders with effective strategies for building inclusive, unbiased, and safe learning environments that support the academic, social, and emotional needs of every student. Building an education system that is the best in the world requires an investment in our dedicated teachers.” We appreciate the Administration’s investment in our educator workforce and hope to continue to work together to find ways to support educators to build the knowledge and skills needed to plan and implement more innovative, student-centered pedagogies and modernized learning environments.

The application includes two absolute priorities: (1) supporting effective teachers; and (2) supporting effective principals or other school leaders. Both of these priorities include directing teachers and principals from nontraditional preparation and certification routes to support historically underserved local educational agencies (LEAs). Additionally, the priorities include evidence-based professional learning activities which may lead to an advanced credential.

Both absolute priorities also include requirements to identify at least one, but not more than two citations for meeting the evidence-based requirements of each priority. Lastly, the application includes three competitive preference priorities under which ED may award up to a total of 10 points collectively. These priorities focus are: (1) increasing educator diversity; (2) promoting equity in student access to educational resources and opportunities, and (3) meeting student social, emotional and academic needs.

The estimated average award is $3,500,000 per year for a project period of up to 3 years. It is estimated that ED will make between 16 and 20 awards.

Key dates:

  • April 4, 2022: Application became available.
  • May 4, 2022: ED encourages applicants to submit their notice of intent to apply so ED will be able to develop a more efficient process to review grant applications. The notice should be sent to SEED@ed.gov. However, applicants who do not send a notice of intent to apply, may still apply for funding.
  • June 3, 2022: Deadline for Transmittal of Applications.
  • August 2, 2022: Deadline for Intergovernmental Review.

Visit the notice in the federal register.

 Learn more:

 For more help, please contact:

Susan Patrick, President & CEO
spatrick@aurora-institute.org

Chiara Wegener, Communications Director
cwegener@aurora-institute.org

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Federal Government Makes Historic Investments for FY 2022 for the Competitive Grants for State Assessments Program: Legislative Update https://aurora-institute.org/blog/federal-government-makes-historic-investments-for-fy-2022-for-the-competitive-grants-for-state-assessments-program-legislative-update/ Wed, 30 Mar 2022 00:44:59 +0000 https://aurora-institute.org/?p=15177 Update as of 4/7/22: In March 2022, Congress passed, and the President signed, the Consolidated Appropriations Act,...

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Update as of 4/7/22:

In March 2022, Congress passed, and the President signed, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, which provides a total of up to $20.9 million for competitive grants for State assessments for FY 2022, an amount significantly larger than what was estimated in the NIA. These FY 2022 funds are in addition to the $8,900,000 available from the FY 2021 appropriation. To give applicants more time to prepare and submit applications in light of the increased appropriation, ED is extending the deadline date for transmittal of applications to May 3rd, 2022. States that have already submitted can also decide to resubmit if they choose given the new grant funds available (though it’s not required to do so).

Overview

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

On March 15, 2022, the final Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act, funding state assessments at $390 million, $12 million over FY 2021 was signed into law. This increase in appropriations includes $21 million for the Competitive Grants for State Assessments (CGSA) Program. We thank Congress and the Administration for prioritizing this key issue in our education systems.

The Aurora Institute strongly supports this historic investment the CGSA program to advance student-centered learning and support competency-based education. We worked closely with key policy makers and other thought leaders in this space to ensure that states have the opportunity to pursue innovative assessment approaches that reflect the needs of all students, families and educators.

About the FY 2022 CGSA Program

The Department of Education’s (ED) notice inviting applications for new awards for the FY 2022 CGSA program includes two absolute priorities, meaning that applicants must address one or both of these priorities. The priorities are: (1) measure student academic achievement using multiple measures of student academic achievement; and (2) evaluate student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment that emphasize the mastery of standards and aligned competencies in a competency-based education model.

In the notice, the estimated available funds were $17.711 million based on the combined FY 2021 appropriations ($8.9 million) and the Administration’s FY 2022 budget request for new awards ($8.9 million). However, since the FY 2022 appropriations provided $12 million more (funding is now at $21 million), ED will now be able to award more states, or consortia of states, grant funding to enhance their assessment systems. The Aurora Institute estimates that there will be nearly $29 million for awards. States have until May 3rd to apply for funds for the Competitive Grants for State Assessments.

The Aurora Institute encourages states to apply to this unique opportunity to advance innovative assessments and support competency-based education.

We are excited to share this information on funding to further developing innovative assessment approaches such as competency-based education pathways. We look forward to continuing to work with states and the Federal government to continue to consider recommendations to advance breakthrough policies and practices to advance high-quality learning for all. This includes systems change, building capacity for competency-based education systems, and strategies to improve our assessments to focus on the important role it plays in improving teaching and learning.

Learn More:

For more help, please contact:

Susan Patrick, President & CEO, Aurora Institute
spatrick@aurora-institute.org

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4 Key Takeaways from #SXSWEDU2022 https://aurora-institute.org/blog/4-key-takeaways-from-sxswedu2022/ Mon, 14 Mar 2022 16:44:43 +0000 https://aurora-institute.org/?p=15109 Last week, I had the privilege of being able to attend the SXSW EDU 2022 conference in...

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Last week, I had the privilege of being able to attend the SXSW EDU 2022 conference in Austin. Attending my first in-person conference since 2019 did not disappoint! This year, the Aurora Institute had the privilege of being a conference partner, and SXSW was filled with lots of great conversations with folks looking to make our education system more personalized, equitable, and effective for all young people. A few themes and highlights arose from my time there:

1. Build On What’s Worked, and Intentionally Center Students in Reshaping Education: 

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and three Austin young people – Gensenia Alvarez, Audra Garcia, and John Mark Wesley Hunter – joined us for the keynote conversation, focused on centering students in education. During the session, Dr. Cardona lifted up the importance of centering students in all decision-making processes, noting, “As we reimagine, how are we engaging student voice in a real way; how is student voice driving the improvement work of the school?” At one point, Dr. Cardona even stressed, “Why are we building it [the system] back the way it was, when it didn’t work for everyone?”

South by South West EDU Keynote with Education Secretary Dr. Miguel Cardona
Keynote with Sect. Cardona and young people

The amazing young people on the panel shared both the struggles and joys they had found over the past two years of pandemic schooling. Like many students, mental health challenges arose, but there were pieces of pandemic learning that they hoped would remain long past COVID. One student noted it was much easier to have the option to access office hours with a teacher through Zoom; another noted how flawed the traditional grading system is at providing intrinsic motivation, and that flexibility from the system allowed them to focus on more authentic learning.

2. The Appetite for Adopting and Implementing Competency-Based Approaches to Learning is Strong: 

At the conference, our president and CEO, Susan Patrick, hosted a meet up for those interested in learning and connecting about competency-based education (CBE) approaches. We had tremendous turnout at the meeting, with a mix of folks who were just getting started with CBE, to those who had been involved in the work for many years. Our session brought together a number of educators, state leaders, nonprofit groups, and funders to discuss the current CBE landscape. We had a great discussion about the need for teacher prep programs to support more educators to teach in a competency-based learning environment, how valuable competency-based systems of assessments are towards really measuring what our young people know, and what supports they need to thrive, and how to build buy-in and demand for competency-based learning approaches.

3. Be Intentional About Strategies and Policies to Build a Diverse Educator Pipeline: 

A slide reads: Reckoning with Race in America's Classrooms
Latinos for Education session

A session led by Amanda Fernandez of Latinos for Education highlighted three Latinx education leaders and dove into the history behind racist policies that sought to bar students from culturally affirming education. The session called for being intentional and strategic about making our teacher pipelines more diverse, and explored how we can use public policy to make pathways for educators of color more accessible. We explored examples of Grow Your Own initiatives across the country, and programs such as Call Me MISTER and Maestro aimed at getting more male educators of color into the classroom. 

4. Putting Students at the Center Means Ensuring They Are Represented in Curriculum and Learning Materials:

A second keynote brought together a retired librarian-turned-activist, Carolyn Foote, and author George Johnson to talk about academic freedom and much of the legislation focused on book banning and the removal of curriculum and books focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and specifically LGBTQ+ content. The session examined the importance of young people having mirrors (to see themselves) and windows (into the lives of people who may be different from them) so they can better understand the world around them.

Until next year, SXSW EDU! We hope that many of our partners who attended SXSW EDU will join us at the 2022 Aurora Institute Symposium, which will take place virtually from October 24-26. Our call for presentation proposals is open until 3/17, and you can stay tuned for updates on the conference via our Symposium website.

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The Aurora Institute Seeks Input on Annual Field Survey from Members https://aurora-institute.org/blog/the-aurora-institute-seeks-input-on-annual-field-survey-from-members/ Thu, 10 Mar 2022 00:24:20 +0000 https://aurora-institute.org/?p=15095 As a valued member of the Aurora Institute community and ally for education systems change, we are...

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As a valued member of the Aurora Institute community and ally for education systems change, we are currently seeking your feedback on the issues and policy barriers you are facing at this time in K-12 public education. Please take 5 minutes to complete the 2022 Aurora Institute Field Survey.

Aurora Institute Field Survey 2022

This information is critical to us in developing field research, advocacy, and recommendations for K-12 education policy. Additionally, your responses will be key in helping us shape convenings – including our 2022 Symposium.

In fact, all individuals that complete the survey will be entered into a raffle for a chance to win a free registration to our Symposium!

We would greatly appreciate your response by March 31, 2022. Thank you for the work you do each day to advance more equitable and effective public education systems for our young people.

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U.S. Department of Education Invites New Applications for Competitive Grants for State Assessments Program https://aurora-institute.org/blog/u-s-department-of-education-invites-new-applications-for-competitive-grants-for-state-assessments-program/ Thu, 24 Feb 2022 15:17:39 +0000 https://aurora-institute.org/?p=15023 On February 16, 2022, U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it is inviting new applications for...

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On February 16, 2022, U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it is inviting new applications for the Competitive Grants for State Assessments (CGSA) program fiscal year (FY) 2022. The program is authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the Every Student Students Succeeds Act (ESSA). The purpose of the program encourages states to enhance their assessment systems to better measure academic achievement for K-12 students. In the announcement, ED offers, “The program will also allow the Department to identify, lift up, and help scale innovative approaches to assessments that advance teaching and learning that can better meet the needs of our evolving education system.”

The Aurora Institute strongly supports funding initiatives to advance more innovative assessments, such as the CGSA, and encourages states to apply and pursue assessments that are student-centered, serve the needs of every child and demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills with timely, and actionable, results. We are happy to be thought partners with states as they pursue redesigning their assessment systems.

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

About the CGSA Program Application

In the blog post to announce the program, ED explained the program will allow states to address the impact of the pandemic, identify gaps in student comprehension and seek new ways to direct funding and resources to address these needs. Findings from states may be used to drive future federal policy.

Within the application, there are two absolute priorities for the grants. The requirement of an absolute priority means that applications for funding have to address one or both priorities in order to be considered by ED. It reads:

“State educational agencies (or a consortium of state educational agencies) are invited to submit applications that 1) develop or implement assessment systems that use multiple measures of academic achievement; or 2) develop or implement comprehensive academic assessments that emphasize the mastery of standards and aligned competencies in a competency-based education model. The program also includes a competitive priority that focuses on improving how assessment results are reported to parents and educators, so members of school communities can better support how instruction is designed to meet the academic needs of children.”

The first absolute priority relates to measuring achievement using multiple measures of student academic achievement from multiple sources. The second absolute priority relates to competency-based education and requires applicants to address evaluating student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment instruments (including performance assessments) that emphasize the mastery of standards and aligned competencies in a competency-based education model. There is also a competitive priority that will award three additional points to applicants that address reporting of assessment results in a manner that improves understanding of student comprehension.

State education agencies (SEAs), or a consortium of SEAs, are the entities that may apply for funds. ED will award up to $17.711 million under this competition with a projection of three to six awards for project periods of up to 4 years.

Key dates:

  • February 16, 2022: Application became available.
  • March 18, 2022: ED encourages applicants to submit their notice of intent to apply and which absolute priority the applicant intends to address so ED will be able to develop a more efficient process to review grant applications. The notice should be brief and submitted to ESEA.Assessment@ed.gov.
  • May 3rd, 2022: Application deadline.
  • September 2022: Award selection will be made.

Visit the notice in the federal register.

 Learn More:

For more help, please contact:

Susan Patrick, CEO
spatrick@aurora-institute.org

Fred Jones, Policy Director
fjones@aurora-institute.org

Alexis Chambers, Policy Associate
achambers@aurora-institute.org

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Announcing the Aurora Institute Symposium 2022 Request for Presentation Proposals https://aurora-institute.org/blog/announcing-the-aurora-institute-symposium-2022-request-for-presentation-proposals/ Wed, 16 Feb 2022 15:41:33 +0000 https://aurora-institute.org/?p=15005 Today, we are pleased to announce the launch of the Request for Presentation Proposals for our annual...

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Aurora Institute Symposium request for presentation proposals is now openToday, we are pleased to announce the launch of the Request for Presentation Proposals for our annual Symposium, which will remain open until March 17, 2022. This year’s Symposium will be a virtual experience, due to ongoing health and safety considerations around travel and large events. 

Previously known as the iNACOL Symposium, the event is the ecosystem’s largest convening of education innovators working to transform the future of teaching and learning to create personalized, competency-based pathways and student-centered, next-generation learning. The event will run October 24-26, 2022.

The convening is a chance to draw on the collective wisdom and expertise of leaders from across the globe who are building knowledge and honing practices to usher in the future of learning. 

After nearly three years of pandemic schooling, we know that demand for education systems change is growing, especially amidst the need to shift to anywhere, anytime learning. This year, we seek proposals that will examine the most pressing issues in K-12 education, explore new learning models, lift up youth voice, and investigate how education systems are managing and leading innovation, adopting competency-based education, and implementing personalized, student-centered pedagogy. 

Visit our proposal submission page to learn more. Continue to watch the Aurora Institute Symposium 2022 website for future updates about event details, and reach out to us if you have any specific questions. 

For More Information: 

Share this Announcement on Social Media

Sample Tweets: 
  • You don’t want to miss an opportunity to present at #Aurora22, Oct 24-26. @Aurora_Inst’s Request for Presentation proposals is open until 3/17. Submit your proposal today: https://bit.ly/AuroraSymposium22 #CompetencyEd #EdChat
  • Until 3/17, submit a proposal for a chance to present at @Aurora_Inst’s Symposium 2022 https://bit.ly/AuroraSymposium22 #RFP #Aurora22 #EdChat #EDUTwitter #EDUColor #EdLeaders
  • Present at the leading conference advancing #personalizedlearning & #CompetencyEd, the Aurora Institute Symposium. Submit your presentation ideas for review by 3/17: https://bit.ly/AuroraSymposium22 #Aurora22 
Sample Facebook Post:

The Request for Presentation Proposals for our annual Aurora Institute Symposium is now open. We invite proposals focused on transforming K-12 education systems, advancing breakthrough practices and policies, and implementing personalized, competency-based learning https://bit.ly/AuroraSymposium22 

Sample LinkedIn Post:

Do you have expertise to share around advancing personalization, competency-based education, or student agency with the field? The Aurora Institute is now seeking proposals for our annual Symposium on October 24-26, 2022. Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. ET on March 17, 2022. https://bit.ly/AuroraSymposium22 

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A Year in Review: 2021 State Legislative Snapshot of Student-Centered Learning Policy Advancements https://aurora-institute.org/blog/a-year-in-review-2021-state-legislative-snapshot-of-student-centered-learning-policy-advancements/ Wed, 22 Dec 2021 13:51:18 +0000 https://aurora-institute.org/?p=14927 Since the beginning of the pandemic, American education systems and structures have been thrown into flux. The...

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, American education systems and structures have been thrown into flux. The pandemic created many unexpected new challenges but it also shined a harsh light on many that far predated the pandemic. Over the past two years, many states have worked to address these challenges by reimagining existing K-12 education systems and structures to ensure that they are redesigned to meet the needs of all student learners. On Wednesday, December 8, 2021, The Aurora Institute, The Education Commission of the States (ECS) and KnowledgeWorks held a joint webinar titled “Year in Review: 2021 State Legislative Snapshot of Student-Centered Learning Policy Advancements” to highlight these state efforts over the past year. This webinar was designed to both reflect on recent programs and to help states chart a path forward as we collectively enter 2022.

Opening Remarks

Fred Jones from the Aurora Institute opened the webinar with a brief introduction and a presentation of key definitions of student-centered learning, personalized learning, and competency-based education. Not only did these terms inform what policies the presenters would highlight, but they helped the audience understand and, possibly, act on critical concepts to shift the field.

State Legislative Trends

Ben Erwin at ECS led off the webinar by discussing how states have made progress in making their education systems more student centered through three types of governmental actions:

  • Kansas, Oregon and Texas have established task forces and study groups to explore changes to state pathways and graduation requirements.
  • Arizona, Nevada and North Dakota have sought to expand flexibilities to better allow schools to explore innovative K-12 education approaches.
  • New Hampshire and South Carolina made changes to their state governance models by providing for Innovation Zones to allow for the expansion of student-centered learning practices.

State Spotlight: Utah’s Competency-Based Education Work

Jon Alfuth at KnowledgeWorks facilitated a deep dive conversation with two state-level policy makers to highlight transformational work to advance student-centered education policy in Utah. Deputy Superintendent Angie Stallings described the work that the state has undertaken since 2015 to empower innovation. This work began with the development of early partnerships, which led to the establishment of a competency-based education framework and a portrait of a graduate. In 2020, the state developed P-20 competencies aligned to those framework elements. In 2021, the state took further steps to ensure that the basis for K-12 education in the state would be grounded in services provided, rather than the time spent in the classroom.

Utah also removed the requirement that schools deliver 990 hours of instruction for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, and will instead require local education agencies to provide equivalent educational services over the entire 180 day school year. Deputy Superintendent Stallings also spoke briefly on the advancements being made in the state to bring its assessment systems into alignment with Utah’s vision for personalized, competency-based education.

State Spotlight: Washington’s Mastery-Based Learning Collaborative

After hearing from Deputy Superintendent Stallings, Alissa Muller, who serves as the Director of the Mastery-Based Learning Collaborative at the Washington State Board of Education, spoke on Washington’s past and current efforts to advance student-centered learning. Director Muller described the process of creating the state’s mastery-based learning working group through legislation in 2019, and also detailed the state’s vision and how it led to the establishment of the statewide infrastructure needed to support schools and districts as they implement mastery-based learning. This infrastructure, called the Mastery-Based Learning Collaborative, serves as the state’s foundation and includes 18 schools in the founding cohort who will begin to implement mastery-based learning at the building level by the 2023-24 school year.

Various actors in Washington have also worked to create written resources to support schools and districts as they pursue this work. This includes a one-pager on the topic, a rule around how to award mastery-based credits to students, and guidance on competency/mastery crediting all written by the state board of education. The Washington State School Directors’ Association has also created subject-specific model policies and procedures for boards to use to permit mastery-based credit.

Director Muller also spoke to how the state envisions using its profile of a graduate as a bridge between traditional education methods and schools seeking to adopt mastery-based education approaches.

Conclusion: Next Steps for Policy Makers

Fred also closed the webinar with a call to action for state policy makers. Fred shared an overview of the organization’s upcoming state policy recommendations. These focus on actions that policy makers can take to advance student-centered learning policy in 2022 and beyond. These recommendations include the following:

  • Redefining success by developing a profile of a graduate
  • Transforming state funding mechanisms
  • Modernizing and diversifying the educator workforce
  • Supporting new approaches to competency-based teaching and learning
  • Utilizing Innovation Zones to advance mastery-based learning
  • Investing in balanced assessment systems, including performance-based assessments
  • Rethinking accountability to reflect a broader range of approaches to evaluating school and student performance

The challenges surfaced by the pandemic have made it more important than ever that states work to ensure our education systems meet the needs of all students. In 2022, we encourage state policy makers to learn from the actions and strategies outlined above and continue to move their states and the country as a whole toward an education system that is grounded in equity and which seeks to ensure that all students are able to achieve their full potential.

Authors: Fred Jones is Policy Director at the Aurora Institute. Jon Alfuth is Director of State policy at KnowledgeWorks. Ben Erwin is a Policy Researcher at the Education Commission of the States.


Additional Resources

Aurora Institute’s Federal Policy Priorities: Charting a New Path for America’s Learners https://aurora-institute.org/resource/aurora-institutes-federal-policy-priorities/

Future Focused State Policy Actions to Transform K-12 Education https://aurora-institute.org/resource/future-focused-state-policy-actions-to-transform-k-12-education/

Innovation Zones: Policy Flexibility to Reimagine and Modernize K-12 Education Post-COVID-19 https://aurora-institute.org/resource/innovation-zones-policy-flexibility-to-reimagine-and-modernize-k-12-education-post-covid-19/

A Promise for Equitable Futures: Enabling Systems Change to Scale Educational and Economic Mobility Pathways https://aurora-institute.org/resource/a-promise-for-equitable-futures-enabling-systems-change-to-scale-educational-and-economic-mobility-pathways/

Strengthening Systems: How States are Rethinking Human Capital Systems and Technology Infrastructure in the COVID-19 Era https://knowledgeworks.org/resources/strengthening-systems-states-rethinking-human-capital-systems-technology-infrastructure-covid-19/

Supporting Students in Learning: How States are Rethinking Policies to Support Students in the COVID-19 Era https://knowledgeworks.org/resources/supporting-students-learning-policies-covid-19/

Assessments of and for Learning: How States Are Rethinking Accountability and Assessment Policies in the COVID-19 Era https://knowledgeworks.org/resources/assessments-accountability-learning-states-covid-19/

Evidence of Learning: How States are Rethinking Instructional Time and Attendance Policies in the COVID-19 Era https://knowledgeworks.org/resources/evidence-learning-states-instructional-time-attendance-policies/

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