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Aurora Institute

Press Release

A Vision for High-Quality Competency-Based Education

New CompetencyWorks Book Offers 16 Principles for Transforming Traditional Education Systems

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 11, 2018) —Today, CompetencyWorks released Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education, a new book offering guidance on ensuring high-quality learning environments as more schools and districts transform to competency-based education systems.

Developed with input from innovative educators and school district leaders from around the country who have pioneered the shift toward competency-based education, the book offers 16 Quality Design Principles to guide the development of competency-based learning with the goal of creating a system in which every student succeeds. While producing high-quality learning models certainly requires attention to the structure, policy and operations, it also requires replacing the underlying beliefs and culture of the traditional system with an inclusive culture of learning. As states, districts and schools re-design education systems, the 16 principles offered in this book offer a set of guideposts for schools and districts.

“The main point of the book is to create a deeper understanding of the elements required for a high-quality education system that is competency-based and ensures mastery of knowledge and skills for all learners, said Susan Patrick, CompetencyWorks Co-Founder and iNACOL (@nacol) President and CEO. “This book fills a gap in the field in terms of harmonizing efforts to ensure quality in the accelerating shift to competency-based education.”

Policies supporting competency-based education — also referred to as mastery-based, performance-based and proficiency-based education — have been enacted in 48 states. Districts and schools are turning to competency-based education for different reasons but chiefly because of a growing realization that the traditional time-based structures that produce today’s achievement gaps and under-prepared high school graduates are inadequate for student needs. Education leaders also turn to competency education to ensure globally competitive graduates, to design learning environments that promote what is best for students, to achieve greater equity, to create a system of continuous improvement and learning and to foster deeper learning.

As they shift, districts and school leaders around the nation are using different entry points to begin transforming their systems, and they are making different design choices. That means competency-based education looks different, depending on the local operating context. No matter the entry point, the depth of implementation or the model, however, the guidance in Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education is intended to spark discussion and support tough decision-making toward high-quality learning.

“Building and sharing knowledge about quality design and implementation is essential for competency-based education to fulfill its promise as a model that enables all of our students to succeed,” Chris Sturgis, CompetencyWorks Co-Founder, said. “We expect school and district leaders to use this book to build a deeper understanding of competency-based education and to more quickly identify and correct missteps in implementation. It is important to students and to the future of competency education that we are able to increase the pace of transition to high-quality systems.

Download a full copy of Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education here.

For more information about CompetencyWorks, a project of iNACOL dedicated to advancing K-12 competency education, please visit

About CompetencyWorks

CompetencyWorks is an online resource dedicated to providing information and knowledge about competency education in the K-12 education system. Drawing on lessons learned by innovators and early adopters, CompetencyWorks shares original research, knowledge and a variety of perspectives through an informative blog with practitioner knowledge, policy advancements, papers on emerging issues and a wiki with resources curated from across the field. CompetencyWorks also offers a blog on competency education in higher education so that the sectors can learn from each other and begin to align systems across K-12, higher education and the workplace. Visit the website and follow CompetencyWorks on Twitter: @CompetencyWorks.

About iNACOL

The mission of iNACOL is to drive the transformation of education systems and accelerate the advancement of breakthrough policies and practices to ensure high-quality learning for all. Visit our website, like us on Facebook, connect with us on Linkedin and follow us on Twitter.


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