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Aurora Institute

Press Release

New Report Shows Successful Models of Competency Education

‘Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education’ shares best practices from K-12 schools implementing personalized approaches to learning

QUINCY, Mass.Nov. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Across the country, pioneering schools and school districts are changing the way they design and organize their use of time and curriculum in an effort to ensure each student moves forward based on demonstrated mastery of content, not just the amount of time spent learning. Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education, released today, highlights the work of eleven schools participating in the Proficiency-Based Pathways Project (PBP). Led by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and developed to build broad understanding of the implementation of mastery-based approaches to teaching and learning,  the PBP schools profiled in the report are located in rural, suburban, and inner-city regions in New England.

“We were thrilled to work with forward-thinking schools that are pioneering dynamic, new ways to meet students where they are,” said Beth M. Miller, Ph.D., Director of Research and Evaluation at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “This report offers a unique lens into the experiences of committed, thoughtful teachers and school leaders who are equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in college and beyond.”

As schools move towards a 21st century model of preparing students for college and a career, it is becoming unnecessary to maintain a system based on time spent in the classroom, according to the report’s authors. Rather, learning happens at different times in a variety of settings, and progress should be demonstrated by mastery of content, not merely grade promotion. In the proficiency-based systems examined in Making Mastery Work, students advance at their own pace as part of a cycle of continuous learning and achievement. This mix of freedom and responsibility is positively impacting both the teaching and the learning at the eleven schools studied by Nora PriestAntonia Rudenstine and Ephraim Weisstein, the report’s authors.

Issues examined through the collected experiences of the participating schools include: the creation of a transparent mastery and assessment system, time flexibility, curriculum and instruction, leadership for competency education development, and the role of data and information technology in a competency-based education model.

“It’s time to rethink the one-size-fits-all model of traditional schooling and engage students in more personalized ways,” said Nicholas C. Donohue, President and CEO of The Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “We are pleased to support the movement and momentum toward rigorous and equitable opportunities for competency education, and shine a light on groundbreaking strategies to help schools and districts provide student-centered approaches to learning.”

Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education is available for download at

For more information about competency-based education, please visit

About the Nellie Mae Education Foundation: 
The Nellie Mae Education Foundation is the largest charitable organization in New England that focuses exclusively on education. The Foundation supports the promotion and integration of student-centered approaches to learning at the middle and high school levels across New England. To elevate student-centered approaches, the Foundation utilizes a three-part strategy that focuses on: developing and enhancing models of practice; reshaping education policies; and increasing public understanding and demand for high quality educational experiences. The Foundation’s initiative areas are: District Level Systems Change; State Level Systems Change; Research and Development; and Public Understanding. Since 1998, the Foundation has distributed over $123 million in grants. For more information, visit

SOURCE Nellie Mae Education Foundation

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