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Aurora Institute

Center for Policy

The Aurora Institute provides policy expertise, issue analysis and technical assistance with a focus on advancing innovations in education to dramatically improve student learning. We are a strong advocate promoting excellence and equity for all students, especially student groups most underserved by traditional one-size-fits-all models and systems.

State Policy Priorities for K-12 Education Innovation

Transform Education Systems

  • Redefine student success through a Profile of a Graduate to create a vision to modernize and redefine more holistic graduation requirements based on what students need to know and be able to do for future success.
  • Create Innovation Zones to provide flexibility for schools and districts to advance transformative practices and move to innovative, student-centered learning models.

Create Competency-Based Education Systems & Align Pathways

Build Capacity by Investing in People

Rethink Accountability & Assessment

Federal Policy Priorities

Create Learning Ecosystems Across K-12 Education, Higher Education, CTE, and the Workforce

  • The federal government should support the development of high-quality learning opportunities that are accessible to all learners across the K-20 continuum for anytime, anywhere learning, advancement, and acceleration. Federal legislators should consider seeding an innovation grant through the Higher Education Opportunity Act or Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to states to align competency-based K-12 education, higher education, and career pathways.

Modernize the Educator Workforce

  • The U.S. Department of Education should support new approaches to competency-based teaching and learning by investing in modernizing the educator workforce and advancing innovative student- centered pedagogies and assessment frameworks. Policymakers can support upskilling for future- focused educators through micro-credentials, competency development, and professional learning to support new design thinking as teachers become planners and orchestrators of new learning models.

Diversify the Educator Workforce

  • Federal policymakers can increase access to and affordability of both traditional and nontraditional educator preparation programs to recruit and retain a more diverse teacher workforce. Legislators should consider offering new funding initiatives that would support or seed statewide Grow Your Own teaching programs, especially prioritizing those established to serve or operate in communities that are majority Black and Brown.

Bridge the Digital Divide

  • Policymakers should ensure every school and home has broadband internet access and the technology infrastructure to fully participate in and benefit from anytime, anywhere learning opportunities. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should continue to streamline the E-Rate application process and expand eligible expenditures, such as the purchase and distribution of hotspot devices, to provide flexibility to meet future student and community needs.

Support COVID-19 Learning Recovery

  • Reversing the inequities exacerbated by COVID-19 is essential, as is building on parents’ and communities’ increasing demands to revolutionize 21st-century learning experiences. The U.S. Department of Education can incentivize states to establish COVID-19 recovery task forces to address how education systems need to transform and establish short- and long-term goals for students and communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Advance Educational Equity

  • Federal policymakers should establish a committee to provide the necessary–and sometimes disproportionate level of–resources to each learner to interrupt historical inequities, create inclusive communities, and cultivate each learner’s unique talents and interests. The federal government can do this, in part, by amending school funding formulas and encouraging states to develop education equity task forces to help address the unique needs of students of color and other historically underserved students.

Redesign Assessments

  • Investment is needed to redesign and develop high-quality, balanced systems of assessment policies that accurately measure student learning. Federal policymakers can seed investments in assessments that seek to improve teaching and learning, rather than ranking and sorting.

Rethink Accountability

  • Education systems should genuinely engage communities in new school designs that offer a broader range of approaches to evaluate school performance, advance student learning objectives, and drive holistic educational goals. Federal policymakers can reframe federal accountability by reexamining the purpose of K-12 education and how accountability, evaluation, and quality assurance methods need to be modernized to support high-quality, student-centered teaching and learning.

A National Snapshot of K-12 Competency-Based Education State Policy Across the U.S.

This map provides a national snapshot of state policies across the United States to enable and advance K-12 competency-based education systems (CBE). Across the country, the landscape of policy is changing. Every year more states establish pilots, innovation zones, and new initiatives. Most of the states with seat-time policies that acted as barriers have found new ways of allowing waivers or credit flexibility for CBE.

Advanced States

States with clear policies in support of competency-based education and established roles in building educator capacity in local systems for competency-based education.

Developing States

States with pilots for competency-based education, and/or credit flexibility policies for school districts to transition to competency education.

Emerging States

States getting started with task forces; some state policy flexibility requiring waivers for systems to shift to competency-based education.

No Active Policy in CBE

States policies focus on seat-time credits without competency-based pathways.

Our Policy Goals

The Center for Policy works to educate federal, congressional and state education policy leaders on K-12 education programs and issues to advocate a future-focused, student-centered position on diverse issues affecting our education systems toward transformation.

Our Policy Priorities

Each year the Aurora Institute develops policy priorities to advance modern education systems that prepare all graduates to thrive.

Federal Policy Priorities State Policy Priorities

2020 National Policy Forum

Held annually as a precursor to the Aurora Institute Symposium, the National Policy Forum convenes more than 100 education policymakers and system leaders. This year’s virtual event on November 13, 2020, included a national overview of state policies to advance education innovation, a series of state snapshots highlighting bellwether exemplars, and three presentations on key issues from national leaders.


Our education leaders need: Courage and a will to change. Knowledge and skills to lead. Creativity to design education innovations.

Susan Patrick, Aurora Institute

Meet Our Policy Team

For Policymakers
Contact one of our policy experts for more information and technical assistance.

Susan Patrick

Chief Executive Officer

Fred Jones

Policy Director

Meet Our Policy Team

For Policymakers
Contact one of our policy experts for more information and technical assistance.

Alexis Chambers

Policy Associate