Student Success Blog For Educators


April 12, 2017

What New England is Teaching Educators About Advancing K-12 Competency-Based Education

Currently, over 40 states have legislation that addresses competency-based-education (CBE) in some fashion. And while CBE looks different from state-to-state, what remains constant is the goal of focusing on the students and giving them a personalized education that will prepare them for higher education or the workforce. While many states are still finding their footing when it comes to CBE, schools in New England are leading the charge. In fact, five of the six northeastern states—Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have invested years to ensure that all students advance and graduate high school with the knowledge and skills they need.

3 Steps to Successful CBE

Supportive policy environment that emphasizes goals

New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont have partnered with legislators to create set CBE goals with input from educators. In doing so, they can:

  • Address policy roadblocks during transition in New Hampshire.
  • Provide training and support for educators in Maine and Vermont, and ask them to help figure out criteria and strategies in different states.

As Chris Sturgis, co-founder of CompetencyWorks points out, this policy approach embeds accountability into the system, "There is something very powerful about a goal-oriented strategy that declares, ‘We want all of our children to graduate with proficiency so that they're college and career ready. We want to make sure they learn.’”

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On-the-ground change led by educators

Not only are educators being given the opportunity to help set the goals for CBE, they are also being given control at the school district level. In Connecticut, its strongest advocates are superintendents, who work under Connecticut's Act for Unleashing Innovation, which allows credits to be mastery-based at the districts’ discretion. According to a CompetencyWorks report, that's why some of the best competency-based learning efforts have included both a supportive policy environment and active work on-the-ground to provide a better education for students.

Collaboration across the board

Two of the driving forces behind CBE are equity and personalization. So, when schools, districts, and states get on the same page, it produces better end results for the students. For example, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont share the same standards and state assessment system called the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). And the five states we mentioned earlier formed the New England Secondary Schools Consortium and its professional learning community the League of Innovative Schools. All these collaborations allow states to share what's working, work together to help students learn, and advance competency-based learning.

Adopting a New England State of Mind

There are various reasons why New England states have embraced CBE. Two of the most important are the fact they recognize the demand for skills which will prepare students for an ever-changing world, and perhaps most importantly, an understanding that the traditional system has become a stumbling block to the future of their children and the strength of their communities. To advance means to grow and go in the direction that will lead to the best possible outcomes. This means any persons connected with education and related decision-making policies—educators, administrators, school board members, and state leaders— can all learn and build the skills necessary for advancing towards a sustainable competency-based system.

Share in the comments how your institution is working on advancing CBE.

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Photo Courtesy of: romanboed


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