Young people should be assessed and moved through K-12 education at their own pace, after evaluations have determined competencies, rather than the current policy of advancing learners based primarily on seat time, according to a new report published yesterday.

The report, When Failure is Not an Option: Designing Competency-Based Pathways for Next Generation Learners was released today by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). Support for the report was provided by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

The paper explores competency-based pathways, a necessary condition to realizing the potential of next generation learning. The report promotes a deeper understanding of K-12 education policies and practices for implementing student-centered learning through competency-based pathways through a scan of exemplars across the United States. Also touched on in the paper are the many explorations into next generation learning that are sweeping across the country, as well as the technological advancements that are opening up new student-centered, performance-based, “anytime, anywhere” educational opportunities.

“The fundamental K-12 education policy of funding students solely on seat-time (a minimum of 40 minutes in a classroom seat for 180 days a year) – this model is outdated, expensive and doesn’t help students who need extra time to master concepts or students that are ready to accelerate. Competency-based approaches build upon standards reforms, offering a new value proposition for our education system. It focuses on a departure from seat-time requirements to concept mastery. There is a need to update the literature in the field of K-12 education to better understand opportunities and challenges of moving toward competency-based pathways,” said Susan Patrick, Co-Author of the report and President and CEO of iNACOL.

“This exploration into competency-based innovations at the school, district, and state levels suggests that competency-based pathways are a re-engineering of our education system around learning—a re-engineering designed for success in which failure is no longer an option,” added Patrick.

“We must, as a nation, begin dramatically increasing the number of young people from all populations who possess the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in today’s world,” said Charles E. Toulmin, Director of Policy for the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “To do that, we must begin to ensure that we are appropriately and thoroughly measuring whether students have learned what they need to know. The pathways described in this report meet students where they are, provide them the supports necessary to master competencies before moving on and allow them the flexibility to do so at their own pace. This paper is an important step in showing how competency-based pathways can help ensure that every young person is prepared for success in postsecondary education, work and life.”

The paper is available on the iNACOL homepage: http://www.inacol.org/.

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