David Nagel with THE Journal recently interviewed iNACOL, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, President and CEO Susan Patrick about her vision to shift from a system based on seat time to proficiency- and competency-based learning models in her recent report co-written with Chris Sturgis, “Cracking the Code: Synchronizing Policy and Practice for Performance-based Learning.”

Nagel and Patrick dive into answering tough questions about making the shift to a proficiency-based system of student advancement, discussing the current systems in place in many states, the imperative to moving away from seat time, the reasoning that supports new models, the motives to make the transformation now and the policies that need to change to make it happen.

Patrick says the future of learning will place an emphasis on personalized lessons with high-quality digital curriculum delivered in a blended learning environment to support a student’s individual learning needs. She believes that by tailoring lessons to each student and moving away from seat time, we can close the achievement gap in U.S. schools. The achievement gap is attributed to the way a large group of students at varying performance levels are moved along through courses and grades when they have not yet developed a proficiency in a particular area.

Patrick also says that while the ideas of competency-based learning aren’t new, the technologies available that can enable personalized learning make the shift much more appealing today than in the past. She says that the risk to not shifting our models now means that students will continue to drop out and “fail to be engaged or prepared for success” in the current systems.

In closing, Patrick says that student learning needs to be the driver in policy development in order to remove seat-time policies, develop student-centered policies and incorporate competency-based approaches.

View the full Q&A article “Beyond Seat Time: Advancing Proficiency-Based Learning” from THE Journal.

Chris Sturgis, Susan Patrick and Linda Pittenger also wrote “It’s Not a Matter of Time: Highlights from the 2011 Competency-Based Summit” in July 2011. Sturgis and Patrick also wrote “When Success is the Only Option: Designing Competency-Based Pathways for Next Generation Learning” in November 2010.

For more information, view the Innosight Institute article “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning: Profiles of Emerging Models.” On edReformer.com, be sure to check out the following related articles: “It’s Not a Matter of Time,” “More On Assessment” and “On Merit Badges.”

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