Education Can’t Stand Still: Move on When Ready Bridging the Gap

Students Standing With Diplomas at Graduation, really ready for their future

“We are committed in this program to all students succeeding, and believe that all students can succeed.” – Sybil Francis,  Executive Director of the Center for the Future of Arizona

A paradigm shift. A fundamental change. A new and different way.

The state of Arizona is working through a paradigm shift to move from an education model based on a time standard to one based on a performance standard, starting with a small, but growing, program with big goals.

The Program. Based on more than 20 years of research on successful education systems across the world, and a collaborative partnership between several key players in the Arizona, national and international education systems, the Move On When Ready (MOWR) model began in Arizona in 2010 when state legislation created the performance-based Grand Canyon High School Diploma and the Arizona State Board of Education selected the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) to lead the program. Fast forward to today, and MOWR is working with more than 20 high schools across the state and impacting a diverse student-body of over 26,000, CFA is partnering with an increasing number of middle schools to align with MOWR high schools, and Arizona State University (ASU) recently approved a performance-based admissions option for students earning a Grand Canyon High School Diploma for first-time freshman in the fall 2018 semester.

How It Works. The fundamental concept of the program is students earning a high school diploma through mastery of skills as opposed to credit and seat time. Every student’s pace is determined by their individual outcomes, not traditional scope and sequencing determined by the curriculum. Through clearly defined standards on what a student needs to know and be able to do in English, mathematics, science, history and the arts, each student creates their own pathway to obtaining a Grand Canyon High School Diploma. In addition, students are then graduating college and career ready and academically prepared to take college-level courses without remediation.

Through a partnership with Cambridge International Examinations, the world’s largest provider of educational qualifications and examinations, MOWR uses the research-based Cambridge examination system with high-quality data to determine what kind of support a student may need. A student not meeting readiness standards receives personalized support from his or her school and an opportunity to retake exams to qualify for the Grand Canyon High School Diploma. Students who advance quickly can take advantage of opportunities to earn college credit through dual enrollment, graduate early, or enroll in career and technical education (CTE) programs. In the end, the diploma is granted based on students receiving a college-ready qualification score in seven Cambridge exams and course areas across the core subjects.

A New Opportunity. Historically, there has been a disconnect between K-12 performance-based systems and higher education admittance based on credits. To address this, Arizona State University created the ASU Performance-Based Admissions option for students earning a Grand Canyon High School Diploma to begin August 2018. With the Grand Canyon diploma, students will be considered under delegated admission and will not need to meet any additional admissions requirements. These students will have no disadvantage in the admissions process, including opportunities for scholarships and financial aid.

It is partnerships like this that allow for progressive educational programs to grow and thrive. Through MOWR, Arizona is paving the way towards an education model designed to prepare students for college and career success through highly personalized, student-centered learning. Not surprisingly, MOWR has goals of expanding the program and tracking student success as they progress through higher education. The ultimate goal is not only to be sustainable but to become part of the fabric of the education system in Arizona.

A Natural Fit and District Partnership Solution. ASU Prep Digital’s competency-based program appears to be a natural fit for MOWR for both independent students and districts looking for extra support. The new college prep option (chartered by ASU) combines online high school and university courses to create a powerful and unique learning opportunity.

The full course catalog at ASU Prep Digital was carefully selected to ensure students and partner schools could still have the opportunity take full advantage of the Grand Canyon Diploma. Similar to the MOWR model, students enrolled with ASU Prep Digital only progress once they’ve mastered skills. There is not traditional seat time, calendar year, grade levels or other scheduling challenges commonly known at traditional institutions.

“In order to truly allow students to “move on when ready,” schools and districts must embrace the concept of following the student at all levels. ASU Prep Digital is intentionally designed — from infrastructure to staffing to partnerships — to support student progress and advancement at a student’s own pace.” said ASU Prep Digital COO, Amy McGrath.

In most cases it’s not feasible for a school to provide all of the courses or teachers for the diploma on their own. ASU Prep Digital’s offering helps provide more flexibility and allows more schools to be a part of the MOWR initiative.

As Sybil Francis, Executive Director of the Center for the Future of Arizona, stated about the reachability of the program– “The bar, while very rigorous, is set at a level that all students can and should succeed. So it actually is very appealing to high-achieving students as well as students who may have struggled… we’re supporting them to reach those levels.”

Proven applicability to all levels of students and successfully shifting the admission process of a large institution to accommodate a mastery-based diploma are two steps in the right direction and an opportunity for other states to take notice.

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Jessica Slusser

Jessica is the Senior Director of Impact at Getting Smart. She leads business development and growth of advocacy campaigns, advisory services, product development, marketing, and Getting Smart's blog. As part of her role, Jessica also oversees team events, conferences, and speaking engagements.

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