Model Schools, Districts, Networks and States for Competency-Based Education

By Mary Ryerse, Janice Walton and Tom Vander Ark

Editor’s Note: This post is an appendix to a recently released report on competency-based education entitled Show What You Know: The Landscape of Competency-Based Education.

The shift to demonstrated competency-based education (CBE) is inevitable and well underway, but it is complex enough that it is likely to be a generation-long process in K-12 education. It is a multidimensional shift—it requires new experiences; new staffing, supports, and structures; new teaching roles and capabilities; new assessments and reports; and new funding models and policies.

The leading advocate for CBE, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), defines it as advancement based on demonstrated mastery with well-defined competencies that empower students. They stress that students should receive meaningful feedback and timely and differentiated support so that they develop and apply a broad set of skills and dispositions.

We’ve been looking into what schools, districts and networks are doing to achieve effective CBE, and we have assembled an initial list of positive examples. It is is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a sampling of places identified as exemplars by interviewees and/or in other research.

School Districts

Schools (District-Based)

Charter Schools & Networks

Deeper Learning Networks

States Leading the Way

This list isn’t comprehensive, and we’re not done with our research yet. We would gladly welcome any suggestions for people doing good work who we may have missed–if you can think of any, please leave a comment in the comments section below!

For more, see:

Stay in-the-know with all things EdTech and innovations in learning by signing up to receive the weekly Smart Update.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.


Joy Nolan

Hi, Getting Smart! Thanks for this list. Please also look at our work: Mastery Collaborative from NYC Department of Education is a growing community for public middle and high schools that are using mastery/competency-based teaching and learning. We support, document, and advocate for culturally responsive mastery practices at 40+ schools across the five boroughs. Our work is showing positive effects, and is convincing us that mastery and culturally responsive education shifts combine to create stronger, more equitable schools. We are a lively and growing community with regular PDs, school visits, online sessions, and community gatherings. Check out our work! Jeremy and Joy, Co-Directors, @masteryNYC


Erik Day

Hi Joy, thanks for sharing! It sounds like you're doing cool work--the specific focus on cultural responsiveness is an important element that not all programs incorporate. We'll definitely take a deeper look at what you're up to.


David Richards

Hello Team Getting Smart! Great list of districts and resources. I would like to draw your attention to Michigan where two districts in particular are making great strides with the implementation of CBE. The first, is Fraser Public Schools (full disclosure: I am the superintendent at Fraser). We have been on the CBE journey since 2012 and have done extensive work around our curriculum and instructional design efforts. We have worked closely with Rose Colby during our implementation and often host visitors from other states and from across Michigan. The second district is Kenowa Hills. This district has worked closely with Virgel Hammonds and Laura Hilger at Knowledgeworks. Both school districts are considered models for the State of Michigan and serve as experts to the State Board of Education. If your travels or interests ever bring you to Michigan, we would welcome the opportunity to walk you through our journey. You can find out more about Fraser Public Schools from our collections of videos that have documented our work:

Again - thank you for all of the work you are doing with moving the transformation of our schools forward across our country. Sincerely, Dave Richards


Erik Day

Thanks for the suggestions, Dave! We'll definitely take a look at both Fraser Public Schools and Kenowa Hills, and will keep them in mind next time we're in Michigan.


Tom Vander Ark

Bob Sommers added one more to the list: a personalized, community-based, project-based, passion-driven, competency-based education designed to educate the whole student...the Agricultural Education/FFA program, a highly successful program designed in the 1930’s and refined over decades works and consistent with schools noted

Mike Raible

Taylor County Schools in Campbellsville, Kentucky. Only three schools, but an incredible record of no dropouts for ten years and the highest category on the state's common assessments.


Erik Day

Thanks for the recommendations, Mike! We'll check them out.

Dr. Pamela Swanson, Superintendent

Thank you for the shout out on this meaningful journey! One correction: Please know Westminster Public Schools serves 20 instead of 8 schools. We are a 10,000 student system and all our schools are competency based and serve as the largest systemic full implementation in Colorado.


Erik Day

Thanks for the correction, Dr. Swanson! We've made the update to the article.

Mike Duncan

Please check out Pike County Public Schools in Georgia: We have adopted a “Portrait of a Graduate” and identified six competencies-critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, personal responsibility and digital literacy.


Erik Day

Thanks for the suggestion, Mike! We'll be sure to check out Pike County's work.

Chip Linehan

Lots of great CBE work at Building 21. We run 2 District schools (Allentown and Philadelphia) and have 3 (soon to be 4) affiliate schools who have adopted our model as well.


Erik Day

Thanks for sharing, Chip. We'll definitely check it out

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.