A National Endorsement for Competency-Based Education and Student-Centered Learning
Congress repealed No Child Left Behind last week—along with its singular focus on high stakes testing as a means to measure student success. This is momentous and opens the doors for a new era of personalized, student-centered learning in the United States under the reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The US Senate passed bipartisan legislation known as the Every Child Succeeds Act in a vote of 87-10, with the US House of Representatives voting 381-41, rolling back federal mandates and allowing for greater state control over student learning and accountability for performance. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on December 10th.
Instead of the federal government’s reliance on high-stakes testing to police school districts, the new legislation empowers states to design their own “college and career ready” standards to measure and assess success in the classroom and administer intervention protocols when those standards cannot be demonstrated proficiently.
Schools will still be held accountable for success and will have to report out annually based on disaggregated data identifying students’ race, income and disability status. Performance-based testing will still be required to be administered in certain grades, and states will need to ensure that at least 95% of the student population participates.
The bill gives states the authority to design assessments for student-centered learning. In the state of NH, schools are already utilizing performance-based assessments to demonstrate accountability for student learning and college and career readiness. The bill emphasizes training and funding for early childhood education as well as integrated technology and innovation to address the digital equity gap that prevails across the United States.
Virginia Barry, Commissioner of Education, has been working for years with state and local officials to write performance-based standards in core subject areas and design performance-based assessments that focus on real-world application and authenticity in their measure of student performance.
“This is a huge turning point in our country,” Barry said. “It moves the focus to the children. … This is a great opportunity to be sure students are growing and learning the competencies they need.”
How New Hampshire is Filling in the Gaps
New Hampshire designed its own rigorous Performance Assessment in Competency Education (PACE) pilot that requires participating schools to adopt competencies written by the state. They work with state officials in the design of rigorous, local performance assessments that provide opportunities for students to demonstrate learning in an authentic, personalized and measurable way.
Competency-based education (CBE), has gained momentum nationally in recent years as school districts struggled under No Child Left Behind to document actual student learning, not just testing. CBE uses standards to measure student learning with a focus of becoming college and career ready. The trend does not stop in K-12 schools and is exploding in higher education as well. Inside Higher Ed recently reported that there has been a nearly 1200% growth rate in the last year as 52 colleges and universities reported moving to competency-based education in 2014 and over 600 colleges and universities report moving to CBE in 2015.
Why Legislation is Only a Start
With the nation looking to enable student-centered learning through competency-based education, districts are finding that their move to a proficiency system requires more than just legislation—they also need innovation and the technology to support it. Students, parents, teachers and administrators can expect more transparency when assessment no longer focuses on traditional multiple-choice quantitative data and on greater empirical evidence that results from highly individualized performance-based assessment.
Traditional learning management systems that most schools use to keep track of student performance do not meet the needs of such a robust shift to the approach created at the state level and provisioned by the Every Child Succeeds Act. This more personalized, competency-based model cannot be successful without Learning Relationship Management (LRM). LRM allows for real-time measurement of student progress as they work towards mastery of competencies and provides for transparent and effective feedback to students as they complete performance-based assessment.
This is an exciting time for education. The Every Child Succeeds Act is a national endorsement for competency-based education that highlights the need to create learning environments that support student-centered learning. But this is only the first step, the opening of a new door. As our models of education drastically change for the better, states need to enable their schools to succeed with the right training and tools—including educational technology that promotes transparency and increased engagement, graduation readiness and strengthens relationships through more personalized learning.