Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insight from Local Leaders (Sturgis, 2015)

Chris Sturgis is a co-founder and leader of CompetencyWorks, a project of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). She wrote and published an 80-page guide to the implementation of competency-based education (CBE) in June, 2015.

After visiting and studying dozens of districts who have begun implementing CBE over the last five years, Sturgis proposes four stages for implementation.

Ramping Up for Transformation

During this beginning stage leaders invest in shared leadership, ask lots of questions and create a shared vision for the district.

Designing the Infrastructure for Learning

After distributing leadership, the school district then clarifies common pedagogical questions about time, path, pace and place while investing in student agency and reviewing local policies that might need be to amended or changed. Additionally, a central question asked here is how this adaptation might empower teachers.

Transitioning to a Competency-Based System

Leadership develops a roll-out strategy, prepares teachers and parents for personalized classrooms and builds an iterative structure that can adjust to make mid-course corrections. Strategic communication and planning are key elements to this stage.

Embracing Continuous Improvement and Innovation

The last phase does not end. Rather, it is a cyclical inquisitive stage that should provide space and structure to continually improve performance and personalization through the use of “powerful data,” by revisiting the shared vision and instructional model and by using feedback loops from those closest to the students to accelerate progress and maintain course (Sturgis, 2015).

In her conclusion, Sturgis reminds us that, “this journey requires a shift in paradigm from a system-centered approach to one that is learner-centered.”

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