Getting Started and Scaling Competency-based Education

As we build capacity in understanding CBE in our district and throughout the state, I am often approached with questions about how to get started or how to scale and sustain the work. I usually respond by asking how many days or hours the person has to engage in that conversation. We laugh, but nothing is further from the truth. The atomistic behaviorism that compels Westernized thinking is a limit to understanding CBE as a transformative systems change. Russ Ackoff believed that if we optimize the performance of parts of a system, we suboptimize the system as a whole. Peter Senge agrees that the leverage is in optimizing the interdependencies of a system. With CBE, the limits to growth are microcosmic and macrocosmic, which make them particularly difficult to recognize, map, and mitigate. As such, it is necessary to both take a balcony view and to roll up our sleeves for work in the trenches as Iowa embraces competency-based pathways.

  • Question 1: What do people who are new to competency-based education need to know or do?
  • Question 2: What are the next steps for districts that have already engaged in the work of CBE? How do we help take what we are doing to scale?
  • Question 3: What are the five most important “competencies” that someone working to transform their state, district, or school need to have?

Read the entire article, and find potential answers to these questions, by Andrea Stewart on CompetencyWorks at

As we enter 2014, it’s a great chance to look back at the 10 most popular posts on Competency Works in 2013:

  1. Assessment of Learning with Competency-Based Grading by Brian M. Stack, Principal at Sanborn Regional High School in New Hampshire, describes the elements of a competency-based grading system.
  2. Oregon Gets an A+ for Its New Grading Policy reviews Oregon’s effort to embed elements of competency education in state policy.
  3. The Three-Legged Stool of Competency Frameworks is a discussion about what makes effective competency frameworks by Chris Sturgis.
  4. Leadership in a Competency-Based System by Bill Zima, Principal at Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham, Maine, describes his journey in building a leadership approach to guide continuous improvement.
  5. Creating A Classroom Parking Lot by Courtney Belolan, a coach at Mt. Ararat Middle School, explains how “parking lots” can be used to give student voice in the classroom.
  6. Ingenium Schools: A Big City Competency-Based School is a case study of the Barack Obama Charter School, a personalized, performance-based school serving low-income students in Los Angeles.
  7. Competency Moves Beyond Courses by Susan Luchs of  Next Generation Learning Challenges explores how New Hampshire’s Virtual Learning Academy Charter School is redesigning its model to move beyond courses to an entirely competency-based design for learning.
  8. I’m So Dizzy… is a reflection by Chris Sturgis on the similarities, differences and relationships between competency education, personalized learning and blended learning.
  9. Colleges Commit to Accepting Proficiency-Based Diploma is an update from Maine’s Department of Education with information on how Maine is proceeding in aligning college admissions process with proficiency-based education.
  10. New Hampshire Rocks Competency Education Policy is a review of New Hampshire’s new minimum standards for competency-based schools that provides an overall structure while ensuring local districts have autonomy.




This entry was posted in Articles/Reports and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Please tell us what you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s